Artificial Intelligence(AI) in Construction
by Sanyam on December 14, 2021
The idea of artificial intelligence has been there since time immemorial conjuring visions of robotic technologies and intelligent systems. In the present world, AI has not yet reached its zenith but is progressing rapidly with massive developments in various industries such as the information technology industry, shopping industry, construction industry.
Figure 1: AI in Construction
AI is the backbone or frontrunner of many firms across the world such as Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft. The biggest advancement in AI has been through smartphones where people can enjoy convenience via AI-powered technologies. The concept of AI is being used across almost every industry to grow at a much faster pace by providing lucrative commercial applications. The construction industry is one of the industries which is using AI to enhance the numerous operations involved in construction operations by developing efficient methodologies and developments. The use of AI in the construction industry is not only improving the production capabilities but also improving the quality and safety of these projects. It is mostly because of AI that the construction industry is on the verge of digitalization, which is unsettling the traditional processes involved in construction projects and creating more opportunities for everybody. AI can increase the efficiency of projects processes efficiently throughout the entire value chain, from planning and design of building structures.
Figure 2: Use of AI powered tools in the Construction Industry
The construction industry has been suffering such as delays, cost overruns, safety issues, profitability rates, because of inefficient and approximate approaches towards solving problems that can now be overcome with the help of AI. Companies that are quick to upgrade their technologies with the developments in the digitization of the construction industry are going to gain a significant advantage over their competitors. But how can AI be used in construction for your project? What are the benefits that AI can provide in the construction industry?
Let’s answer these questions one at a time to understand the uses and benefits of AI in construction clearly.
Uses of Artificial Intelligence(AI) in the Construction Industry
Real-life and feasible applications of AI in different construction processes and operations in a construction project lifecycle are multifold and some of the significant ones are explained below:
Design and Planning- The first step after the inception of an idea for a construction project is design and planning which is a crucial step in shaping the construction stages smoothly and without any delays or cost overruns. Creating different designs and simultaneously checking the architectural stats and suitability along with other deciding parameters is quite time-consuming, especially in large-scale construction projects. These construction projects are prone to failure due to inappropriate planning and design which have been witnessed in construction history persistently. With the onset of AI technology in the construction industry, the design exploration process has become much feasible and efficient, providing instant simulations for different designs.
Figure 3: Designing with the help of an AI powered tool
This is possible because when AI technology comes into play, which has access to databases from similar projects constructed in the past, can create multiple design alternatives based on this knowledge from the database. The entire process is quite simple where the design goals along with the desired parameters such as shapes, performance, cost criteria, have to be uploaded as input into the design software to generate probable designs. The software which is powered by AI then explores all possible design solutions as per the specifications provided and selects the best-suited design choice for construction.
In the process of devising designs for several projects through iteration, the AI-powered software becomes smarter and more powerful. This feature of the AI improves the traditional designing approach as it considers more parameters and probable solutions. Thus AI promotes generative designs for construction projects that make the entire process cheaper, on time and of higher quality.
The generative design feature of AI also increases creativity by assisting architects in designing shapes and curves they could only dream of before, and providing innovative design solutions. Without the use of AI in construction projects, comparing planning documents with the utilities present on-site needs to be done regularly which involves uncountable reworks and reassessments, consuming huge amounts of time and money. This hiccup in the construction processes can be easily tackled with AI technology which can help in predicting operation clashes early on in the project duration and provide solutions to tackle them if they are inevitable.
- Construction Process- The construction industry has grown rapidly unlike its productivity output which has shown little or marginal growth in the past decades and this can be attributed to mostly operational inefficiencies on the construction sites itself. These inefficiencies can be thought of as a result of many factors such as huge time invested in transports, rearrangements, search for materials, and the challenges caused due to inevitable delays in construction projects, especially megaprojects. Most construction projects are essentially delayed, face cost overruns, deviate from the planned approach that poses massive setbacks to construction firms or contractors.
AI can streamline the execution of operations and tasks in a construction project and instant updation to project details while keeping the stakeholders informed. This increases the productivity output of the construction process greatly. AI-based software and tools possess the ability to detect unforeseen roadblocks, delays, and clashes occurring during a construction project by collating a digital twin of the structure present inside the BIM cloud against the actual physical structure. AI can track the actual progress in a construction project with input data from drones and robots that can frequently record images and 360o scans. This helps in identifying the problems that may occur during the construction phase rapidly and thus compute probable solutions much early on in the operational phase. This eliminates costly corrections and changes made later on during the project.
