Revolution in the construction industry through artificial intelligence?
We all agree that the construction sector is still very analogue compared to other industries and that the use of artificial intelligence is nowhere near as widespread as in other sectors. A huge number of recurring tasks that have long been performed by robots in the automotive sector, for example, and are fully digitalised, are still manual tasks on construction sites.
The potential is huge. According to various forecasts, the global market for artificial intelligence in the construction industry is expected to be worth an average of 3.2 billion euros by 2026.
But are we really talking about AI yet?
When we talk about artificial intelligence in the construction industry, we usually mean machine learning. And if we take a sober look at the latest figures from the Ifo Institute, the construction industry (incl. utilities and waste disposal industry) recorded a digitisation growth of 3.8 points last year but remains at the bottom of the seven industry groups surveyed with 67.2 points in 2023.
A study conducted by McKinsey in 2023, which examined the potential of generative artificial intelligence for the global economy and, in this context, the impact on specific job fields, identified a potential of just 5 percentage points for the physically orientated profession of construction worker. At the level of individual tasks, there is an additional technical automation potential of 34 percentage points each for management activities and knowledge work, planning and creative tasks. The automation potential for physical work, on the other hand, only increases by one percentage point.
But what is the outlook for the future, how can digital processes be further automated using AI and thus simplified and accelerated? Is this only realistic in the planning process or also for the construction process itself?
The potential areas of application for AI in construction
- Autonomous construction machinery
- The calculation of failure risks in real time
- Digital construction site inspections with VR glasses
- Simulations of construction and renovation concepts
- AI sensors for detecting and tracking down damage
- Monitoring and controlling construction progress
- Identifying potentially hazardous conditions with the help of intelligent drones
- Forecasting tools for business decision-making
- Optimising the planning process
- Generative design
A survey conducted by the Austrian construction magazine Handwerk + Bau on the potential use of AI revealed that most respondents see its use primarily in robotics and autonomous machine control, as well as in taking over standardised routine tasks and documentation. Interestingly enough, less in the area of generative design and project management.
In which areas can you imagine the use of AI?
However artificial intelligence develops in the construction industry, the crucial question is not whether, but rather how quickly it will evolve. The technological possibilities are already being explored in several public and private (research) projects and some of them are already being put into practice.
It remains to be seen to what extent these will speed up the construction process, make it more efficient, safer, and perhaps less physically demanding for construction workers.
Furthermore, it will be exciting to see how the legal situation develops and how balanced and practicable standards for artificial intelligence can be established without further overburdening the already over-regulated building law.
Yvonne Jacoby, Market Intelligence Senior Expert
- Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsdienst– Künstliche Intelligenz in der deutschen Wirtschaft, 2023
- Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz – Digitalisierungsindex 2023
- Fraunhofer IAO – KI in der Bauwirtschaft, 2021
- Ingenieur.de – Künstliche Intelligenz – Kommt die vollautomatisierte Baustelle, 2023
- McKinsey -Generative KI kann zum Produktivitätsbooster werden, 2023