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Why is Everyone Talking About AI? An Introduction to a Tool That Will Change the Construction Industry

Read time: 4 minutes
Published: July 12, 2023
Last updated: September 05, 2023

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has always held a special place in the human imagination. Since The Jetsons hit the airwaves, we’ve eagerly awaited the arrival of machines that can think and act like us. Or, if you’re a Terminator fan, dreaded it. 

Well, for better or worse the AI-enabled future is here, knocking at the door of our industry. And it’s about to spawn the biggest revolution construction has ever seen. 

From quadrupling productivity to automating project management, AI has the power to transform our workflows and make our jobs wickedly efficient. In this article, we’ll dive headfirst into how AI will streamline the way we build, and what subcontractors should know about it moving forward. 

But First, How Did We Get Here? Meet ChatGPT

It all started when a company owned by Microsoft, called OpenAI, released an online tool you may have heard of called ChatGPT. ChatGPT is a “chatbot,” which means you can talk to it by typing out questions or requests. It responds with scarily intelligent, human-like answers, and uses the entire internet as its brain. 

However, it only uses information up to 2021. So don’t ask it about, say, 2023 OSHA guidelines. It won’t know. 

ChatGPT is so good at doing what it’s told that millions signed up for the service in a matter of months. You may have caught people posting about it on LinkedIn starting around February 2023. Since then, it has spread like wildfire. 

To conceptualize it a bit better, imagine ChatGPT as a new hire. We’ll call the new hire Chad. Chad has a photographic memory, has read the encyclopedia 40 times, is almost concerningly obedient, and completes any task you assign him in a matter of seconds:

  • Need someone to read and summarize your contract? Give Chad a try. 
  • Want to generate this week’s schedule using last week’s schedule and delays as a reference point? Chad can do that. 
  • Need to write a delicate email to the GC asking them why your pay app is late? Let Chad have a go at it. 

He’s the world’s greatest utility player. Now just pretend someone uploaded Chad onto a computer — and that’s ChatGPT. 

ChatGPT can be anything you want it to be — an accountant, a scheduler, a marketing consultant, a customer service rep, you name it. It can understand extremely complex questions and tasks, and will understand you even if you’re writing your requests in casual — even vague — English (among many other languages). If it gives you a response you’re not satisfied with, you can give it more instructions on what exactly you want it to do, and it will do its best to generate something better. It also learns and improves the longer you use it. Just like an employee, it gets trained through every interaction you have with it. After answering more of your questions and receiving some feedback from you, it will gain a better understanding of how to field your requests. 

Every industry is using it, and construction is right there with them. It won’t be long before subcontractors fully recognize the potential of this powerful tool. 

Examples of How AI is Being Used in Construction Today

Don’t get us wrong; it’s not just about ChatGPT. AI-powered tools have been making their way into construction for a long time, well before ChatGPT. For example, though not widespread yet, augmented reality (AR) headsets are a futuristic technology that can be worn on the jobsite and actually show things like blueprints and 3D models over your view of the jobsite.  

AI-enabled software is also getting bigger, with things like sophisticated scheduling tools and aerial jobsite mapping software. All the data on a jobsite will be up for grabs, with companies eager to use that data to power AI tools. In a broader sense, AI will slowly become a more important part of the entire construction ecosystem. 

Here are a few companies you may already be familiar with who are fully or partially AI-powered:

  • ConstructConnect Takeoff Boost – Takeoff Boost is the new artificial intelligence-based add-on feature for On-Screen Takeoff that automatically performs measurements 15X faster than the non-AI-enabled version. Takeoff Boost reduces repetitive tasks, giving estimators more time to analyze results and optimize their bids. Takeoffs are a strategic entry point for leveraging the power of AI because repetitive tasks like area and linear measurements can be automated and completed exponentially faster. 
  • Upcodes Upcodes is a platform that helps contractors, architects and inspectors alike with the behemoth task of code compliance. It automatically identifies code requirements and potential errors based on project inputs. Copilot is a new feature that serves as Upcodes’ Al-powered code assistant. It allows you to ask questions specific to your jurisdiction, include project-specific parameters, and get straightforward answers. It can expedite the process of researching and getting familiar with new codes.
  • Document CrunchDocument Crunch’s AI-assisted software platform helps you identify critical risk provisions in your construction contracts. With the click of a button, their CrunchAI feature can help pull out the exact provisions you should pay attention to. The expediency of AI contract review shaves hours off the contract review process.
  • EagleView Assess EagleView Assess uses drones for AI-enabled roof inspections and incredibly detailed aerial property imagery. These fully autonomous drones don’t need to be operated by humans and can detect any damage on their own using AI. This program eliminates the need for roofing inspectors to climb up onto roofs, is incredibly useful to roofing contractors and even being leveraged by insurance professionals.

A Few Ways AI Will Be Used in Construction in the Next Few Months to Years

As a chatbot, we won’t see ChatGPT doing any manual labor, like bricklaying or concrete pouring. But developers are already placing AI within robotic tools, so that it can do physical tasks like that. In other words, keep an eye out for artificially intelligent machines on the jobsite. This is one of many ways you’ll start to see AI coming to all things construction in the very near future. 

The point we really need to hammer here: AI is not just another passing trend, it’s the single most important invention since the internet. As the industry evolves, it’s essential for construction professionals to stay informed, embrace AI technologies and adapt to the changing landscape. By harnessing the power of AI, we can work smarter, reduce risks and deliver projects more effectively. The future of construction is AI-powered, and it’s time to embrace the opportunities it presents and take it for a spin. 

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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