Is the future of the construction industry already here?! With continued growth in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in other industries, why hasn’t construction followed suit? The industry continues to lag behind many others in the adoption of new tech, including AI, robotics, and machine learning.
In 2018 McKinsey posited five then-current technologies related to AI that construction could implement from other industries. Three years later, most of these are still science-fiction more than reality, but for how long?
1. Optimize project planning
Existing technology in the logistics industry allows delivery drivers to optimize their route planning to account for both distance and traffic. AI analyzes for the shortest route with the least amount of traffic to cut delivery times. The technology continues to learn through reinforcement learning, commonly called trial and error, the best way to go the shortest distance.
In construction, this technology could be used to analyze and assess project schedules to optimize them for the shortest time and best use of resources. By running thousands of alternatives, the technology could provide options that humans hadn’t thought of to perform the work most efficiently. AI could learn from past project data and over time correct itself with the best resource combinations and alternatives to speed up project planning.
2. Forecast risks and constructability of design
Pharmaceutical research firms are using AI to reduce R&D costs by predicting medical trial outcomes. The software uses predictive AI solutions to improve products without the additional cost of intermittent testing.
In construction, this technology could be used to forecast risks, predict constructability, and the structural stability of technical solutions during the planning stage. By testing for structural stability and constructability ahead of time, in the virtual world, it’s possible to save big bucks during the construction process. The technology can also be used to test various materials, limiting downtime during inspections.
3. Supply chain coordination
AI can currently be used to reduce downtime and oversupply of shipments in a supply chain. It also can be used to increase the predictability of shipments. This reduces costs, logistical burdens, and supply variability. We certainly could have used this technology during the recent construction material shortages.
As modular and prefabricated construction gain popularity, there will be an increased need for enhanced supply chain coordination. These types of construction rely on just-in-time deliveries, which can be more easily achieved using AI. The technology will also help control costs and overall cash flow.
4. Robots and 3D printing
Robots and 3D printing are already making waves in construction. They are being used by a few teams to provide affordable housing and reduce costs and project schedules. From this knowledge, researchers have trained robots to learn from simulations and used machine learning to replace software programming.
Robots are being used to construct panelized buildings and components for prefabricated and modular projects. The ability to use machine learning could shorten the timeframe even further and allow robots to quickly move from one task to another without lengthy programming.
5. Quality control
In healthcare, machine learning is creating opportunities to diagnose illnesses earlier through image recognition. The technology detects known markers for certain conditions to provide early diagnosis.
Using drone imagery and 3D models, the same technology could detect potential defects and help with quality control. It could notice anything from potential catastrophic failures to finish blemishes and alert the team in real-time.
While no one knows what the next technological breakthrough in construction will be, it’s safe to say it may come from one of these five technologies. All are using technology, machine learning, and AI to predict the future or inspect current work for future problems. By engaging technology early in the design and construction process, teams are saving time and money, as well as assuring the safety of building occupants.
Interested to hear more on AI? Jonas Premier can assist you with more information on how AI can empower your business to work smarter.
Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator. Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.