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From prehistoric caves to modern high rises, humanity has always needed a place to live and work. Technology has helped evolve primitive dwellings to the complex housing and work structures we have today -- and construction companies are continuing to evolve by implementing AI in a range of ways.
From optimizing work schedules to improving workplace safety to keeping a secure watch on construction facilities, AI in the construction industry is already producing value.
Improving construction efficiency
Construction projects -- especially large-scale projects involving years of preparation and planning -- require the coordination of many complicated tasks. In the early stages of a project, designs, permits, and various approvals need to be coordinated with design plans -- with both often changing in the process.
Construction labor requires the coordination of hundreds of people and dozens of different firms, each with overlapping operations and activities. Because no construction project ever goes according to plan, time is often lost to scheduling conflicts, design-related changes, construction material delivery delays and other unforeseen project complications.
AI in the construction industry is helping alleviate these pains by monitoring all the aspects of a construction project and helping to optimize schedules. AI-based systems can spot patterns in projects that indicate potential schedule-related issues that need correction, and they can rearrange project schedules and optimize them for project delivery.
AI-based systems are also helping to forecast high-risk issues and to prioritize tasks based on machine learning algorithms developed during other construction projects. These systems can interact with project management tools and IoT devices, cameras, and other equipment to analyze construction site activity in real-time.
AI-enabled construction design
AI-enabled systems are helping with every step of the construction process, including the design stage. Augmenting human designers, AI-enabled systems can capture designers' plans in knowledge management systems and use that information to train AI agents to curate rule-based workflows. This enables designers -- and AI agents -- to learn from previous designs and apply aspects of one project to others.
These intelligent design systems are also being used to look at 3D surveys and images to help optimize designs and layouts of given locations. Through the use of computer vision and other machine learning approaches, AI systems can analyze proposed construction sites and gather enough information to create maps, blueprints and construction plans that meet the design goals. This sort of intelligent design assistant is starting to be built into computer-aided design and architectural design tools.
Architects and construction designers are also using the rise of AI in the construction industry in the design process. With adaptive modeling techniques, AI systems can explore a wide range of design alternatives and use reinforcement learning approaches to find an optimal design that fits with the project's overall aesthetic goals. These systems can also be used to assist with on-site design challenges when construction complications clash with design plans.
Using image recognition, building engineers can compare a final construction project against the initial design plans to detect any variations that might warrant more investigation. These AI systems can also compare data gathered to create models to those made by Building Information Modeling systems, reducing decision-making time.
Improving construction safety and security
Construction sites are rife with safety and security challenges. Workplace injuries are very common, and there's constant struggle to ensure only authorized people are on a job site.
Construction work sites are now equipped with cameras, IoT devices and sensors that monitor many aspects of construction operations. Using AI systems, managers can access video data to identify and flag potentially unsafe worker behavior and safety hazards and to help maintain records of compliance. This reduces costs and eliminates potential danger.
These systems also monitor job sites and access devices to make sure that unauthorized people are not gaining access to the systems. AI construction systems can even keep watch over materials and equipment to make sure that workers don't leave the job site unnecessarily.
Enhancing the construction process
The use of autonomous devices, drones and robotic construction workers to help with labor has been on the rise, as bots are already being used to help with various construction activities. These include drones used for surveying and taking images of construction sites, bricklaying and concrete pouring machines, and the development of 3D printing technologies that use computer vision to account for the custom requirements of the job site.
Collaborative robots (cobots) working alongside humans can also help to speed construction times, reduce costs and limit injuries.
In administrative offices, AI systems are being used to optimize supply chain coordination and to control costs and the flow of money. The systems are being used to spot anomalies in payroll data and monitor for potential fraud or abuse. Machine learning systems are particularly good at pattern matching, and construction operations often see significant sums wasted on either project mistakes or outright fraud via wage theft, inappropriate purchases or pilfering of funds.
According to a recent report by McKinsey, 16% of construction firms have already adopted AI for their daily operations. Using AI in the construction industry is advancing construction companies and augmenting the construction process in fundamental ways, and we should expect the adoption of these cognitive technologies to only increase as they evolve.