BIM Academy asked ChatGPT what it thinks about the future of construction

by Paul Thorpe | August 11, 2023 |  5 min read

BIM Academy asked ChatGPT what it thinks about the future of construction
Home / Insights / People / BIM Academy asked ChatGPT what …

I have been hosting the current series of the BIM Academy Digital Climate Podcast, with a theme that I have been presenting to all my guests: “How can the technology within the construction industry help us tackle climate change?”

Climate change is having a significant impact on businesses, society, and individuals. It is increasingly understood that a shift towards a low carbon economy is needed. According to the United Nations Environment Program (2022), the built environment accounts for 39% of gross annual carbon emissions worldwide, a figure comprising both operational carbon (the ongoing carbon emissions from its day to day use) and embodied (all the CO2 emitted in producing materials).

There is enormous pressure on the industry to reduce carbon emissions released through the construction and operational phases of our built assets.

As the construction industry transitions to a digital first approach, further digital transformation is needed to support construction in the fight against climate change and achieving global net zero emissions targets.

We have seen over recent months the upsurge in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and how this is being applied to construction. It occurred to me that perhaps it is time to ask the AI what it thinks. In my latest episode I am joined by two guests: Murillo Piazzi and ChatGPT!

Murillo is a Digital Consultant here at BIM Academy. He is a trained architect and certified auditor for the ISO 19650 standards, working as an information manager on a wide variety of projects globally and is expert in the use of AI for construction.

For those familiar with ChatGPT, it was developed by Open AI, with the name meaning chat and generative pre-trained transformer – hence, GPT. It is specifically a large language model that can undertake conversational applications through reinforcement learning techniques.

Released less than 12 months ago, in November 2022, it has had an explosive launch with a free version available for all – hitting 12 million users in the first six weeks of release.

How this worked during the podcast was that Mu and I had ChatGPT open and fed it our questions and comments as we progressed through the conversation, asking it to take the role of a podcast guest.

Mu and I began the conversation about the history of AI development, and how we have reached a pivotal point in the development of such technology. At this stage we asked ChatGPT what is the next big step for AI?

ChatGPT said: “Hey Paul great to be here! The next big step for AI is achieving artificial general intelligence (AGI). It’s about creating highly autonomous systems that outperform humans in most tasks. AGI aims to bring advanced problem solving across different domains, opening new possibilities in various industries. However, we also need to address ethical and societal challenges as we move forward. Exciting times ahead, my friend!”

An interesting response, to which Mu proceeded to break down what the term artificial general intelligence (AGI) means. Typically, AI can only do one task at a time and learn and improve only on this one specific task; with AGI, this means that the AI will now be able to use the experiences learnt in one task to perform another unrelated task. This is a monumental step forward.

It is generally perceived that AI systems are less intelligent than humans, while AGI systems are designed to be as intelligent as humans or even more so. This means that AGI is the representation of generalised human cognitive ability in software form. When faced with an unfamiliar task, the AGI system potentially could find a solution, just as a human brain would.

This level of technical development is exciting to some and concerning for others.

We went on to ask ChatGPT what impact it thinks AI will have on the construction industry. It replied, “Excellent question, Paul. AI is set to have a transformative impact on the construction industry. It will optimise project management, enhance safety, improve quality through automated inspections, and introduce robotics for various tasks. However, challenges like workforce reskilling and ensuring transparent AI systems need to be addressed for a successful integration.”

There was quite a lot to unpack in the response, but the one area Mu and I focused on was the workforce reskilling. I asked Mu, as he is a trained architect and having decided to focus his career in BIM, with implementation of AI what does he foresee the role of the architect becoming? Mu said: “We will become digital architects. Using more digital tools to support decision making, freeing up our time to do less repetitive tasks and more creative work.”

We concluded the conversation by looking at next steps for integrating AI into the construction industry, how to successfully foster partnerships between construction firms, and AI technology providers to drive innovation.

Mu ended with: “It is crucial to educate and upskill the workforce to embrace AI technologies effectively, as well as creating a supportive regulatory framework to encourage AI adoption while addressing ethical concerns. By working together, leveraging expertise, and embracing AI solutions, the construction industry can unlock its full potential and pave the way for a more efficient and sustainable future.

To hear the full conversation with ChatGPT, Mu and myself, listen to episode 4 of the Digital Climate podcast.

Listen now

About the author

Paul Thorpe

Director, BIM Academy

Paul is experienced in managing the digital delivery of large scale construction and infrastructure projects across the globe. Paul joined the BIM Academy team on his return to the UK after living and working in Hong Kong for several years.

Paul has specialisms in information management, BIM execution, digital twin development and delivery, and digital transformation. Paul is a Project Management Professional with the Project Management Institute (PMI) and a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

With a proven ability to build and lead high performing teams across major projects, Paul brings his experience in developing digital business plans and executing company wide digital strategies to BIM Academy.