Originally published by Jason Hook on buildsoft.com.au

Artificial intelligence is taking our economy by storm. From the financial sector to manufacturing, AI tools are being used to analyse transactions in real time, boost productivity, and cut costs. The construction sector is also ripe for takeover by artificial intelligence. From automating the design process to streamlining project management, construction companies can leverage AI tools to make their work easier.

It can be challenging to see how AI is applicable to construction at first glance. But by understanding what AI actually is, you’ll be able to make the relation between its applications and your specific workflows. In general, AI provides automated tools that you can use to uncover insights, solve problems, and work smarter.

There are many construction companies that currently use AI to boost performance. From “smart hats” that capture 3D models in real time to intelligent machines that can auto-generate customer quotes, your business has numerous opportunities to leverage AI for growth.  

Use cases of AI in construction

1. Automating the building planning process

In the past, builders would spend days and weeks designing manual models. While proper planning is critical to project success, taking too long to prepare building plans is an easy way of losing customers. AI tools come in handy when planning for upcoming projects. For example, you can use intelligent machines to digitise previous projects and create similar ones faster.

The data from your past work can be fed into a computer system where materials, dimensions, location, and cost are analysed in real time. After analysis, you’ll be able to generate accurate plans much faster. Builders can also customise such plans to accurately fit customer preferences.

An example of AI in building planning can be seen via the Open Space software. This technology works by taking photos and videos in real time (at 3second intervals when a worker is wearing his/her hard hat). These images and videos can be tied to building plans to accelerate the process.                                                                                

2. Automating machine functionality

Construction machines such as excavators, bulldozers, and cranes are critical to the performance of any construction site. However, poor planning and human error have also made such machines a significant risk. When improperly operated, construction tools can cause injuries and deaths to people nearby.

The good news is that AI tools are being used to make construction machines safer. By combining sensors and autonomous technology, normal machines can be upgraded to automated tools for your construction projects. The end result is faster and safer workflows. 

3. Making access to data easier

As the demand for highly customised projects continues to rise, builders are faced with the challenge of accessing data in real time. Such accessibility allows you to solve problems faster, communicate with multiple teams, and meet rapidly evolving customer expectations. AI is making data access a reality in many different ways. For example, algorithms are currently being used to sift through large data silos and provide answers to common questions that one may ask during a project.

If you need to find out how much a particular material is or locate a specific design plan, all you have to do is issue a voice command. Think of this technology as similar to Apple’s “Siri” or Alexa’s Amazon. Rather than searching through piles of records or typing complex SQL queries, AI makes finding exactly what you need much easier. APE Mobile is one such application that combines AI with Natural Language Processing to uncover these possibilities.

4. Controlling costs during the project

One of the biggest challenges that construction companies face is high costs- especially when working on large projects. Indeed, coordinating multiple teams, hiring subcontractors and dealing with suppliers can be quite a headache. Luckily, AI tools come in handy when controlling costs.

Machine learning can be used to specifically analyse complex projects and determine variables that may cause project issues. Tools such as Artificial Neural Networks are being applied to analyse start dates, employee performance, material costs, and other variables of interest. This allows you to adjust your workflows as necessary- especially when tackling complicated project designs.

5. AI as a tool for risk management

As a builder, you probably know that every project comes with a level of risk. From safety to budget and quality risks, you need to thoroughly assess your risk environment before starting work on a project.

Machine learning can be used to analyse previous projects, assess your working environment, and aggregate data during a risk analysis. This not only saves time, but it also makes your projects safer and free from financial turmoil.

6. Assessing the construction site

Even as drones are being used to take pictures of proposed construction sites, AI tools can take planning one step further. Aerial Mapping Software uses autonomous technology to take 2D and 3D images. These images are then analysed and converted to common file types such as CAD, BIM, and PDF.