The Uses of AI in Construction

The Uses of AI in Construction

Artificial intelligence (AI) in construction does more than adds technology to tools — it uses data to make informed decisions that can help reduce costs, improve safety and more. AI's analytical abilities often go beyond human capacity, providing a means to examine data sets that would overwhelm a person. For the construction industry, using big data and AI can give you a competitive edge.

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Examples of Artificial Intelligence in Construction

AI stands apart from other computer-based options because it uses data to learn about processes and make informed predictions or choices. This learning capability is what sets AI apart from computer programs that only do basic calculations. Through self-education, AI systems get smarter about a company and its operations the more that company uses it. Benefits from using AI in construction often increase over time.

The future has arrived with AI. Several applications of machine learning already exist, with others ready for deployment in the near future. As time goes on, more industry uses for AI will appear as companies discover more ways to utilize it for construction projects and work sites.

1. Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Building information modeling (BIM) goes beyond constructing a three-dimensional version of architectural plans. This type of modeling uses information from designers, architects, engineers and others to produce a virtual duplicate of the building under construction.

One concern with multiple teams working on the same construction project is the chance for conflicting designs. With some of the most sophisticated forms of BIM, all users have access to the same project to make changes as their team needs. This single building design reduces the time for changes and rework. AI and BIM can work together to create multiple building versions and find the best compromise among the varying designs.

The most complex BIM versions combine information from the plans with project data, like material costs and timelines. This approach allows you and your team to create project timelines, cost estimations and the ability to predict building sustainability. Making changes to these factors early in the process helps teams better optimize the final structure for things like cost or energy efficiency. More accurate timelines and project estimations make this AI application worth the investment for those who use it.

2. Big Data Use for Project Planning

The area where AI excels is using large amounts of information to learn about changes in the construction business. Big data refers to the copious amounts of information that would require humans alone significant time to sort through. A computer with AI can analyze this information and learn from it to make highly accurate project planning decisions.

By implementing artificial neural networks, AI systems can make highly accurate project budgets and timelines. Artificial neural networks help AI systems learn about situations based on the data provided. Therefore, systems that use these in construction can take budgets from former projects — including material costs, inflation rates, labor costs and more — to predict what the budgets or schedules for future work should look like.

AI learning is similar to the experience of someone with years of work in planning project cost estimations. However, AI can surpass a human's capabilities by running various project scenarios to account for potential change orders, unplanned delays or supply problems. By integrating these potential issues into your budget, AI can help your construction team avoid hidden costs and overrun.

3. Integrating AI With Site Security

Site security is essential with expensive tools, building materials and equipment in use. By integrating AI with surveillance cameras, your site can be more secure than using cameras or motion sensors alone.

AI systems can monitor cameras and recognize people or situations. For site security, your AI-enabled system could keep watch over a construction site overnight and sound an alarm if it tracks unauthorized humans on the site. Older security options might use motion sensors to trigger alarms, but these could trip from wind-blown debris, stray dogs or birds. AI can recognize a person on the cameras and help determine if they triggered the sensor. The system can then alert authorities or site managers.

With a more secure site, the chances of material loss and structural damage decrease. With less worry of vandalism or theft, your project has a greater chance of being complete on time and within budget.

AI systems never need to take breaks or step away from surveillance cameras. They have direct connections to on-site workers by sending alerts to cell phones or other mobile devices. AI facial recognition also allows AI systems to monitor and send alerts to individuals demonstrating unsafe construction site practices. With reminders to reassess their practices to work safer, individuals on the site can avoid accidents.

4. Track and Redirect Real-Time Traffic on the Job Site

Traffic control on a job site directly impacts safety. AI systems can alert operators of potential collisions with structures or other equipment. AI can also direct automated vehicles around human-operated equipment, people and other obstacles.

AI can learn how people move around on the site over time and help optimize scheduling to reduce congestion from workers. With better control of traffic flow, individuals on the construction site move more efficiently and avoid collisions that could delay work, cause injury or damage necessary machinery.

5. Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles, such as self-driving equipment and drones, can play important roles on construction sites. Drones provide a bird's-eye view of the site, while self-driving vehicles relieve the need for as many human operators. An AI system can use data from sensors, equipment and cameras to keep self-driving earthmovers and other equipment operating safely. The same system that permits self-driving automobiles can allow for autonomous machines on a construction site.

