Since ChatGPT’s launch in November 2022, the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) into various industries has started to significantly reshape our interactions with technology.

Angelica Donati

Angelica Donati

This trend is particularly noticeable in Europe, where AI spending is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29.6% from 2022 to 2027. This rate is slightly higher than the global CAGR of 26.9% for the same period. Additionally, it is expected that AI spending in Europe will surpass $96.1bn (£76.4bn) by 2027.

The AI market in the UK is currently valued at over £16.9bn and is forecast to reach £803.7bn by 2035. This rapid growth is reflected in the fact that approximately 15% of UK organisations are now utilising AI technologies, signalling an increasing recognition of AI’s capacity to enhance business operations and decision-making.

Considering these developments, a critical question emerges for the construction industry, a sector traditionally hesitant in embracing new technologies: how can it effectively integrate AI to address its unique challenges and improve its practices?

Worker safety is a key focus of the construction industry, particularly as projects become more intricate and challenging. To meet the demands of modern construction, safety protocols must advance and adapt, leveraging cutting-edge technological breakthroughs. Technologies powered by AI, including robotic process automation, computer vision and AI-enhanced cameras, can play a pivotal role in diminishing accident and injury risks on construction sites. These technologies actively monitor the environment, providing alerts about potential dangers, hazards or unsafe practices.

The capabilities of AI in enhancing workplace safety extend beyond mere monitoring. AI-driven analytics are instrumental in pinpointing safety trends and areas requiring improvement. Moreover, AI facilitates the automation of manual tasks such as inspections and maintenance, shifting workers’ focus to more strategic tasks while reducing injury risks. Overall, AI stands as a formidable ally in elevating safety standards within the construction industry.

In addition, the adoption of process automation through AI can enable companies to generate accurate, real-time data and streamline key operations. Completing a construction project on time and within budget relies heavily on the efficient management of various operations, which often produce a considerable amount of data. Handling this project data and co-ordinating tasks such as scheduling, budgeting, resource management and project reporting usually demands the involvement of many dedicated staff members.

A 2022 survey by Foundry indicated that while 61% of the organisations surveyed utilised multiple software platforms for daily business activities, less than 40% had automated essential processes such as budgeting, scheduling, sourcing and estimating. Process automation significantly improves data accessibility, accuracy and efficiency. However, many organisations are not fully leveraging automation, leading to suboptimal operations.

As a result, these organisations frequently rely on largely manual processes, creating inefficiencies that reduce productivity, lead to missed deadlines and, in severe cases, resulting in fines due to contractual non-compliance. Advanced technologies like drones, augmented reality and robotic automation enhance construction processes, improving communication and collaboration among stakeholders.

As of August 2023, the EU construction sector faces challenges such as delayed deliveries and material shortages, affecting 9% of contractors. Addressing supply chain issues creates an opportunity for companies to focus on process optimisation. Additionally, changing market dynamics, with 28% of EU building companies experiencing reduced demand, highlight the need for a strategic shift. AI and automation emerge as imperative tools to enhance operational efficiency and adapt to evolving market demands.

AI can also play a crucial role in addressing environmental concerns and promoting cost savings in the construction industry. As industry experts work together to develop standards such as the UK’s upcoming Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard, the integration of AI becomes crucial. AI’s ability to align with evolving performance standards demonstrates its potential to contribute meaningfully to sustainable construction.

In the design process, AI can enhance efficiency and cost-effectiveness by analysing data from previous projects and tailoring designs to specific project requirements. This refined design process leads to resource-efficient buildings, resulting in reduced energy and material consumption and lowering costs.

Equally important is AI’s role in minimising construction waste and boosting recycling efforts. This includes employing robotics for sorting construction waste and utilising AI-driven technologies to pinpoint recycling opportunities and develop strategies for waste reduction. These applications of AI not only support environmental initiatives but also enhance operational efficiency in the construction sector.

Overall, AI holds promise for the construction industry, guiding it towards a safer, more sustainable and efficient future. It improves safety, streamlines operations and adheres to evolving environmental standards, optimising designs, monitoring energy consumption and reducing waste for cost-effectiveness. Embracing AI is a practical step forward, offering tangible benefits in addressing contemporary challenges and fostering a more responsible and resilient industry.

Angelica Donati is chief executive of Donati Immobiliare Group