Marketing + Communications

Shaping the built environment with AI

You’d be forgiven for thinking AI is rocket-propelled. Not only is it in our news feeds every day, but ChatGPT – a large language model – is now the fastest-growing consumer application in history. Companies are already changing their hiring strategies in response to AI and in the near future, familiarity with the technology will be a pre-requisite of any professional job role.

We’re already reaching out and speaking to others in our industry, sharing and receiving knowledge about how we can utilise these new tools to better serve our clients.

These are conversations every company should be having if they want to evolve with the times, regardless of the industry they work in.

Whether you’re excited about the prospect of AI or dread its rapid advance, there’s no stopping it. AI is here and it will change the landscape of our workforce. Here, we’re going to touch on some of the ways AI will be changing the industry.

The big picture

AI mimics human thinking to make sense of complex data. In the construction industry, AI is becoming key to many tasks, from designing buildings to improving construction and post-construction work.

1. Building Design and Planning

AI holds remarkable potential for design and planning. With AI-powered design software, architects can generate, optimise, and evaluate designs much more efficiently. These software tools can analyse multiple design options against criteria like environmental impact, cost, and compliance with building regulations, enabling architects to make more informed design decisions.

This doesn’t mean AI will be replacing architects, far from it. Creativity and the ability to hit a client brief are still very much in the domain of the human. AI-powered tools will simply supplement this creative process, bearing the computational load that comes with analysing design options against project criteria.

LLMs, a form of AI, can also contribute significantly to this process. These models understand and generate human-like text, allowing them to understand design briefs, consult building codes, and even generate reports. Thus, LLMs can help streamline and automate several administrative and documentation tasks.

2. Construction

AI in construction focuses on improving efficiency, safety, and decision-making. Teams can leverage AI-powered tools to forecast project timelines, manage resources, and monitor progress in real-time, mitigating the risk of cost overruns and delays.

More than just number crunching, AI can also enhance on-site safety. Machine learning algorithms can analyse video feeds from construction sites to identify safety violations and alert managers, helping prevent accidents before they happen. AI-powered widgets can keep an eye on the workforce, monitoring their wellbeing – don’t forget, construction remains one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

Again, this doesn’t mean health and safety managers will be out of a job. It simply means they’ll have a high-accuracy tool to help them keep sites safer.

As well as keeping workers safe, AI monitoring tools can help monitor structures and their sturdiness. Whether it’s monitoring the cracks in an old bridge or the curing process of a cement and GGBS mix, AI can keep vigil over it, offering real-time analysis and highlighting problems before they turn into disasters.

3. Post-Construction Management

What about when the site is handed over and the building is occupied?

AI, coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT), can enhance building performance and occupant comfort post-construction. AI algorithms can optimise energy use, manage maintenance tasks, and even predict potential system failures, improving the building’s efficiency and sustainability.

The future is here

This isn’t an exhaustive list. The ways in which AI will change the face of our industry are almost endless. Over the next decade, we’re going to see changes on the level of the industrial revolution. Job roles will change, buildings will be built differently and our ability to evolve will be tested to the max.

While these applications paint a compelling picture of how AI and LLMs can transform the built environment, we’re only at the beginning of this journey. As AI technologies continue to evolve, businesses in this sector should brace for even more significant changes.

The key to harnessing the full potential of AI and LLMs lies in understanding these technologies’ strengths and limitations.

Prepare to meet your robot overlord?

As marketers, we’re already experiencing a changed industry. With ChatGPT and other LLMs, we have extremely potent tools that can help us deliver work more efficiently, for example, in writing this piece. But it isn’t replacing marketers. It’s changing how we work.

Likewise, AI won’t replace architects, engineers, or builders – it’s a tool that will augment their capabilities, enabling them to work smarter and deliver better results.

In this AI-driven era, businesses operating in the built environment must embrace these technologies not as threats but as opportunities to innovate and improve. By doing so, they’ll not only enhance their operations but also contribute to building a more efficient, sustainable, and resilient built environment for all of us.

In the words of Mark Farmer, “modernise or die”.

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