The AI-based BIM can also trigger automatic changes in the operations and schedules stored in the BIM Cloud and inform the different stakeholders automatically and subsequently optimize the project operations to complete them on time. Also during a construction project, on-site accidents are almost unavoidable that increases the overall cost and time consumption. The importance of safety at construction sites is apparent from the frequent accidents occurring on all construction sites. Computer vision at construction sites in combination with cameras can be powered by AI to mitigate the risks related to construction sites and reduce the number of accidents by a considerable number. Many companies have already adopted AI-based approaches to eliminate accidents on construction sites by making the working employees more aware of their surroundings.
AI can also be used to detect possible safety hazards much in advance and give warning signs so that the workers can take precautionary measures to safeguard themselves and responsible staff can be called on hazard location to eliminate or reduce its effects. Employees on sites can make full use of AI-based tools to their advantage by availing services such as searching tools, knowing equipment status, locating service outlets. This way the overall productivity of a construction site is improved as workers do not have to spend hours in search of tools or equipment. AI can potentially simplify the use of heavy machinery by scheduling routine tasks related to the machines that help in eliminating errors and improving efficiency.
- Facility Management- Materials and supplies on-site need to be monitored and managed regularly at frequent intervals so that there is no shortage of supplies that can delay the respective operations and subsequently the entire construction project. Supply or materials in charge has to take decisions related to availability whether to replace or repair, recheck an invoice or not, act or wait, order supplies or not. They have to invest huge time spans to decide on this or that actions for materials supply on construction sites based upon data collected during the project.
This process is costly and prone to numerous risks. When AI technology is used to perform the functions of a supply manager, the data collected over the entire project lifecycle can be effortlessly analyzed so that this analysis information can be used efficiently to manage supplies on-site in no time. Companies are taking advantage of this feature provided by AI to reduce the cost and waste generated from a specific supply material. Not only does AI help in managing materials but also assists in true predictive maintenance of structure or components that results in a reduction of the overall cost of the establishment. Sensors powered by AI technology and assisted by IoT can inform about a potential problem to act in time, but no earlier than required in order to save money. Sometimes these AI-powered softwares can be configured in such a way that allows automatic ordering of supplies to ensure they are available when needed.
The entire supply management process can be automated using AI which learns, adapts and improves in the role of a supply manager over time, so that in the future when there is a shortage or need of particular supply material, the AI-powered tool can take preemptive actions itself without any need for instructions. The AI-powered tool also learns about the time and intervals required for maintenance operations from previous supply chains management which in turn enhances project planning. It is only because of AI that work is only done when it is needed to be done and not as a backup task.
- Construction Material Supply- Apart from being used in construction services, AI can also be used along steps of the value chain for construction material manufacturers and distributors by digitizing the entire supply chain.
The various processes involved in the supply chain, manufacture, procurement, marketing and sales, operation, service, aftersales of producers, can be performed more efficiently. AI can be used in these situations to forecast the price of materials and other supply resources. AI can decide upon the price of the materials by considering the past prices and other factors that influence the price and their development statistics or any kind of relationship that can be used to ascertain the price. Not only can AI help in forecasting the price of materials but also the correct time to place purchase orders. The process of purchase to payment can also be simplified and automated using AI to reduce record-keeping and improve data reachability and transparency. The best supplier in the market can be easily filtered using an AI-powered tool based upon market stats and previous businesses.
AI can be used fully to improve the production process related to building materials and could prove to be the necessary force required in the current scenario of supply chain management to initiate the next big leap towards better quality and improved efficiency. A huge amount of data can be collected with the help of AI-generated during the building material production process. This data can be anything from production unit information to raw material processing data and the use of AI in this entire process can improve the output and efficiency of production. In production units, AI can improve production capacities and decrease production downtimes by early detection of blockades along with efficient energy usage tips to decrease energy costs.
In marketing and sales, AI technology helps firms to assess and analyze customer requirements so that target advertising expenditures can be estimated accurately and products can be tailored as per the demand or devise strategies to create demand for specific products. This is done by AI-powered tools by analyzing the connecting points between the product and the consumers. AI can also be used to analyze means of transportation that are well suited to the material product and production facility as per routes available, traffic during transportation, etc. And lastly for customer service and sales, AI can be used to interact with customers automatically in case of any inquiries or complaints. This is achieved with the help of chatbots that have already been configured and improve over time with experience gained from customer interactions.
Artificial Intelligence is being researched by construction experts so that it can be used in as many ways as possible to manage construction projects and make the construction industry more efficient. Construction project management can be easily achieved using project management tools that have been specifically devised to make the construction process more smooth and efficient. Powerplay application proves to be an allrounder in construction project management that can be easily handled by all employees, clients, and contractors specific to a construction project. There are many applications out there for this purpose globally, but Powerplay is India’s first construction project management application that can be used to manage almost all types of construction projects going on in the country.