GENERAL

Transforming Construction Workflows: The Power of AI and Machine Learning

The construction industry, which has been known for its adherence to time-honored practices and physical labor, is currently witnessing a significant transformation. 

This revolution is being driven by the rapid growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, which are fundamentally revolutionizing construction workflows and reshaping the industry’s future.

“Traditionally, construction has lagged behind other sectors in adopting digital technologies,” says Mass Timber construction specialist Bhushan Nankar. 

“Industry leaders are beginning to recognize the immense potential of AI and ML, representing a paradigm shift in how construction projects are managed and executed.”

Nankar, who is currently a project manager at Kinsol Timber Systems Inc.,  envisions that innovative software using AI can revolutionize the way 2D drawings are interpreted spatially. 

His career in construction management, particularly in the innovative realm of mass timber construction, has been marked by a series of strategic and impactful contributions.

During his tenure at AvalonBay Communities in San Jose, California, as a Project Controls Engineer, Nankar effectively juggled multiple projects while championing the initiative of using Mass Timber in sustainable development. 

He also sharpened his skills in estimating and financial analysis of construction projects at Timberlab in Portland, OR.

Bhushan also managed a significant $10 million mass timber project at Swinerton Builders in Portland, Oregon. As a Project Engineer, he employed cutting-edge tools like Dusty Robotics and OpenSpace to enhance efficiency and progress tracking.

Nankar, originally from Dhule, Maharashtra, India, says he has always had a keen interest in education, particularly in science and technology:  I wanted to see how scientific principles could be applied in real-world scenarios. My inspiration found a direction when I observed the construction industry—the collaboration of professionals to erect complex structures intrigued me.”

Nankar says he witnessed a blend of teamwork, technical prowess, and the tangible outcomes of constructing buildings and infrastructures in this arena.

Now, he says, with AI and ML’s impact on construction, he can incorporate his unique blend of foundational reasoning, passion, and forward-thinking: “By tackling every problem from first principles, I ensure that solutions are not just superficial fixes but are deeply rooted in the fundamental understanding of the issue at hand. This method allows for innovative and efficient solutions tailored to each project’s core needs.”

Nankar believes to understand the impact of AI and ML in construction, it’s essential to demystify what these terms mean. 

On a simplified level, AI is the simulation of human intelligence in machines programmed to think and learn. Machine learning, a subset of AI, involves the use of algorithms that can learn and improve from experience.

Nankar says: “In the construction context, these technologies analyze vast amounts of data – from project timelines and budgets to equipment usage and labor productivity – to identify patterns, predict outcomes, and make informed decisions.”

However, in construction, one of the most notable applications of AI and ML is in the design and preconstruction phase: “Advanced software can now analyze hundreds of design options and optimize them based on parameters such as cost, time, and sustainability” says Nankar. 

“This not only accelerates the design process but also ensures that projects are more efficient and environmentally friendly.”

He also cites generative design, powered by AI, as another groundbreaking technology reshaping architectural planning. It allows architects to input their design objectives, and the algorithm generates many design alternatives, opening avenues for innovation and creativity.

“Project management in construction is notoriously complex, often marred by delays and cost overruns,” Nankar says. 

“AI and ML are proving to be game-changers in this arena. These technologies can forecast project timelines, anticipate potential delays, and suggest corrective actions by analyzing historical data and real-time inputs.

Furthermore, AI-powered tools are revolutionizing on-site operations. From automated equipment that can perform tasks like bricklaying and welding to drones used for site surveying and inspection, these innovations are enhancing efficiency and worker safety.”

Nankar’s work primarily involves collaboration with a diverse range of commercial construction professionals, including general contractors and trade contractors, who play pivotal roles in bringing complex projects to life. 

His expertise means he is highly sought after when integrating technology into construction project management.

Nankar reveals:  “I am often asked to assist with applying Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), utilizing regression for predictive analytics, and employing advanced tools like robotics and drones for efficient layout and progress tracking. These services aim to enhance project efficiency, improve accuracy, and drive sustainable building practices.”

AI and ML have transformed risk management, too. By analyzing data on workplace accidents and near-misses, these technologies can identify risk patterns and suggest measures to improve safety, crucial in an industry where safety is paramount.

Kyle Wika, who works with Timberlab, has worked with Nankar and has seen first-hand how he has superior expertise: “Bhushan was a rockstar on a very challenging project. “He is dedicated and supportive, and he was able to solve everything I threw at him, including some complex problems.

Wika adds: “Bhushan was able to track labor activity in a way I had never seen before which boosted the efficiency and workflow of the project. 

“He is incredibly sharp, and his skillset will enhance the industry in a very positive way. Bhushan never leaves a stone unturned when finding a solution.”

Undoubtedly, AI and ML’s role in construction is set to grow exponentially. These technologies are not just making construction processes faster, safer, and more efficient; they are opening up new possibilities in building design and construction methodology.

Nankar adds: “As AI and ML continue to evolve, we can expect even more innovative applications in construction, the possibilities are nearly limitless.

Integrating AI and ML into construction represents a significant leap forward for the industry. While challenges must be addressed, efficiency, safety, and sustainability benefits are undeniable. As the construction industry embraces this technological revolution, it is poised to improve its existing practices and redefine what is possible in the construction world.”

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