The rise of AI in construction< Back to Blog

AI -1News just in – robots are expected to take over the entire world sometime this Autumn!

Wait a minute… what?

OK, we might not be at that ‘rise of the machines’ moment yet, but it’s certainly true that the technology behind AI and machine learning has already become a normal part of our daily lives – think Siri, Satnav and Amazon Echo for instance.

But, with AI technologies and applications entering every phase of construction, what are the implications for the industry?

Here’s a few examples of what’s taking place right now and what might happen in the near future.

Construction planning – Autonomous machinery (which is considered to be AI because it can navigate without human input) is already being used by the industry to survey proposed construction sites and create 3D maps, blueprints and construction plans in as little as one day!

Construction methodology  There are various ways in which AI is already helping to determine the methods used in construction. One example is the use of autonomous site machinery, which allows the driver to be outside the vehicle while operating at dangerous heights. Another example is the way engineers are being assisted by AI database systems which use data from past projects to advise on appropriate blueprints and implementation stages for their projects.

Cutting edge applications for everyone

From AI-based applications like Doxel which measures the quantity of materials installed and inspects the quality of work on the job by analysing it in 3D, to applications like Smartvid.io which automatically analyses photos and videos from the jobsite for safety hazards, there’s now a cutting-edge technology to support almost every aspect of the construction process.

What about the labour force?AI -2

While these applications are focused on enabling construction tasks to be completed in ways that are faster, cheaper and with greater accuracy, perhaps the biggest question on everyone’s lips is whether those pesky robots will ever take over our jobs?

According to construction giants, Balfour Beatty, by 2050 construction sites could be almost human-free! They envisage a site where on-site machines get on with the building work, while humans oversee the projects remotely and only ever access the site when wearing robotically enhanced exoskeletons to control the machinery or other robots!

How accurate that vision is remains to be seen, but we’ve already seen the development of a robot bricklayer (that can lay 3000 bricks per day) and know from other industries like manufacturing that robotics/ AI can go a long way towards improving productivity.

Robot bricklayerWith the UK in a situation where it needs to recruit up to 400,000 people each year until 2021 to meet government housing targets, could the AI route be the answer to the skills shortage?

The problem is that, when it comes to on-site robots there’s still a few issues to iron out – particularly around how, working within a fast-paced construction site, they would cope with problems that fall outside their programmed area of knowledge.

That robotic brickie might be super-fast but at the moment it needs 2 workers to operate it – one to feed the bricks and one to assist with laying bricks at difficult angles, smoothing over the mortar and clearing up!

So, will AI ultimately be our friend or foe?

Here at Sheriff Construction, we’re excited to see how these kinds of technologies develop and are keen to use AI applications wherever they might prove beneficial for our business.

However, we think it will be a while yet before robots replace the traditional task force but if that ever were to happen, we’re sure there will still be room for some human skills and expertise too!

09.05.2018