Revolutionising nation’s construction landscape with AI

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The implementation of AI in the construction sector in Malaysia, along with the number of construction personnel with the experience in handling AI-based software and application, is still low.

TO say that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken the world by storm would be an understatement. Virtually every industry has embraced its potential, and the construction sector is no exception.

The cutting-edge technology, which has become a catchall term for applications that perform complex tasks that once required human input, is revolutionising Malaysia’s construction landscape, making it more competitive and efficient.

According to the Construction Industry Board (CIDB), AI is propelling the construction sector forward with newfound efficiencies, with the Global Artificial Intelligence in Construction market expected to experience significant expansion from 2023 to 2030.

In a recent statement, it said the Global AI in Construction Market, valued at US$519.63 million in 2021, is projected to surge to US$3,554.22 million by 2027, exhibiting a remarkable Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 37.78 per cent.

Among its advantages, AI adoption grants construction firms improved visibility into their projects, faster and more accurate payments and heightened collaboration, ultimately boosting productivity.

As AI’s role in the construction industry continues to evolve especially in North America and Europe, its implementation in Malaysia’s construction sector and the number of construction personnel with the experience in handling AI-based software and application in this sector is still low.

Not widespread

A lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (Usim), Nasrudin Sharkawi, said by leveraging on AI’s capabilities, the nation’s construction industry could stay competitive and achieve long-term success.

He said this was because AI-powered platforms and solutions could solve complex problems, analyse and store various data or information through the computer system.

According to CIDB, AI is propelling the construction sector forward with newfound efficiencies, with the Global Artificial Intelligence in Construction market expected to experience significant expansion from 2023 to 2030. — Photo via www.cidb.gov.my

He said AI was capable of taking over human jobs, with those in the construction sector more likely to find the technology complementary to their work and to be displaced by it.

“AI is streamlining workflows from pre-construction to completion of a project, boosting productivity and enhancing overall operations.

“For example, AI can be utilised in building design as well as the development of a monitoring system or ensuring safety at the project site.

“At present, AI is already embraced by industry players in Malaysia’s construction, but its adoption is not widespread,” he said.

Nasrudin said the lack of awareness and knowledge remained one of the biggest challenges to AI’s implementation, causing many industry players to lose interest in adopting the technology in their construction projects.

Another significant barrier to AI adoption was the high initial costs of deploying AI-based solutions, coupled with the lack of expertise in handling the software, machine or robotics that is equipped with AI.

AI solutions could be costly and complex, making them an intimidating prospect especially for smaller firms.

“AI is not a technology or entity that is limited to the use of robotics or not exclusively high-tech. AI covers various types of technology involving elements such as the use of machines (machine learning) and software including BIM (Building Information Modelling).

The robot ‘Spot’ – used for routine tasks in hazardous environments to improve safety, efficiency and data capture consistency – has proven to be truly disruptive for the global construction industry, with a number of companies using it on site. — Photo via meconstructionnews.com

“Without a doubt, AI adoption shows positive impact in the operational aspects of a construction project.

“Among the nations that have actively deployed AI technology in construction include China, Japan, Singapore and Sweden.

“In Malaysia, small contractors in particular may face significant challenges when it comes to adopting AI technology due to their lack of financial resources, and they will eventually continue with the existing or conventional system,” added Nasrudin.

Usim lecturer Nasrudin says the lack of awareness and knowledge is one of the biggest challenges to AI’s implementation, causing many industry players in Malaysia to lose interest in adopting the technology in their construction projects. — Malay Mail photo

Holistic approach

Nasrudin said in this regard, a holistic approach should be undertaken by empowering the relevant agencies including CIDB to prepare and produce more skilled industry players that are AI-driven in the country.

He said such efforts would include providing training for local construction companies to handle AI-powered systems.

“In this context, the integration of AI will not only provide significant benefits for industry players, but also improve their work practices to ensure they remain relevant in tandem with the ever-evolving landscape of the global construction industry.

“Campaigns on AI awareness and its benefits and fostering collaboration between industry players and stakeholders as well as government agencies would go a long way in boosting AI’s acceptance among construction companies and small contractors.

“It will indirectly increase their level of preparedness in infusing AI in their operations.

“This situation will also cultivate healthy competition among contractors as we do not want those who are (AI) skilled to reap more benefits and possibly monopolising certain construction projects,” he elaborated.

Nasrudin said efforts by the government in providing grants, incentives and subsidies would augur well for the industry especially those who took the initiative in deploying AI tools in their operations.

Monitoring

Sharing similar sentiments, a lecturer from the Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), Dr Shazwan Mohamed Shaari, described the nation’s construction industry players as lagging behind in AI technology adoption.

“In my opinion, the industry players have not rejected this technology, but rather they are looking at the criteria and needs.

“Do they really need AI productivity tools to simplify tasks and streamline workflows?

“If it does not involve large-scale building projects, the possibility is that they will not invest for such purpose to avoid being financially burdened in the future,” he added.

Dr Shazwan Mohamed Shaari

Shazwan said while embracing AI had become an imperative for companies seeking a competitive edge in the dynamic world of construction, the various threats posed by AI should not be taken lightly.

“Continuous monitoring plays a pivotal role in maintaining the performance and trustworthiness of AI models to prevent unhealthy practices among construction industry players including taking a cautious stance, immediately, involving technology companies and the government,” he said.

“Monitoring is necessary to curb AI misuse among industry players. I personally feel that whatever new technology that is implemented must itself be governed by the rule of law, and if there are loopholes to the existing act, they should be reviewed for improvements.

“As an example, drones were allowed to be flown at any place in the early stages but after several drone-related incidents, existing drone laws have been updated by the government for public safety and security,” he added. — Bernama

It is possible that the construction industry players do not totally reject AI technology, but rather they are looking at the criteria and needs. — Bernama photo