As contractors, we have to constantly adapt to the changing circumstances of our world. 2023 was the year when AI exploded into prominence as a widely-used and rapidly growing tool to be used in industries of all sizes.
With 2023 behind us, it’s important to look forward to 2024 with an eye toward AI and automation, and its role in the construction industry. As AI and automation become more sophisticated in the next few years, we’ll see our entire society become reconfigured.
Where the world will end up in the age of ubiquitous, useful AI and automation is anyone’s guess. What we can predict with 100% certainty is that AI and automation are here to stay – and any contractor who neglects the incredible power they can provide is one who gets left behind.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 key trends in AI and automation to look out for as you prepare for an exciting and successful 2024.
Advanced Project Management Tools
One of the main areas where AI and automation have become commonplace – if not expected – is in project management. Since so many construction projects follow the same pathways and same milestones, it’s easy for AI to learn the common methodology on your projects, so it can make your processes more efficient.
Autodesk’s Construction Cloud, along with their Design and Make Platform, offers a suite of project management tools that streamline construction projects with features like automatic submittal logs generation and centralized construction meeting minutes. Autodesk provides a centralized workspace connecting all teams in the built environment, leveraging AI for better project data analysis and decision-making.
Other popular PM tools include HiveMind, a real-time AI assistant that can write content, plan projects, streamline work, and respond to emails; ClickUp, with its AI-powered scheduling assistant, optimizes construction scheduling considering task dependencies, team availability, and project priorities; and Ayanza, an AI management software, enhances team performance and collaboration with AI-powered strategy enhancements and AI-driven brainstorming.
As you might expect, automated machinery is becoming more and more commonplace on construction sites. These days, the most common type of machine-driven construction comes in the form of masonry. Look out for robotic masons and automated bricklaying to make a big splash in 2024 as it saves time and money in terms of labor and materials.
Construction Robotics’ SAM and Australian robotics company FBR’s Hadrian X robot automates the bricklaying process, working from a 3D CAD model to place bricks with the speed and precision humans can only dream of – saving money on materials and labor.
AI-Powered Drones for Inspection
Drones have long been commonplace on job sites, but AI drones are going to be the next big thing. The big difference between regular drones and AI-powered drones is the automated version allows for more complex mapping and control, allowing all parties more specific, more detailed information than in the past.
AI-driven drones from companies like Skydio are becoming increasingly popular for autonomous inspection of construction sites. DroneDeploy‘s software leverages AI for analyzing drone-captured imagery, providing insights for construction site monitoring and management. OpenSpace.ai offers a revolutionary AI-powered visual documentation platform for preconstruction data analysis, capturing 360-degree walkthroughs of construction sites and creating digital twins for review across teams.
3D Printing in Building Construction
3D printing is another hot topic for construction nerds. While we’ve long been promised the ability to print cheaper, more malleable, longer-lasting materials via 3D printing, only recently has that become reasonable and available to the general public.
Companies like ICON are building entire communities from fully 3D-printed materials, using automated construction to help put it together in a trend that is only going to continue to blossom.
Augmented Reality (AR) for On-site Visualization
AR has become an increasingly useful tool for contractors. Mostly used to communicate visuals to clients and other external stakeholders, AR can be extremely useful for getting buy-in on an idea or to sell your idea. It also allows teams to communicate ideas with one another more effectively.
Microsoft’s HoloLens and Trimble’s AR technology allow for the overlay of 3D models onto physical construction sites to help stakeholders visualize various aspects of the process.
Enhanced BIM with AI
Building information modeling, or BIM, is probably one of the most important software updates of the last few decades, drastically improving the ability of teams and stakeholders to visualize and communicate building ideas in complex environments. AI and automation only push this further, allowing for more effective construction.
Bentley Systems’ BIM software incorporates AI to streamline design processes and predict potential conflicts. Graphisoft’s Archicad, a BIM software, integrates AI to assist in design optimization and collaboration. Fusion 360 – the biggest of the BIM platforms – integrates AI-powered tools into the CAD process via Autodesk’s infamous AutoCAD, enhancing design efficiency and accuracy with its generative design capabilities.
Machine Learning Material Optimization
With inflation and supply chain issues, material management is becoming one of the best ways for contractors to cut costs and improve their bottom line. Machine learning allows contractors to get deeper, more relevant insights that provide more opportunities to save on materials while delivering the same quality.
ALICE Technologies uses machine learning in its construction software to optimize construction sequencing and material usage, aiming to reduce costs and environmental impacts. Fieldwire uses advanced AI algorithms for real-time data aggregation to monitor and maintain your job site, leveraging real-time data tools to do so most efficiently.
Blockchain for Smart Contracts
Crypto has lost its sheen a bit since blowing up around 2019-2021, but blockchain technology is only increasing in usage across industries. Blockchain tech can be extremely powerful for construction companies for communication and transparency both internally and externally.
IBM Blockchain is used in construction for creating smart contracts, ensuring transparency and efficiency in contract management, while BuildSort’s blockchain platform focuses on simplifying contract management in construction, enhancing collaboration and record-keeping.
AI for Safety Compliance
AI and automation can be extremely useful in maintaining safety compliance with OSHA, your state, and even the federal government. By leveraging real-time data, AI and automation can predict or detect issues before they become bigger problems that compromise your business.
Smartvid.io uses AI and real-time data analysis to detect any safety hazards on-site and maintain compliance on jobs, while Pillar Technologies similarly uses sensors and AI to monitor environmental conditions on construction sites, helping to ensure safety standards are met.
Sustainability and Energy Analysis
Sustainability and energy usage will only continue to become more important as we suffer the increasing impacts of climate change. With this in mind, automated energy detection, analysis, and consultation are becoming a key element of AI-driven construction, allowing contractors and clients to save money by tracking and maintaining energy costs.
Johnson Controls uses AI in its building management systems to optimize energy usage in construction projects. Siemens Building Technologies integrates AI to enhance energy efficiency and sustainability in building operations.
Stay Up To Date…Or Else
Sure, in many ways, AI is really scary – 2023 was the first year where AI and automation started taking on jobs that seemed previously untouchable, such as the arts and other creative occupations.
It goes without saying that the construction industry is facing similar challenges with AI – but AI and automation also present a unique challenge to contractors who are willing to learn how to use it to their advantage.
Any contractor who neglects the impact AI is having on our world is a contractor who is left behind – so make sure you’re staying up-to-date with the latest tools, opportunities, and threats in the industry, so you can maintain your competitiveness in the construction industry.