Smart Construction: How AI and Machine Learning Will Change the Construction Industry

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is when a computer mimics specific attributes of human cognitive function, while machine learning gives the computer the ability to learn from data, as opposed to being specifically programmed by a human. Here are ten ways that AI and machine learning will transform the construction and engineering industries into what we’ll call “smart construction.”

These days, seemingly everyone is applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. I have written about disruptions in the manufacturing industry, such as Industry 4.0, while illustrating the Hard Trends that indicate where improvements will be made in the future.

The construction industry, which makes up 7% of the global workforce, should already have applied these technologies to improve productivity and revolutionize the industry. However, it has actually progressed quite slowly.

Growth in the construction industry has only been 1% over a few decades while manufacturing is growing at a rate of 3.6%. With the total worker output in construction at a standstill, it is no surprise that the areas where machine learning and AI could improve such statistics were minimal. Yet, those technologies are finally starting to emerge in the industry.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is when a computer mimics specific attributes of human cognitive function, while machine learning gives the computer the ability to learn from data, as opposed to being specifically programmed by a human. Here are ten ways that AI and machine learning will transform the construction and engineering industries into what we’ll call “smart construction.”

  1. Cost Overrun Prevention and Improvement

Even efficient construction teams are plagued by cost overruns on larger-scale projects. AI can utilize machine learning to better schedule realistic timelines from the start, learning from data such as project or contract type, and implement elements of real-time training in order to enhance skills and improve team leadership.

  1. Generative Design for Better Design

When a building is constructed, the sequence of architectural, engineering, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing tasks must be accounted for in order to prevent these specific teams from stepping out of sequence or clashing. Generative design is accomplished through a process called “building information modeling.” Construction companies can utilize generative design to plot out alternative designs and processes, preventing rework.

  1. Risk Mitigation

The construction process involves risk, including quality and safety risks. AI machine learning programs process large amounts of data, including the size of the project, to identify the size of each risk and help the project team pay closer attention to bigger risk factors.

  1. More Productive Project Planning

A recent startup utilized 3D scanning, AI and neural networks to scan a project site and determine the progress of specific sub-projects in order to prevent late and over-budget work. This approach allowed management to jump in and solve problems before they got out of control. Similarly, “reinforcement learning” (machine learning based on trial and error) can help to collate small issues and improve the preparation phase of project planning.

  1. More Productive Job Sites

Professionals often fear machines will replace them. While intelligent machines will take over first repetitive and eventually more cognitively complex positions, this does not mean a lack of jobs for people. Instead, workers will transition to new, more fulfilling and highly productive roles to save time and stay on budget, and AI will monitor human productivity on job sites to provide real-time guidance on improving each operation.

  1. Safety First

Manual labor not only has the potential to be taxing on the body, but also to be incredibly dangerous. Presently, a general contractor is developing an algorithm that analyzes safety hazards seen in imagery taken from a job site, making it possible to hold safety briefings to eliminate elevated danger and improve overall safety on construction sites.

  1. Addressing Job Shortages

AI and machine learning have the capacity to plot out accurate distribution of labor and machinery across different job sites, again preventing budget overruns. One evaluation might reveal where a construction site has adequate coverage while another reveals where it is short staffed, thereby allowing for an efficient and cost-effective repositioning of workers.

  1. Remote Construction

When structures can be partially assembled off-site and then completed on-site, construction goes faster. The concept of using advanced robots and AI to accomplish this remote assembly is new. Assembly line production of something like a wall can be completed while the human workforce focuses on the finish work.

  1. Construction Sites as Data Sources

The data gathered from construction sites and the digital lessons learned by AI and advanced machines are all tools for improving the productivity of the next project. In this way, each construction site can contribute to a virtual textbook of information helpful to the entire industry.

  1. The Finishing Touches

Structures are always settling and shifting slightly. It would be beneficial to be able to dive back into data collated by a computer to track in real time the changes and potential problems faced by a structure — and AI and machine learning make this possible.

