Why do we use AI in construction?

How will Artificial Intelligence (AI) change our relationship with the way we manage information?  Let’s find out: “Hey ChatGPT, how can you help construction?”

  • Portrait of Murillo Piazzi

    Murillo Piazzi

    Senior Digital Consultant

  • March 22, 2024

AI generated image depicting building

When I was asked to deliver a presentation on emerging trends and the use of AI in construction, my first instinct was to ask ChatGPT how AI is changing the way we design, build and manage our built assets. But before I did, there is a human element we can’t ignore. AI can provide many answers, but first we need to know what questions to ask.

What do we really want to know? Are we seeking an understanding of technology? Or do we want to foster the power technology affords us to make better construction decisions?

Across the built environment data is our friend, and to utilise data to its maximum value, we need to convert this to useable and trustworthy information. AI can enhance our relationship with information, therefore when seeking AI assistance, treat it like you would a colleague, give clear instructions on what you want to know: define objectives, set the context, and even give examples of what you are looking for. AI is there to be trained and the more data you put in, the more valuable information you will get out!

AI is effective at data processing, data entry and routine calculations. AI is not effective at task based activity in a wide, open context, nor can it interpret unspoken language, therefore we need to be very clear when setting tasks.

Common uses of AI in construction

Common uses for AI in the construction industry are data analytics, content generation and automation.

In data analytics this could involve the processing and interpreting of large and complex datasets, uncovering patterns and identifying correlations in data that may not be immediately apparent. Data comes in many forms, not just in text, it can also be imagery or video footage. In comparison to this, AI can generate content, written and visual – based on data or instruction provided. And finally, automation, this is the use of AI to perform tasks with minimal or no human intervention.

Automation typically deploys robots to execute a series of rule based instructions set by humans, reducing the labour involved in routine tasks. If the action goes beyond what was programmed, the robots are unable to complete the task.

Impact of AI and the future!

It is clear AI adoption requires specialised roles for prompt creation and instruction, and by creating these roles, it could shift employee roles from repetitive tasks to critical thinking and decision making, underlining the need for structured data for AI effectiveness. However, AI’s impact on the construction industry raises some ethical concerns, including bias and privacy risks.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) for example, provide a foundation for ethical AI use, focusing on data protection and consumer rights. Key challenges presented include ensuring data privacy, addressing biases, and maintaining transparency and accountability. Is there a case for setting best practices for minimising privacy risks? Yes.

View of earth from space

Best practice for minimising risk

First, we need to set clear goals for AI adoption that complement existing processes, aligning AI use with business objectives, standards and values, implementing transparency, explainability and accountability, with a focus on clear documentation and human oversight, measurement and monitoring.

The careful adoption of AI in construction offers many opportunities and benefits; the aim should always be to use AI responsibly – balancing innovation with ethical standards and public trust.

To understand more about AI in construction, watch our latest LinkedIn Live, with myself and Paul Thorpe on demand: AI in Construction: Guide to Emerging Trends and Use

About the authors

Portrait of Murillo Piazzi

Murillo Piazzi

Senior Digital Consultant

Murillo is an experienced digital consultant, having authored training programmes such as Building Information Management (BIM) for health and safety, understanding Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) and understanding Industry Foundation Classes (IFC). Murillo is also a lead assessor for ISO 19650-1 and 2 and has supported organisations to establish and fulfil information management requirements. Murillo’s aim is to link academia and industry, sharing his knowledge with others.

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