Technology

Generative AI for Construction Is More Than One Dimensional

This technology is quietly revolutionizing the building of complex commercial, institutional and infrastructure projects.
By René Morkos
July 19, 2023
Topics
Technology

Generative AI has taken the world by storm. But, while ChatGPT dominates the media cycle, generative AI is quietly revolutionizing the building of complex commercial, institutional and infrastructure construction projects. The potential impact these tools hold for today’s builders is immense, but while the use of generative AI for scheduling can help general contractors to realize massive benefits, these technologies are still in their early days.

The global construction industry has been called out in recent years as it faces a growing crisis—an aging workforce combined with an industry-wide labor shortage, rising costs driven by breakdowns in the global supply chain, and spiraling delays triggered by the intricacies of interdependent work. With all of these issues compounded by growing demand, as well as new challenges posed by introduction of global net zero goals, and increasing need for hardening of critical infrastructure, the hardships facing those in construction and development seem evident.

In the U.S., the Biden administration’s declared focus on bolstering America’s infrastructure has simultaneously introduced new incentives for doubling down on complex projects with significant public impact. From transportation-focused projects (tunnels, roads, bridges) to sustainable-energy systems (hydroelectric dams, solar farms, wind turbines), billions of dollars in federal money has been earmarked for expanding or improving upon current systems. This presents the perfect opportunity to call the powers of generative AI into play, allowing stakeholders and, importantly, taxpayers to maximize the value and benefit of these funds.

AI-powered tools can help project stakeholders explore millions of potential options for effective construction of complex construction projects before even breaking ground. Using generative AI for construction optimization can reveal more efficient applications of labor, equipment and materials, revealing pathways to project completion that save stakeholders time and money while maximizing project resources. When unavoidable delays occur, AI can help power recovery efforts to get projects back on track at optimum speed.

Not your mother's chatgpt

To unlock the true benefits of generative AI for construction, it’s helpful to first understand the concepts of generative design—as well as what goes into the generative design process.

Generative design has been used and applied for much longer than its application to construction. It is an iterative approach that allows architects and engineers to explore new design possibilities. Certain specialized software and tools allow professionals to create a project, enter specific goals and constraints, and identify detailed parameters (such as spatial requirements, preferred materials or manufacturing methods, and budget). This information is then analyzed to assess all possible solutions to a given goal or problem, automatically generating a range of ideal designs and potential alternatives.

Generative design software is a powerful tool for creation, allowing professionals to quickly conceptualize, test and evaluate potential solutions. From development of household products to the drafting of engineering and architectural plans, this software empowers informed decision making, thereby saving time, resources and labor.

survive and advance

Recently, advances in generative AI have evolved into tools specifically focused on construction optimization, unlocking the ability to apply the principles of generative design to the construction process itself. This means assessing digitized 4D and 5D models to determine whether the scheduling, physical allocation of resources and equipment, and labor assignments are all ideal for meeting the parameters and goals of the project.

Factors such as manpower, equipment delivery, construction materials and identified risks—projected weather patterns or other environmental factors—can all be factored into the equation for analysis and consideration. And, when project delays or mishaps occur—a high probability, within the industry—generative AI supports the ability to adjust plans on the fly and to meet current conditions at any point in the project lifecycle.

Generative AI can also help contractors bid construction projects more accurately, reduce planning and construction risk, and help stakeholders and developers maintain scheduling and allocation alignment, keeping projects on schedule and budget, as well as assisting in project recovery, should the need arise.

accuracy is key

It’s helpful to understand that all AI-based tools are only as good as the information they’ve been given access to. ChatGPT references a wide, generalized dataset of information: a library of content, largely sourced from unvetted material published on the internet. In contrast, generative AI for construction relies on access to highly specialized, private datasets: a library of information about physics, plus project-specific (BIM models, labor availability, time constraints) and historical data (construction costs, site restrictions, performance statistics) sourced from the user. All of this is analyzed in conjunction with data sourced from previously entered and completed projects.

Because the analysis and predictions of generative AI for construction are based on this highly vetted, accurate information, AI-produced results are extremely precise, detailed and on the mark. Certain technologies have already proven quite effective in the optimization of complex build projects and infrastructure development, recording results such as a 17% decrease in project duration, 14% labor-cost savings and 12% reduction in materials and equipment costs, on average.

When generative AI is successfully adopted and implemented for use in construction—one of the largest, most expensive industries in the world—the potential upside is immense. Those who recognize this (and evolve accordingly) will reap the benefits, all while boosting their competitive edge.

by René Morkos
René Morkos is the founder and CEO of ALICE Technologies. The son of a civil engineer, René grew up in the construction industry, working on a wide range of projects with international impact managing infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, building an underwater pipeline in Beirut, engineering the automation of a gas refinery project in Abu Dhabi and leading development of virtual design and construction models for Amsterdam’s cruise ship terminal—before creating the world’s first Artificial Intelligence for use in construction.

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