How AI could change the architecture, engineering, and construction industry – if given a chance
While the architecture, engineering, construction, and owner-operated (AECO) industry excels in many aspects like creativity and precision, it is not known to be the most open-minded when it comes to digitization.
In the ‘Digitisation in Construction Report 2023’, published by the UK’s Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), only 12 and 18 percent of construction professionals said they used digital technologies on all or most of their projects, respectively. However, according to Usman Shuja, the CEO of building solutions software company Bluebeam, attitudes are changing.
He told Tech Wire Asia: “The construction industry has been a laggard, but macro events such as inflation, labor shortages, and sustainability pressures have accelerated significantly. We are seeing the construction-related digital and software markets growing at a lot higher rate than the construction industry now.” The global construction management software market’s value is expected to reach $16.6 billion by 2028. “Digital solutions have also demonstrated value in the industry, so there is acceptance to adopting them,” Mr Shuja added. “Additionally, we see more digitization in off-field work, so there is higher adoption in companies’ offices.”
The top technology buzzword of 2023 has to be AI, and no industry is exempt from its impact, including AECO, which is gradually embracing its potential for innovation and efficiency.
“Accelerated digitization will pave a path for AI,” said Mr Shuja. “Especially generative AI, which has the potential to add creativity, reduce rework, and increase compliance. I am particularly excited about how generative AI, when combined with machine learning and computer vision, can impact the industry’s productivity.”
Some tangible examples of how generative AI can be used in the AECO industry include streamlining the design process by rapidly generating multiple design options based on defined parameters. It also helps in optimizing structural configurations for maximum efficiency, and predicting potential maintenance issues through analysis of complex datasets. Despite the potential, introducing a new tool to an owner or senior manager of an AECO company that would involve some kind of operational change can understandably be met with hesitation. After all, there is always an element of risk involved in altering workflow, even with the promise of efficiency and innovation.
Mr Shuja said: “My explanation to them is that they will be able to do more projects, with reduced rework and in a shorter timeframe. Additionally, they will enjoy the benefits of compliance and better planning. This should result in more revenue, higher profits, or more leisure time.”
Bluebeam is already a leading provider of digital PDF management software specifically tailored for the AECO industry. It aims to facilitate collaboration, streamline workflows, and enhance productivity throughout the various construction phases. However, in the near future, it plans to take its solution’s capabilities a step further by introducing AI.
Mr Shuja said: “Bluebeam will apply AI pragmatically to help our users be more productive and solve everyday challenges faster and more effectively. For example, Revu users will soon be able to use AI to automate the tedious, error-prone task of aligning multiple drawings to compare the differences. This one task alone can take dozens of clicks and up to two minutes. Plus, our customers currently use that feature around five million times a year. With the feature upgrades and AI integration, we will save them time each time they use it by making it less clicks so it takes as little as 15 seconds.
“The main thing that differentiates our approach to AI is that we are creating our new features in conjunction with our customers and to address challenges they have brought to us over the years. Bluebeam has always been focused on our customers’ challenges, and the implementation of AI into our solutions doesn’t change that.”
Bluebeam stands out from other AECO software companies because of its commitment to providing users with ongoing training and support. Customized education sessions ensure the customer uses the product to its full potential.
“Bluebeam has been helping AECO companies transform and do more digitally for more than 20 years, and we will continue doing that,” Mr Shuja said.
“We continue to improve Revu’s core capabilities and value proposition of digital markups, measurements, and collaboration, and we continue to develop our Bluebeam Cloud solution so our users can do their work anywhere on the web and mobile. AI is really just one way—albeit a particularly exciting way—that we will deliver new capabilities to help our customers take it to the next level.”
Alongside efficiency benefits, AECO companies can use digital tools like Bluebeam’s to meet their sustainability goals. According to the United Nations 2022 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, the buildings and construction sector accounted for around 37 percent of energy and process-related carbon dioxide emissions and over 34 percent of global energy demand in 2021. There is a growing urgency to decarbonize the sector, particularly since scientists have determined that 2023 will be the warmest year on record thanks to human emissions. Over half of respondents to the RICS survey agreed that digitization could help them achieve their net-zero goals. Simulation and analysis tools can track key metrics such as energy consumption and emissions throughout projects and the structures built. This data can inform decision-making regarding materials, design choices, and construction methods for reduced environmental impact.
Mr Shuja said: “Digitization will play a significant role in decarbonization. One of our clients mentioned that Bluebeam has eliminated printing paper completely, which they believe is equivalent to several thousand trees. Digitization is going to play a pivotal role in reducing rework and waste, which will improve the industry’s sustainability posture significantly.”
AI-driven efficiency and sustainability benefits will revolutionize the AECO industry through resource optimization, streamlined workflows, and reduced environmental impact, to name just a few benefits. Discover how embracing digitization could futureproof your business by trying Bluebeam for free today.
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