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How AI Will Supercharge the Construction Industry

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The global market for Artificial Intelligence in Construction is expected to grow at an average of more than 38 per cent annually between now and 2024, according to recent research. US-based firm Zion Market Research pinpointed technologies including natural language processing, machine learning and deep learning to be among the AI’s leading applications.

The Zion report said AI will see major uptake in project management, risk management, field management, supply chain management, and schedule management.

Machine Learning in Practise

Machine vision is being used for surveying and analysis of buildings and structures. Meanwhile, building information modelling approaches in the 4D, 5D and 6D BIM space also utilise AI for detailed construction information, details on materials and building systems, and commissioning data.

A simple example of AI in action is the way a change made to a building design in a BIM model, for instance, moving a ductwork location, can then automatically translate across to all relevant and aligned details and specifications within the BIM model, Therefore, it can be observed how this one change affects structural penetrations, ductwork supplier and ductwork dimensions, work scheduling and worker safety risks assessments.

A major discussion paper released by the Australian Council of Learned Academies in August 2019 also highlights the way AI is changing both the future of work and the workforce of the future.

The Effective and Ethical Development of Artificial Intelligence – An Opportunity to Improve our Wellbeing report details some of the major shifts in sectors within and aligned to construction, including mining, energy and infrastructure. The report was commissioned by the National Science and Technology Council.

“By bringing together Australia’s leading experts from the sciences, technology and engineering, humanities, arts and social sciences, this ACOLA report comprehensively examines the key issues arising from the development and implementation of AI technologies, and importantly places the wellbeing of society at the centre of any development,” Professor Hugh Bradlow, Chair of the ACOLA Board, said.

One of AI’s benefits the experts identified is it can be used to undertake some of the highest-risk activities currently performed by human workers, as well as some of the most routine ones.

One of AI’s benefits the experts identified is it can be used to undertake some of the highest-risk activities currently performed by human workers, as well as some of the most routine ones.

The report terms these the “4 Ds”—work that is dirty, dull, difficult, or dangerous.

“Some jobs include tasks that people do not want to do or should not be made to do. For example, robots powered by AI can undertake dirty tasks such as mine exploration, or inspecting, monitoring and fixing clogged sewer pipes. Dangerous tasks such as investigation of unstable structures, mining, disaster response and space exploration provide another avenue for AI use to minimise potential harm to workers. AI and applications in robotics are also being developed for difficult tasks that require a high level of detail with a low margin of error, such as surgery,” the report said.

Understanding Success

The report points to the Australian mining industry as an example of how leveraging AI has resulted changed human work. Currently, mining has some of the world’s largest industrial automation programs. Specific tasks utilising AI include automated drilling hauling, intelligent sensing, remote tele-operation, and asset and supply chain optimisation.

Blockchain technology is another innovation expected to have an impact across the construction sector. Construction law experts Corrs Chamber Westgarth have identified it could enhance supply chain transparency, accountability and compliance.

In a recent blog post, practice Partner Andrew Chew notes Western Sydney University’s Centre for Smart, Modern Construction has several blockchain projects underway. These include developing methods for integrating blockchain data with BIM, a blockchain-based waste management platform for construction projects, and a methodology for estimating embodied carbon.

Some emerging benefits of blockchain are smart payments, improved safety management and WHS reporting, as well as self-executing, digital “smart contracts” that automate payments.

Chew also identified emerging benefits of blockchain, such as smart payments, improved safety management and WHS reporting, as well as self-executing, digital “smart contracts” that automate payments.

The rise of AI is seeing new collaborations emerge. For example, the global technology alliance has just been announced by Australian project technology firm Endeavour Programme, global engineering, management and development firm Mott MacDonald, and international cost consultants WT Partnership.

The alliance aims to leverage AI on large-scale projects to tackle project time and cost overruns. It is planning to achieve it by deploying Endeavour’s Octant AI.

Endeavour Programme founder and director David Porter said the complexity of today’s large projects means managing them through traditional methods is no longer reliable or efficient.

We’re aiming to lead the way in adapting this new technology through our alliance, and we’re seeking to make a measurable change to the performance of mega-projects globally.

“The increasing complexity of projects, combined with human limitations, is at the root of the problem,” Mr Porter said. “We’re aiming to lead the way in adapting this new technology through our alliance, and we’re seeking to make a measurable change to the performance of mega-projects globally.”

If you liked this article, here are a few eBookswebinars, and case studies you may enjoy:

Keeping Your Technology Up to Date

How Different Construction Technologies Make You More Lean

SHAPE Study

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