Artificial Intelligence for Smart Construction By Virender Kumar (IPMA – B)

Virender Kumar is a senior business manager and a certified project professional (IPMA- B) with complex project management certification from France. He has more than 28 years of professional work experience in engineering design and supervision, construction, and project management consulting work.
He has worked at senior roles in leading firms like AECOM, EGIS, Yooshin Engineering corporation etc. 

The roots of artificial intelligence (AI) can be traced to the seminal works of Vannevar Bush (1945) who proposed a system capable of amplifying a person’s knowledge and understanding and the term Artificial Intelligence was first given by John McCarthy in 1955. Since then, we have come a long way from simple level machine learning, collecting and processing data to present-day use of artificial intelligence as a multidisciplinary field with intelligent thinking machines performing complex functions and procedures without human interference.

Over the past few decades, the use of artificial intelligence has increased substantially in diverse applications across different sectors and industries. A report projected the global spending on artificial intelligence expected to reach around US$ 98 billion in 2023 and artificial intelligence in the construction industry would bring in $2,642.4 million in revenue by 2026 with a compound annual growth rate of 26.3% from 2019 to 2026. Nevertheless, AI adoption in the construction industry has been moving at a slow pace. The construction industry lags behind many other industries in implementing AI solutions and remains severely under-digitized.

There is continuing debate on the usefulness of AI in construction projects with a section viewing AI techniques as suitable for solving complex real-world construction problems under uncertain environments. They believe that AI can substantially benefit in automation, risk mitigation, and optimization, thereby making construction projects run more smoothly and efficiently and AI-based tools can empower project practitioners in doing team analysis and identifying improvement areas.  However, others view AI-based systems/models as incapable of addressing real-world problems. Many experts have argued for a substantial change in the way AI research in general is currently conducted to provide practice with sound advice.

The construction sector has not been altogether successful in adopting automated systems and research on AI has mainly been confined to developing software models for a specific subset of construction works using knowledge-based expert systems. However, these knowledge-based expert systems have failed to gain wide acceptance on account of their inherent deficiencies. The majority of applications classified as AI are based on artificial neural networks, machine learning, genetic algorithms, fuzzy logic/sets, and statistical analysis, whereas areas like robotics technology, modular building, energy, 3D printing, and life cycle cost are yet to receive greater attention.

AI has a great potential to aid in smart construction thereby greatly altering the business dynamics. It may help in developing collaborative business models that can alter the current business environment, thereby improving performance and efficiency in the construction industry across the value chain from production of building materials to design, planning, execution, and maintenance. On large infrastructure projects, It can help complete construction projects within budget, on schedule, and according to specifications thereby increasing project success. Given the good potential for AI uses on construction projects, project practitioners may increasingly opt to use AI more and more in executing their routine work to increase project performance and efficiency. AI can effectively help in performing complex design calculations, and risk mitigation,  and as a support to project managers in completing basic repetitive tasks thereby saving time and money, and increasing the efficiency of construction activities. It can effectively help in a geographical survey and mapping of construction sites, construction BIM modeling, smart automated collection and analysis of site data, planning & sequencing, construction site progress measurements, supply chain logistics, and making construction sites safer. It can also help in offsite constructions in controlled environments as well as in post-construction works.

The expected applications of AI for smart construction are limitless and these applications are projected to open doors to profitable opportunities for the growth of the market. The huge benefits that can be obtained from applying AI in construction projects, therefore, necessitate understanding more about AI and its role in construction project success.