The information gathered from drones can help AI systems optimize future building projects by giving the software data on the project progress from a different perspective than the ground level.

6. Off-Site Autonomous Prefabricated Components

Many construction projects use prefabricated components to speed the building process. AI systems can supervise the construction of these parts off-site while human experts tend to the skilled work on the construction site. Once completed, manufacturers ship the components produced off-site produced to your work site, where skilled workers piece them together. The finishing touches for these projects — such as electrical, HVAC, plumbing and other services — still require human workers.

Pairing AI-supervised off-site fabrication with human, on-site expertise cuts down on time needed for construction while reducing the need for extra labor on-site.

7. Predictive Maintenance

Construction equipment, such as earthmovers, cranes and generator sets, require regular maintenance to keep their operation optimized. One way to ensure these systems always work as expected is to rent them, which always provides the site with like-new equipment that has been properly maintained. Another method of keeping equipment working well is through AI-enabled predictive maintenance.

Instead of scheduled maintenance that requires servicing the device at set time intervals, predictive maintenance uses sensors and equipment performance to determine the most optimal time to service the equipment. AI relates critical information about equipment performance and sensor data to the machine's operation, making smarter predictions for maintenance timing. Preventive maintenance keeps machines running efficiently and minimizes the cost of potential parts replacements or repairs, which also take up valuable work time.

Benefits of AI in Construction

Integrating AI into construction projects offers several of the same advantages as using other high-tech solutions but with more enhanced planning than most technologies offer. Whether creating long-term plans or visualizing multiple design options, AI can give your construction business a faster, more accurate way to complete tasks.

1. Reducing Cost Overruns

Using AI lets you analyze past projects and their associated costs. AI's algorithms account for any increases in labor, materials and project scope over the years to better predict the cost of future projects, including materials and labor. With more accurate pricing from the start, companies can avoid issues caused by hidden costs, inflation and labor wage increases. Starting from a more precise and informed project estimate reduces the chances of surpassing your project budget.

AI can also reduce cost overruns by predicting possible delays in a project from weather, supply chain issues or other causes. By integrating plans for these delays into a project estimate, you can get a more accurate low and high cost for the job. This range makes planning easier and reduces the chances of going over budget.

2. Increasing Safety on the Job Site

When an AI monitors workers' operations, it can send an alert if it spots unsafe behaviors. To do this, a system may take information from video surveillance and photos to learn what signs indicate the most hazardous conditions on certain job sites. AI can then compile and send reports to the site manager, who can tailor their safety briefings to address those concerns.

For example, falls are the top cause of construction site deaths. AI can analyze footage from the site's security cameras and compare the information to images of unsafe practices. Then the system lets the supervisor know if it spots problems with workers not protecting themselves from falls or similar hazards based on the data collected.

Safety on the job site also requires careful coordination of equipment and people moving around. With video or sensors, an AI can learn about safe movement and optimize paths to maximize the flow of goods, people and equipment. This benefits construction crews by improving both safety and productivity on the site.

3. Improving Site Productivity

A more productive construction project tends to finish closer to its original budget and schedule than unsafe, unproductive sites. AI can help boost productivity even more than the strictest site manager by using the same technology it uses to keep workers safe to ensure that workers also stay on task. By reducing downtime, AI can help maintain a high level of productivity and reduce project costs.

Controlling automated machinery or automatic processes allows AI to take some of the monotonous tasks from skilled human workers. By assigning workers to the jobs they are most adept at and letting AI control the remaining automated operations, everything happens in the most efficient and streamlined way possible.

AI also takes the information it gathers and sends it to a human operator for additional oversight. The operator can work at or away from the job site and get updates about productivity on a mobile device or computer and use that information to speak with workers on the site to address any working issues or provide guidance, if necessary. Site managers can track habit patterns to create more targeted and informed site plans and training programs.

4. Optimizing Building Design

Buildings can go through multiple iterations during the design phase. To find the best balance of aesthetics, energy efficiency and cost, AI can run multiple scenarios based on data from previous building plans. The plans an AI creates can provide project managers with a three-dimensional walkthrough of the design. By walking through the building virtually, architects and designers can identify any potential problems or choose where to make changes.

Finding problems or identifying changes that need to be made earlier in the process reduces the price to make those alterations. Waiting until during the construction to request change orders can add to project delays and costs.

