Skip to main content

Is AI Already Reshaping the Construction Industry?

Artificial intelligence (AI) touches everything. It isn’t necessarily integrated into everything, but it is at the ready to impact every part of your day: Transportation, entertainment, finance, customer service, education, your job. 

The construction industry is also ripe for the glory – and the concern – that AI brings with it. But how can owners and general contractors prepare for this inevitable pairing?  

When British mathematician Clive Humby declared in 2006 that “data is the new oil,” he meant that data – like oil – isn't useful in its raw state. It needs to be refined, processed and turned into something useful; its value lies in its potential. 

What AI thrives on is information. Without data, AI would just be a muscle car, raring to go, but no fuel in the tank. 

Kahua collaborated with three venerable names in the construction business – Deloitte, Engineering News Record (ENR) and Kahua partner OnIndus – on a webinar to peek inside the possibilities of AI within our industry and how it might partner with construction management collaboration software. Below are some of the takeaways:

Machine Learning: A Tangible Tool – Machine learning is a subset of AI, characterized by algorithms and statistics. This technology relies on input and output data, enabling the prediction of outcomes. Machine learning is a data-dependent tool that empowers the construction sector with predictive insights. 

Advanced Analytics: A Comprehensive Approach – This term encompasses descriptive and predictive analytics, involving visual representations and statistical models to facilitate decision making. Advanced analytics forms the foundation of AI, paving the way for machine learning and other applications. 

Generative AI: Creating Content – This version of AI enables the creation of content in various forms, including text, images, audio and more. It's powered by models such as GPT (Generative Pre-training Transformer). Generative AI's dynamic nature allows for the generation of an array of models to answer diverse questions. 

AI in Education: From Calculators to Data Analysis – The application of AI in the education sector is growing rapidly. Schools are now using AI for essay grading, marking a significant shift in educational practices. Just as calculators became indispensable in classrooms, AI is poised to be a fundamental tool for students and educators, facilitating data-driven learning. 

AI Adoption in Construction – General contractors are utilizing AI for estimation and scheduling, benefiting from decades of historical data. Owners of public institutions are also stepping into AI, leveraging their data for improved operations and decision-making. 

Predictive Analytics for Owners – Owners, particularly in the public sector, are exploring predictive analytics. By analyzing extensive data sets accumulated over the years, they can make data-driven decisions. Whether it's managing construction schedules, optimizing costs or improving project outcomes, AI plays a pivotal role in enhancing the owner's perspective. 

Data Engineering: A Crucial Component – Data engineering is a crucial element in the AI process. Creating a reproducible and trackable framework for data handling ensures data quality and reliability. Understanding the data you're feeding into AI models is essential to achieve accurate results and derive actionable insights. 

Data Warehouse vs. Data Lake – The experts shed light on the difference between data warehouses and data lakes. While data warehouses are traditionally suited for business intelligence and require an “extract, transform, load” pipeline for data transformation, data lakes store raw data and enable data scientists to extract insights more efficiently. Understanding which approach suits your organization is vital for success. 

Victories Thus Far – One striking example of AI in construction involved an AI model used for predicting fiber installations. This predictive model was trained on historical P6 data from different vendors. After just four weeks of data, it achieved an impressive accuracy rate of 95%. The success of such AI applications suggests that the benefits of AI are accessible and not just a distant dream within the industry. 

Challenges on the Horizon – Webinar panelists also delved into the challenges faced when implementing AI solutions. Cultural change emerged as a significant test. The transformation brought about by AI in construction necessitates an organizational shift, which can be daunting. The key takeaway here is that leaders need the courage to use insights gained from AI analytics to drive organizational change effectively. The cultural shift can be a formidable obstacle but is essential for optimizing new capabilities. 

Start Small with AI – The consensus is to start small with AI initiatives. The advice was clear: don't attempt to eat the entire cake in one sitting. Begin with a pilot project that can serve as a research and development endeavor. Spend a few sprints on it. These pilots do not need to be year-long projects. Once the model is trained and demonstrates accuracy exceeding 95-97%, it can be handed over to business users. AI adoption can be gradual and focused. 

AI Security and Privacy – Organizations need to take these security concerns seriously, especially government agencies. It is crucial to establish strong security measures and get them reviewed. Priority should be given to vendors who can demonstrate the lengths they’ve achieved by becoming FedRAMP Authorized. Building your own secure cloud environment and having a comprehensive security plan is essential. Data privacy and handling data responsibly are non-negotiable, especially when working with sensitive information. 

The construction industry is on the brink of a major transformation, thanks to AI and its myriad applications. As AI tools continue to evolve and gain adoption, stakeholders are set to benefit from data-driven insights, improved decision-making and enhanced construction data analytics software. The construction industry, once hesitant about technology, is set to embrace AI as a powerful tool for the future. It's clear that AI's impact on the construction industry will only grow stronger, making it a fascinating field to watch in the coming years. 


Watch the webinar to learn more about the potential future of artificial intelligence in the construction industry. 


About the Author

Patricia McCarter is Senior Industry Content Manager at Kahua specializing in Government and Commercial Construction. She engages in high-level executive communications, messaging strategy, social media and content marketing, bolstered by a background in journalism.

Profile Photo of Patricia McCarter