A responsible approach to AI in construction

by BIM Academy | April 05, 2024 |  4 min read

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers new and unique ways of working across the construction industry, however it also brings with it significant new risks. The journey towards responsible AI is complex, but not impossible!

In the past 12 months alone, the interest, enthusiasm and adoption of AI in construction has intensified and with it brings significant concern to many on its use, application and longevity. While many stakeholders are excited to harness the power of this new technology to improve the design, build and operate process of our assets, many also have important questions about ethics, data and regulation.

However, for many organisations these questions can be addressed by implementing a comprehensive approach to AI responsibility. A robust approach that must include assigning proper roles and responsibilities, as well as measures for testing, monitoring and reviewing.

Artificial Intelligence and Ethics

It is recommended organisations supplement existing digital construction approaches with new practices that address the unique abilities of AI systems. Data governance and management practices will need to cover new security, privacy and ownership challenges. People/roles will need to be accountable to effectively monitor new AI systems and how they are used. This could include appointing a chief AI Ethics Officer or perhaps an AI Ethics Team.

As we witness the rise in humans and machines working together, the risks and challenges related to AI ethics become even more apparent. There is no denying that AI is changing the way we work, but there are ways to ensure it is working responsibility as well as effectively.

Examples of AI ethics include data transparency and responsibility, data privacy, fairness, environmental sustainability, accountability, trust and correct use (or misuse) of technology. 

While the subject of AI continues to attract more and more attention, many researchers are not concerned with the idea of AI surpassing human intelligence in the near or immediate future. This is also referred to as superintelligence – a hypothetical software based AI system with an intellectual scope beyond human intelligence. Having robust AI ethics in place will go a long way in addressing concerns on the use of AI on construction projects.

Artificial Intelligence and Construction 

While many in the construction industry see AI as a potential threat to current employment roles through the automation of certain tasks, it can also create new opportunities for employment. If we consider the use of AI, there is a need for a new skillset, roles that require expertise in AI implementation, further understanding of data needed to fuel AI, and the operations and management of new AI technology, it is predicted these roles will soon be in demand.

As with any technological advancement, it is essential for organisations to adapt to the changing landscape and upskill or reskill as needed.

Artificial Intelligence and Regulation

As yet, there is no universal legislation that regulates AI practices, but many countries are working to develop and implement them locally. Some pieces of AI regulation are in place today, with many more forthcoming. Many organisations are creating their own ethics frameworks to govern their own use of AI.

The Institute of Engineering and Technology for example is working to ensure AI is used safely and to help prevent incidents from occurring and says this is fundamental to maintaining public trust, which underpins the economic and social benefits AI can bring. With IBM setting out a clear definition of establishing principles for AI ethics which addresses concerns over privacy and job security.

AI in construction continues to grow at a rapid pace and it’s uses are vast and still expanding. AI is indeed a positive tool for the construction industry and used correctly, and ethically, can be an industry game changer.

To learn more about AI in construction, contact BIM Academy Senior Digital Consultant, Murillo Piazzi at [email protected].