AI in the construction sector

By Katrina Bretten, Birketts
While legislative changes in the construction industry may not always be implemented quickly, the sector has nevertheless embraced change. It’s now poised for what has been referred to as the next frontier: artificial intelligence (AI).

Published in Norfolk Director Magazine Summer | Autumn 2023
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The UK is already a world-leader in AI, but opportunities in the construction sector are potentially greater than they are for ‘tech-savvy counterparts’, with scope not only to significantly increase GDP, but also to build more sustainably and mitigate design and construction risks.

For example, AI could be deployed to assist with:

Pre-design

This includes undertaking feasibility studies to determine if a project is viable.  

Design development

Producing detailed design documents that steer a project forward from conceptual design to design development. New tools such as enhanced 3D modelling are poised to improve quality and efficiency, as well as the customer experience.

Construction documents

Programmes such as natural language processing (NLP) could be deployed to:

  • create detailed project scope documents from 2D construction plans.
  • produce specifications – by suggesting best product matches, identifying when certain products and materials are incompatible with one another, and even calculating carbon emissions to help identify how to make a project more sustainable.
  • calculate the construction programme, factoring in lead times and risks that may affect physical construction. Not only would AI make this process more efficient, but by identifying and avoiding these risks in the early design stages, it could help avoid costly re-design issues and deliver projects on time.

Furthermore, AI could validate building regulation compliance and help contractors manage the process of discharging planning consents and obtaining building regulation approvals, something which is often extremely time-consuming.

While implementation of new technology and the promise of advancements is undeniably exciting, we await the outcome of the inaugural global summit on AI safety, which will be held in London this autumn for world leaders to discuss how to evaluate and manage it.

In the meantime, there are a few things to consider. When using AI, parties will need to ensure information that NLP programmes rely on is up to date. This will remain of paramount importance on matters such as design and product specification, in order to comply with building regulations and industry guidance.

Where AI produces original material as the ‘author’, users will need to ensure they have a copyright licence permitting use of that material, and that it is freely transferable. 

It’s certainly not the case that AI will obviate the need for construction professionals. AI has the power and capacity to churn through data quickly and efficiently, but it cannot replicate the experience gained by qualified professionals when designing and constructing buildings!

AI in the construction sector 1

Katrina Bretten, Senior Associate, Construction and Engineering at Birketts

T: 01223 326660
E: katrina-bretten@birketts.co.uk
Or visit www.birketts.co.uk

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