Hassan Hachem: AI is one the future of construction

The potential of artificial intelligence seems to be the subject of important discussions between the manual trades and the technical circles. Everyone - whether they're merchants in your neighborhood, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg or the Tesla inventor Elon Musk - seems to have an opinion on how Artificial intelligence (AI) can, or will, change our daily lives. For the construction industry, the question is how today's AI technology will impact the construction of tomorrow.

A few years ago, artificial intelligence was just a tale in science fiction novels. Today, it is a reality that touches us every day, from our news feed to our online shopping software. AI is no longer a whimsical concept of the future. It is something we live and enjoy today.

Artificial intelligence has unlimited potential and its benefits are reflected in all industries; its convenience and usefulness pervade our daily lives. The launch of autonomous cars by the automotive industry is synonymous with faster transport and a considerable reduction in accidents and polluting emissions. In the construction industry, precursors use technology to increase the efficiency, safety and quality of construction.

Big Data

Artificial intelligence is a generic term describing a machine's ability to mimic human cognitive functions, such as problem solving, learning and pattern recognition. AI is capable of machine learning, algorithms feeding a machine to enable it to learn from the data it encounters. The machine improves its understanding of things and its thinking as it is exposed to more and more data.

At a time when massive amounts of data are being created every day, AI is exposed to inexhaustible resources to learn and adapt to everyday life. If you look at the construction industry alone, the data generated on construction sites increases. Data generated from images captured by mobile devices, drone videos, security sensors, building information modeling (BIM) and more is now a reservoir of information. The construction industry has adopted data entry technology. The challenge now is to put in place a system that manages all of this captured information to enable both construction professionals and customers to make the most of it.

Increased efficiency, improved security

Hassan Hachem a construction industry veteran accentuates “for first-time users in the construction industry, AI programs provide accurate data and approaches that enable contractors to optimize site safety, value and productivity”. Companies such as Skanska and Arup, for example, are using a management platform that uses AI to sift through a huge database of images and videos taken on a construction site to identify potential hazards. Their software uses image recognition algorithms to identify specific search criteria, such as safety vests, helmets, and high-visibility colors to filter images of workers who do not wear safety gear appropriate and could violate safety instructions. In a short time, the results of the research can be collected and sent to the site supervisor - a usually difficult task that would take hours to complete.

Hassan Hachem follows up: “some manufacturers are exploring emerging technologies and how they can increase jobsite safety”. From this exploration came an operator assistance program that uses AI algorithms to detect and decrypt specific objects using computer vision methods. The system can alert the operator with a warning message and reduce the risk of an accident. In addition to increased safety, AI ​​can perform repetitive and dangerous labor-intensive tasks. Artificial intelligence programmers say it can help inexperienced machine operators accomplish complex tasks. They are convinced that this is particularly useful in the construction industry where it is relatively difficult at the moment to find highly qualified operators.

Men vs machines

Many people are worried about losing their jobs because of the automation of an increasing number of tasks. However, the experts claim that the Issuing to AI is not as scary as the science fiction stories suggest. Automation and automated machines are only part of the evolution. At the time of the first hydraulic machine, people expressed the same concern. However, with the change, new opportunities have come up. Experts believe that the same goes with the advent of artificial intelligence. The use of AI will be slow and constant, but when automation and machinery are applied to construction, new jobs will have been created to strengthen and complement them. Robotics: salvation for the labor shortage in construction. Steve Muck, CEO of Brayman Construction Corporation, believes that robotics can be the solution to the US labor shortage in the construction industry. According to him, the last ten years have been difficult to find workers. Thanks to its robotic rebar bonding solution, it has saved a lot of time while reducing the injuries caused to workers by this work.

A major technological shift where digital data will play a big role is already happening.

Hassan Hachem warns “this will pose great challenges for architects, engineers, contractors and managers. As the demands become more complex and methods progress rapidly with the arrival of new technologies, the field of construction will undergo major transformations in the years to come”.

Greater urban density

By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities. Montréal is already preparing for this eventuality, with plans to integrate 100,000 new residents in the downtown area by that date, mainly through the conversion of underutilized or unoccupied buildings .

These kinds of measures will push metropolises to integrate development models that are much more efficient in terms of infrastructure and promote the quality of life of their citizens. We can already observe, with the emergence of new approaches related to sustainable development in the development of our cities - such as Smart Growth, new urban planning, green urban planning, eco-districts or Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). ) -, a desire to create a pleasant living environment, but allowing a greater density of population.

Yet this requirement leads to a complexification of urban planning; we cannot build anymore to answer only a simple request. In addition, the fight against climate change and the use of an increasingly restricted space require sophisticated design tools.

Development of data use

The arrival of BIM (Building Information Modeling) in recent years has transformed the design, construction, operation and management of buildings. In short, BIM is both a software, a database and a process for collaboration between stakeholders, be they contractors, architects, engineers or managers.

By providing a unified version of the projects, based on standardized technical and functional data, the BIM prevents construction defects in progress. Once the project is completed, it also makes it possible to control technical incidents or breakdowns occurring in the operation of the building.

By quantifying, even after construction, various aspects of a building such as infrastructure, water or energy systems, traffic, waste, noise, etc., we come to better design the next projects. In addition, the BIM also connecting the buildings themselves, can now make a digital model of a neighborhood, even a city, thus facilitating decision-making in urban planning.

Daily habits will also influence how to design the homes of tomorrow. With the Internet of Things, the most mundane items, such as your refrigerator, your washer, your TV or the little vacuuming robot, emit data about their use . In addition, with home automation, most electrical objects can now be managed by software that, obviously, will produce data on its users. These can not only facilitate the management of homes, but also offer solutions for the construction or redevelopment of buildings.

Data from a dwelling or office space can affect the design or redevelopment of a building, which will have an impact on that of the neighborhood, which in turn will better design the city. The connectivity of the different sets will therefore lead to a more efficient energy management of the movements as well as the space used [6].

All these data, on the other hand, leave the designers with an excessive number of information, without still being able to profit from method or tool facilitating the decision-making. The current ways of doing things will have to leave room for methods linking all the parameters using a system that calculates them itself [7]. This is where artificial intelligence comes into play.

Artificial intelligence

It must be understood that artificial intelligence is only a system devoted to mathematical and logical tasks from parameters pre-established by the designer. What distinguishes artificial intelligence from conventional software is its design according to the deep learning approach, where the system has the capacity to improve based on previous experiences. This approach has already brought us technologies like Siri and will soon allow the arrival of autonomous cars on our roads [8].

This technology will be able to perform many tasks, currently performed by humans, in addition to performing them more quickly. Without designing buildings instead of architects, artificial intelligence will be able to recognize problems before they occur and better judge the quality or effectiveness of a design. Solutions saved in the past can also be integrated into new projects [9]

New opportunities

The exponential increase of digital data will require a new management system. It will no longer be sufficient to design and build buildings, but it will also be necessary to manage the flow of information produced by the building itself as well as by its occupants. This may be useful not only for building new buildings, but also for collecting a new resource that may be of interest to other partners.

If this data came to have a more than appreciable value, one could even assume that, in the future, the promoters would reap more benefit to livelihoods in the homes than to sell them or rent them the physical good . It would be premature, however, to come to such conclusions.

It can be argued, however, that the construction and real estate markets will undergo major transformations in the years to come. Actors working in these areas will have to remain attentive to innovations that could accelerate and greatly affect those who cannot adapt to them.

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