AI can do what other building design programs cannot — update those plans in real-time as construction crews change or add new components to the physical structure. With this input, AI can analyze the operation of the building and look for any issues while the design team focuses on other matters.

5. Addressing Labor Shortage Issues

Labor shortages come from increasing demand and a lack of willing or skilled people for the construction industry. Predictions from 2021 show the sector will need to hire an additional one million workers over two years to meet the growing labor demand. To mitigate this problem, many construction companies have sought high-tech solutions. AI could help predict the best automated equipment or vehicle options and coordinate them in the field.

AI makes better use of construction companies' workers by improving productivity through monitoring and more vigilant site management. Automated vehicles that undergo AI safety checks can also reduce the need for multiple human operators and ease some of the burdens of labor shortages in the industry.

6. Creating Better Schedules

Improving scheduling on job sites optimizes the productivity of those present and prevents delays caused by vendors, subcontractors and workers converging on the site at once. By adjusting schedules to maximize efficiency, AI can prevent costly delays in the job. Workers can do their jobs better and more safely by not needing to work around others.

Another scheduling that AI can help with is equipment rental. Choosing to rent equipment makes it easier to get the machinery to a job site when you need it. Construction companies don't have to worry about the rented equipment's annual storage or upkeep. To get the greatest benefits from this option, an AI system can use previous work data to determine the exact timeframe your site managers should rent specific pieces of machinery, tools or equipment. By renting the gear for the exact amount of time needed, construction crews get the benefits of using top-performing products while keeping costs and commitments low.

7. Streamlining Supply Chains

Supply chains have multiple sources of information that need analyzing to make the most of the system. AI can use the data on vendors and supply availability to streamline material acquisition for projects. For instance, AI can analyze information on supply and demand and choose the best time to order materials for a construction project to reduce delays or take advantage of lower costs — an especially useful feature when working under a tight budget or timeline.

AI can also predict when to place orders to coordinate material arrivals at the construction site when they are most needed. This secondary application optimizes the supply chain and is ideal for sites that do not have extra storage space for construction materials or want to work with the practice of just-in-time building, which delays material arrival to the site until the part of the project that needs them begins. Using this option can make crews more adaptable to change orders or more flexible if delays in construction stages occur.

8. Saving Money on Maintaining Equipment

Equipment maintenance guided by AI-enabled predictive maintenance can save a facility or team money. Waiting until equipment breaks down or begins to work inefficiently wastes time and resources — including labor, payroll and fuel costs — on the job site. Maintenance crews need to come to the site to make repairs to broken-down equipment. Unless repairs can finish in a day, the site managers may need to order a replacement piece of equipment.

With predictive maintenance, the service of all equipment on-site happens in the most efficient way possible. No piece of equipment gets unnecessary servicing or waits until it breaks down to receive upkeep. Avoiding unnecessary maintenance frees those in charge of repairs for other tasks. With predictive maintenance, equipment may go longer than scheduled servicing before it needs repairs, keeping valuable machinery and equipment on the job site longer.

9. Protecting Job Sites With Better Security and Safety

Job sites can have better security and safety with AI systems. These systems use surveillance cameras during the day to watch for safety issues and the same views at night to protect the site from criminal activity. AI systems can improve security by augmenting human supervisors or security personnel.

AI alerts managers to those individuals not using approved safety measures to quickly redirect the employee's behaviors before someone gets hurt. Because AI cannot play favorites or harbor bias, it provides a fair and effective way to manage and discipline employees across the job site.

Safer, more secure construction sites benefit contractors who can show a positive safety record. Safe sites reduce the chance of costly problems that could waste project time and materials, like tool and equipment theft, vandalism, property damage or injury.

Benefit From Tomorrow's Technology Today by Visiting The Cat® Rental Store Nearest You

You don't have to wait for the future to take advantage of high-tech construction equipment. Cat® dealers have highly skilled teams who will help you find the best technological solutions for your construction project needs.

When renting equipment, tools and attachments for your construction site, you have the opportunity to try the technology before investing in it, giving you the most value for your money and providing a clear picture of the training and labor you'll need for your next project. We even include equipment maintenance.

Visit The Cat Rental Store nearest you to see the latest products for rent that let you leverage technology to improve your work site operations. Rent whatever you need from the people who do whatever it takes.

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