Given the inevitable changes on the horizon, and the potential for costs to drop up to 20% or more with increased productivity, professionals in the construction industry must pay attention to Hard Trends, become more anticipatory, and ultimately learn to turn disruption and change into opportunity and advantage.

Know What’s Next

Discover proven strategies to accelerate innovation with my latest book The Anticipatory Organization. Follow this link for a special offer.

Shape the Future–Before Someone Else Does It For You!

How to get out of meetings that suck

Internal communications for an organization is vital for collaboration. A company in which their employees are working at the same beat are more likely to have better delivery times for their projects. Meetings are a good thing for an organization especially when department heads need to coordinate the work activities of their staff with others in the organization.

With all of the coordination benefits of meetings, there is a downside when you start to associate work productivity by having more meetings. Just like anything else, too much of one thing can erode the benefits. For example, we can make a similar case for something as simple as coffee. If you have one cup of coffee in the morning, then it will rev your body up. If you have 8 cups of coffee, then you would be jittery and shakey. The idea is that you do not want to overdo too much of one thing that it starts to harm you.

There are some tactics that you can use to free up your calendar and get out of those unnecessary meetings which are bringing your productivity down.

  1. Identify which meetings do not add value
    The first step in getting rid of unnecessary meetings is to identify which meetings do not add value to your work. You need to set up a system for yourself to evaluate each meeting. You need to determine if the meeting is a waste of time, or value-added. If the meeting is value-added, then you show up at the meeting. If the meeting is a waste of time, then you notify the meeting organizer that you would not be able to add any value to the meeting, and there is no point for you to be there. Every organization has its internal politics, and please make sure to use your best judgment in communicating to the right authorities without burning any working relationships.
  2. Set up a meeting policy
    Set up a meeting policy for yourself and communicate your plan to your team members. Let them know that you are willing to go to meetings that you can provide knowledge and advice relating to your domain of work. You want people to see that you are a good worker and you want to maximize your time for efficiency. Most managers and co-workers can respect a person who wants to be productive for their organization.
  3. Use your calendar to schedule work time
    Your calendar is a powerful tool that you need to leverage to let people know your daily schedule. Most calendars such as Outlook are internally sharable within the organization. You can book time on your calendar which is dedicated to working and allow some time throughout the day for meetings. This is an excellent way to manage your time efficiently.
  4. Encourage a culture of productivity
    You want to be part of a group who supports productivity. You want to encourage awareness within the department and externally about the value of time. Time is money, and you want to make the most of company resources.

These four strategies should provide a useful framework for you to use to help you identify and get out of meetings that do not add value to your day. Remember that your time is valuable. Please, make the most out of it.

Pop Quiz, Monday with Les Watson

All of my work is fun, so being in a training room with people is the best fun you can have with your clothes on.

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
Les Watson

Les Watson
Photo credit: Les Watson

What is your job role?
Time Lord – Owner – Get More Time

Tell us about your company?
We specialise in Time Management training and increasing individual and corporate productivity.

What do you love most about your job?

Seeing/hearing the success stories that come from those who attend my training.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
To bring life, and for those people who know me, that’s what I do in every situation I am in.

How do your co-workers inspire you?
My wife, Merry, is with me in the company and she has not been well for many years (doing mighty fine now though). She is my inspiration and the reason I chose to create the company.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
All of my work is fun, so being in a training room with people is the best fun you can have with your clothes on.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
Marketing is always a challenge for a ‘services’ business. I have learnt that you need to reach out and get expert help when you don’t know what to do.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
Similarly, the key to business is not trying to do it all yourself. Play to your strengths and delegate/outsource the rest.

But the key is two-fold:
Ask for support, which entails laying down your ego to say you can’t do it all…
and be supportable, which is again putting aside your ego and saying I don’t need to do it all myself, I can let people in to help me accomplish what it is I am aiming for.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?
Gather people around you and learn from what they have done in the past, their experience, the highs, and the lows.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web: