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The impact of artificial intelligence on the construction industry

by John Hannen

Artificial intelligence, more commonly referred to as AI, has changed the way we work across every industry. Within construction, AI has been harnessed to help with both design and construction. With algorithms that solve problems by digesting information like a human would with experience, machines have their own version of intelligence that can be utilised. Common construction tasks such as bricklaying are now feasible jobs for robotics. Creatively, machines can gather and filter information to aid engineers with design and planning stages.    


Oasys, providers of column design software, look at the various ways the construction industry has benefited from artificial intelligence. 




The types of artificial intelligence 

There are four categories of artificial intelligence within the construction industry: 

Planning 

Artificial intelligence is frequently used in the planning phase to help create construction plans. Autonomous equipment is considered as AI as it is aware of its surroundings and is capable of navigation without human input. In the planning stages, AI machinery can survey a proposed construction site and gather enough information to create 3D maps, blueprints and construction plans. 

Prior to this, planning processes took weeks, where it takes just a day now. This helps to save firms both time and money in the form of labour. 

Administering

Managing projects can now be orchestrated by AI. For example, workers can input sick days, vacancies and sudden departures into a data system and it will adapt the project accordingly. The AI will understand that the task must be moved to another employee and will do so on its own accord. 

Methodology

Databases of information are now accessed by AI to keep engineers up to date on how projects should be carried out. For example, if engineers were working on a proposed new bridge, AI systems would be able to advise and present a case for how the bridge should be constructed. This is based on past projects over the last 50 years, as well as verifying pre-existing blueprints for the design and implementation stages of the project. By having this information to hand, engineers can make crucial decisions based on evidence that they may not have previously had at their disposal.

Artificial intelligence has come such a long way that drivers can remain outside of a vehicle as it works at dangerous heights. Using sensors and GPS, the vehicle can calculate the safest route.

After completion 

The buildings AI have helped construct often end up with AI systems built into the structure. In the US alone, $1.5 billion was invested in 2016 by companies looking to capitalise on this growing market. 

The hotel chain Wynn, as an example, announced that an Amazon Echo would be installed in every room of its Las Vegas hotel in 2017. These devices can be used for aspects of the room such as lighting, temperature and any audio-visual equipment contained in the room. These systems can also be used within domestic settings, allowing homeowners to control aspects of their home through voice commands and systems that control all electronic components from one device. 

Information and assistance 

Building information modelling (BIM) is used throughout a building's lifespan, from its construction to its demolition. 

Virtual assistants (VAs) can use this information and deliver it in a more conversational manner. By combining VAs alongside NFC (near-field communication), VAs can be given additional information to the building itself in real-time from various sensors in the building. For example, if there were structural problems with a building, then VAs could inform engineers specifically where the problem was and how it can be fixed. 

Combining VAs and AIs together, the construction industry saves both time and money in labour; AI can replace some forms of previously cost-extensive labour. As the future of AI becomes more of a reality within construction, only time will tell how reliant upon intelligent machines we will have to be in order to construct innovative building designs. 



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