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5 Ways Every Commercial Subcontractor Should Be Using ChatGPT and the Prompts to Get You Started

Published: October 04, 2023
Last updated: October 18, 2023
Read time: 4 minutes

Machines have always been a driving force of innovation in construction, but AI has ushered in an era all its own. ChatGPT is arguably the biggest name in AI right now, but we’re sure you’ve heard enough about it – now let’s get to the good stuff: how to use it.

To give you a quick primer: you know when you have a question, type it into Google, then sift through search results looking for the right answer? ChatGPT makes that whole process look embarrassingly inefficient. With ChatGPT, you just type in your question, aka your prompt, and most of the time, it spits out the exact answer you were looking for. But it doesn’t stop at questions. You can give it very specific requests. In this article, we’ll go over the kinds of requests and questions subcontractors can feed to ChatGPT and what you can get out of it. 

1. ChatGPT for Idea Generation:

How it can help: Subcontractors can use ChatGPT for fast, creative idea generation on just about any topic, in countless areas of their business.

What to tell ChatGPT:

  • Generate a 1-month social media posting schedule to showcase my construction subcontracting business to a commercial GC audience. Choose what each post will say, how often to post, and at what time of day. 
  • Give me ideas for how to re-engage past customers of my construction subcontracting business and bring them back as customers. 
  • Give me a list of ideas to boost employee satisfaction at a construction subcontracting business, outside of bonuses and raises. 

2. ChatGPT for Project Document Efficiency:

How it can help: ChatGPT can read any document in seconds, and you can ask it questions about those documents with great accuracy. This saves time on having your team read, highlight and understand documents. It also could help you catch things that an overworked employee might miss through human error. 

What to tell ChatGPT:

  • Paste a clause from your contract – say, the notice clause – into ChatGPT and ask it to summarize the notice process and highlight key dates. 
  • Paste the content of your project specs into ChatGPT, and ask it anything you want to know about, let’s say, the materials you need to use and how you need to use them on this particular project. For example, you can ask “What type of requirements are there for ducts?”
  • Paste your material warranty information into ChatGPT and ask it to summarize key conditions. 

Quick Note: We have to caution you here: ChatGPT is not a substitute for a thorough contract and document review by a professional. It’s just a tool you can offer to your team to speed along the process. AI can still miss things, and you shouldn’t exclusively rely on it. 

Important to Know: As of right now, you can’t paste long documents into ChatGPT, that’s why we encourage only using chunks of documents, rather than the entire thing.

3. ChatGPT for Excel (for Financing, Project Management and Estimation)

How it can help: ChatGPT can shave tons of time off your estimator’s, PM’s and even accountant’s workload. Armed with the right prompts, they can reduce the amount of thinking and calculations they normally have to do. Keep in mind, that they should start by giving ChatGPT key project information like specs, other client requirements, and whatever project numbers they’re evaluating to make sure it generates the right answers. Then, they can treat it like a whip smart personal assistant, who takes that information and factors it into all of their follow-up questions. 

Basically, feed the information in your Excel sheet into ChatGPT, then ask it for a formula to get the answer you want. Make your prompt sufficiently detailed and explain your request clearly. 

What to tell ChatGPT: 

  • I have a spreadsheet that compares a list of my estimates to the actual project costs. My columns include “A: Material Costs,” “B: Labor Rate,” “C: Overhead,” etc. The rows are paired up, with the first row showing the estimate cost, and the second row showing the actual cost. Please give me an Excel formula to gain insights into how each project performed compared to expectations.
  • [Paste in details on the progress you’ve made on the project with associated dates.] Give me a formula that calculates my project’s true completion date based on the current rate of progress and the amount of work remaining.
  • Calculate the depreciation of X piece of equipment over time, considering its initial value, lifespan, and current age. 

4. ChatGPT for Client Communication

How it can help: Keeping stakeholders informed about project progress is part of good client relationship management. ChatGPT can be prompted to create concise, informative progress updates for clients and to answer their questions.

What to tell ChatGPT: 

  • Write an email template to professionally communicate any unexpected delays or changes in the schedule of my construction project to my client.
  • [Paste in the text of a few sources with raw info about what’s going on with the project. That could include job site correspondence, daily reports, and more. OR Give your best raw description of the state of the project directly to ChatGPT.] Write a progress update newsletter for the client, detailing the current status of the project and any significant milestones.
  • [Paste in the relevant client email.] Write a response to this client email regarding our sustainability practices, highlighting my company’s policies as they’re described here: [Paste in content that already exists, but which you need rewritten as an email response.]

5. ChatGPT for Research

How it can help: This use of ChatGPT is closest to how you’d traditionally use Google. When you have a question that needs an objective, factual answer (e.g. What year was OSHA founded?), you can use ChatGPT for an even better user experience than Google. You can also get more technical, and ask it more complex questions. However, bear in mind that ChatGPT doesn’t have any knowledge of the world after 2021, so you should always double check your facts for present-day accuracy. 

What to tell ChatGPT: 

  • If my project starts on X date, generate a list of key deadlines for lien filing in the state of Texas.*
    • *This isn’t a substitute for speaking to a lien professional. 
  • If my project begins on X date and ends on X date, how many rain days above .25” can I expect during that time based on historical weather data in the region?
  • I’m doing my first project in Arizona. I typically do work in California. What should I know about how retainage laws differ between these two states? 
    • *This isn’t a substitute for speaking to a legal professional.

The applications of ChatGPT for subs are diverse and transformative. From improving project planning and estimation to enhancing client communication and safety, the integration of this powerful tool opens new avenues for efficiency. By using specific prompts tailored to their needs, subs can unlock the true potential of ChatGPT, taking their projects to new heights.

About Billd: At Billd, we provide a payment solution that enables commercial construction contractors to free up cash for material purchases while enjoying the flexibility of 120-day payment terms. You get financing for commercial materials upfront with the freedom to pay it back at your own pace. Learn more about how we can help eliminate your company’s cash-flow problems so you can win more bids and grow your business.

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