Artificial intelligence helping lower costs, speed up construction projects

One company says it's AI technology can realize $30 million in savings on a $500 million project by reducing the cost of equipment and manpower.

David Louie Image
ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Saturday, November 14, 2020
AI helping lower costs, speed up construction projects
Some construction companies are beginning to turn to artificial intelligence, or AI, to help save time and money on multi-million dollar projects.

We're seeing artificial intelligence used in a growing number of fields, from medicine to engineering. Now, the latest is a field that admits it's old-school: construction. The changing economy is part of Building A Better Bay Area.

The pandemic has done little to stop the construction boom across the state.

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A subcontractor is working on a 22-story residential tower going up at 5th and Mission streets in San Francisco's South of Market area. Pacific Structures has something special in its tool kit.

It's artificial intelligence.

Algorithms are running millions of ways to save money and speed up construction.

"Not only was I unable to break it, but was absolutely able to find some improvements in our approach to the project," said Mike MacBean, project manager.

He says it's hard to break the old-school mentality, that they can do it all from experience and human brain power.

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The company Omnilert is rolling out new technology that allows security cameras to identify a gun, and alert guards in the area of the potential threat.

Artificial intelligence, developed by ALICE Technologies, claims it can realize $30 million in savings on a $500 million project by reducing the cost of equipment and manpower.

"What today people are guesstimating or using their gut sense to do, ALICE does using science and mathematics and AI," said founder & CEO Rene Morkos.

That has other contractors looking over their shoulder to see if it delivers. ALICE says it has been successfully used on a wide range of major projects across the globe.

"We can quickly evaluate a whole bunch of different scenarios in a much more timely fashion than our old school way, if you will, pen and paper," noted MacBean at Pacific Structures.

Large scale construction projects can yield low profit margins in the three percent range, so unexpected cost overruns can be a serious setback.

"People start to realize that doing things manually in your head by hand is going to be a substantial disadvantage," said Morkos.

Still, in a growing number of fields, it's people who choose the best solution AI offers. It often validates what they thought was the best approach.

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