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The Newsroom

Artificial Intelligence in the Built Environment

Artificial Intelligence in the Built Environment

Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) is everywhere. Seemingly the latest technology “buzzword” these days, new (and not so new) AI applications are being implemented and talked about everywhere you turn. As my colleague, Amanda Grannis recently wrote for Ingram’s Real Estate Report, “AI has permeated nearly every aspect of the virtual landscape and is now presenting an impact on the physical environment as well.” To learn more about the application of AI in the architecture, engineering and construction (“AEC”) industry, my colleague and fellow NFT Newsroom contributor Rachel Hong and I attended an event hosted by the Professional Women in Construction’s (“PWC”) Professional Development Advisory Council (“PDAC”) last week: How Will AI Benefit the Built Environment?

Moderated by Dan Conery, Senior Director of Product Strategy & Management at Trimble Inc. an industrial technology company, PDAC’s event hosted panelists from different segments of the AEC industry as they discussed the ways they and their teams are using AI in their work and how this technology has already and will continue to impact the industry. Panelists included Denis Leff, Director of Digital Engineering at Suffolk Construction, a national leader in general contracting, Aman Krishan, Principal at HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm, Jeff Siegel, Director of Digital Transformation Solutions at HNTB, an infrastructure design firm, and Karolina Torttila, Director of AI at Trimble Inc.

The panel event opened with a discussion of the history of AI and an overview of what goes into developing and implementing effective machine learning applications before delving into each panelists experience with AI in the industry. I was surprised to learn how deeply involved the AEC already is with AI. From AI assisted programs that turn two-dimensional doodles into 3D shapes to AI monitoring of construction site video feeds in real time to the compilation of a complete inventory of traffic signals and other equipment by an AI powered computer using only videos and photos of the area (in six seconds!), the possible applications of AI in the built environment truly are endless.

One topic of conversation that I found particularly interesting at PDAC’s event was the discussion of potential future uses of AI technology in the connection with the improvement of residential and commercial spaces. For example, imagine a world where your HVAC system could not only sense the temperature of your home, but could also factor in a myriad of other data, including real time information about incoming weather patterns and adjust accordingly to anticipate your heating and cooling needs in real time. Your home or commercial space would not only be more comfortable, but likely would be more energy efficient. AI-driven scanning technology could also be used to make renovations less costly and run more smoothly. Who hasn’t had a renovation project knocked off course – at least slightly – by the discovery that something hadn’t been installed quite the way you expected? With AI-powered technology, a contractor or designer could scan the space and the AI application could compare the information it gathers to the as-built drawings in order to discover and resolve potential conflicts before a single hammer is picked up. This would save both time and money.

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility and AI, which can only be as accurate as the data is has access to, is no different. As you’ll read in our NFT Newsroom next week, it is crucial that the results generated by any AI-powered application, regardless of the industry its used in, must be verified before being implemented.

Stay tuned to Ingram’s NFT Newsroom for the latest developments on how AI is impacting our environment, and connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

By: Kimberly L. Barcella