Hema Ramamoorthy, data and AI lead at Digital Catapult discusses how artificial intelligence can help construction tackle some of its biggest challenges and how organisations of all sizes can embrace innovative new solutions
Of all the technological disruptions, artificial intelligence (AI) stands out as a game-changer for the construction industry.
Undoubtedly, it is one of the most transformative technologies of this era. Recent advances in large language models (LLMs) and other generative AI technologies have garnered much attention, impacting almost every industry.
At Digital Catapult, we continue to work across key sectors, preparing businesses for the transformative impact of emerging technologies and developing robust solutions to real-time industrial challenges.
While sectors such as manufacturing, the creative industries and financial services are undergoing rapid changes due to embracing new AI solutions, the construction industry, often seen as a traditional and labour-intensive field, is next to witness a significant transformation.
Construction companies must prepare for this transformation if they are to succeed in the long term. At Digital Catapult, we help organisations with the right, steady approach to their digital transformation and data readiness so they can successfully steer through their AI adoption journey.
This is why we have launched a pioneering new AI Adoption Assessment Toolkit to help organisations of all sizes as they commence their AI journey and embrace innovative new solutions.
How artificial intelligence can tackle the construction industry’s challenges
Some of the top challenges in the construction sector include health and safety risks, poor planning, forecasting and budgeting, cost overrun, skills shortages, supply chain delays, and net zero and sustainability issues.
In the last decade, the construction industry has continued to be one of the low-innovation sectors and is the least digitised industry.
Digital transformation, if done correctly, can enable this sector to embrace AI at a much faster rate. Here is how artificial intelligence can help.
Improving safety and minimising risk
Assessing and minimising risk on construction sites, and thereby improving overall safety, will be an instrumental way that new AI solutions will transform the construction industry.
When I say ‘risk’, I’m referring to risk on two fronts: the first being structural risk and the second being risk to construction workers. The first can be mitigated by leveraging AI solutions that might analyse real-time data from sensors and cameras on a building site, allowing AI solutions to identify potential hazards.
Whether it’s monitoring the gradual movements of a building’s foundations, assessing the impact of environmental conditions or considering where wear-and-tear could occur, AI will play a critical role in ensuring that buildings are constructed safely and securely, preventing problems like structural collapse and falling objects.
The construction industry records many workplace injuries compared with other industries. Construction workers will also benefit from new AI solutions, reducing occupational hazards and making risk assessments more reliable.
Predictive analytics, for example, might warn employees when it’s safe to work, while algorithms could also indicate where hazards exist and how these can be avoided.
I’ve also seen how LLMs can be leveraged to produce safety guidelines for specific construction projects and offer valid advice to construction workers. In embracing these solutions, AI technology will make the construction process increasingly reliable and secure, as well as safer for all staff involved.
In fact, on the FutureScope High Growth AI Accelerator Programme for Bridge AI, we empower start-ups to develop pioneering new solutions grounded in demonstrable industrial applications.
The industry focus of this programme extends beyond construction, developing industrial solutions for transport, the creative industries and agriculture, and in developing these pioneering solutions, construction companies that embrace these solutions first will see the most success in the near future.
Revolutionising the project planning and scheduling process
Project managers play a crucial role in any construction project, establishing timelines, ensuring teams are meeting targets and estimating how much resource is necessary to finish a project. By leveraging effective AI solutions, this core function could soon be aided by new tools that can help project managers on several fronts.
For example, new artificial intelligence solutions will support project managers by analysing historical data, current project conditions and various other factors to generate optimised construction schedules that align with project objectives and stakeholder demands.
Any new industrial solution must prioritise efficiency, productivity and performance, particularly in construction, where safety and efficiency are paramount.
This is why Digital Catapult offers technological support, counsel and strategic advice to AI start-ups on our accelerator programmes to ensure their solutions will be commercially successful and scalable.
Sustainability in building design, construction and demolition
According to Defra statistics, construction and demolition waste contributed to 62% of the UK’s total waste in 2018. Sustainability is a growing concern in the construction industry. If left unaddressed, it could lead to bigger problems with long-term side effects.
AI can optimise material use by calculating the amount required for a project, reducing waste and excess. Additionally, AI can recommend sustainable construction practices and suggest the use of environmentally friendly materials, which not only benefit the environment but also meet the demands of eco-conscious clients.
Keeping partners and clients happy is important for any construction company. It is another reason why these companies must embrace AI solutions if they are to succeed in the long term and continue to win business from clients that prioritise sustainability.
Optimising the supply chain for the construction industry
A reliable supply chain is also key to the success of any construction project and is another way that AI can be leveraged to benefit the construction sector more broadly.
Research commissioned by QBE shows that three in five (59%) UK construction companies that supply chain issues have hit over the past year have seen once-profitable projects turning unprofitable, and 85% of construction industry leaders expect supply chain issues to pose a challenge in the next year.
Unreliable supply chains are creating negative outcomes for all stakeholders in the construction industry – digitising these supply chains will act as futureproofing.
At Digital Catapult, we understand the strategic importance of digital supply chains. This is why it’s one of our key market application areas and underpins our commitment to establishing sustainable, agile and resilient supply chains through our Digital Supply Chain Hub programme.
By analysing data on material availability, costs and lead times, AI can generate recommendations for sourcing materials, managing inventory and reducing waste, ultimately mitigating supply chain disruption, which has serious implications in the construction industry.
The ability to overcome ongoing supply chain disruption using innovative new AI solutions is another reason more companies must be prepared for artificial intelligence transformation.
As more companies in the construction sector recognise the value and strategic importance of new AI solutions that will streamline operations, improve efficiency and solve industrial challenges, it won’t be long until the AI transformation takes hold of the construction industry.
This transformation will drive sectoral growth of UK construction, and any party interested in the FutureScope High Growth AI Accelerator Programme can follow for updates.
Data and AI lead
Tel: +44 (0)2038 823 557