New Technology Can Optimise Preconstruction—and Recover Troubled Projects

(image above: screenshot of Explore page in ALICE)

Worldwide, the construction industry is notorious for dragging its feet on the road to digital transformation. As noted here in a recent article, almost 58 percent of industry firms remain in early stages of digital maturity—and whilst a 98 percent majority have adopted some form of digital construction solutions (project management, bid management, BIM workflows, etc.) only 3 percent apply these tools to half their projects. Figures specific to ANZ companies rank even lower—the lowest, actually, of all countries surveyed. When examining BIM adoption, for example, less than 16% of ANZ companies reported regular use—compared to 47% of companies in India.

Though the pandemic has seen many embracing technology in new ways, there is still a wide rift between the capabilities of today’s technology, and how it’s being used—as well as plenty of opportunity for general contractors and developers to fully exploit the benefits offered.

Recent surveys conducted by both the University of Melbourne and EMEA / APAC have identified challenges pertaining to risk identification and management, timely delivery of projects, and ensuring profitability. Often, these challenges are exacerbated by high competitiveness for projects.

According to Dr. René Morkos (CEO of ALICE Technologies, and the world’s leading expert on the use of AI for construction project optimization), artificial intelligence can help address all of these challenges—helping GCs become more competitive by mitigating risk, cutting costs, and reducing build times.

Says Morkos, “Through the smart application of AI, large general contractors and developers can not only schedule their projects more efficiently, but they can also get them back on track when things go awry.”

Screenshot of recipes page in ALICE

Currently, most software designed to assist with construction planning is focused on digitisation alone—in other words, it’s designed to streamline coordination and communication of the planning process. While these tools certainly offer value to those who use them, the use of AI-driven software takes the next leap.

AI enables construction companies to analyze the full complexities of labor, materials, and equipment—following their flow throughout the entire lifecycle of a project. Thousands of possible scenarios can be projected, modelled, and reviewed—all in a matter of minutes—presenting a choice of ideal pathways towards project completion.

This instantaneous optimization can save GCs and construction companies months (or even years) of issues, eliminating many of the challenges which plague most projects while still within the preconstruction phase. In fact, projects which leverage ALICE as an AI-driven solution for construction optimization see an average 11% reduction in costs, and a 17% reduction in time-to-completion—improving both ROI and competitiveness of the GCs and construction companies who use it.

The Norwegian developer AF Gruppen used ALICE to help it improve the profitability of a midrise residential project that it was developing in Olso, Norway. The original project schedule took 4 months to create in Touchplan and did not allow for complex simulations showing the interplay between materials and labor. With ALICE, AF Gruppen was able to verify that the original schedule was achievable — and then push far beyond it. In just four days, the company used ALICE to create over 300 different possible schedules, seven of which were superior to the original plan.

The original Touchplan schedule required 500 days to complete. With ALICE, AF Gruppen identified a schedule that required just 396 days, an 18% reduction in project duration. Moreover, by using reusable formwork and identifying new ways to size and sequence crews, AF Gruppen used ALICE to reduce the overall cost of the project by 15%.

Beyond the project planning phase, AI can be applied to project recovery , addressing unexpected issues that would otherwise trigger overruns in cost, or untimely delays to project execution. From labor and supply shortages to inclement weather, unexpected events can be noted as they arrive, and project plans updated to compensate on-the-go. An AI-driven solution for construction optimization is capable of analyzing new information immediately, proposing new options which set your project back on track within minutes.

If that seems like magic—it is. “The construction industry is in the very early innings of a massive digital transformation, and the extent is hard to comprehend,” says Morkos. “The truth is that AI is helping companies globally to deliver big projects on time, on budget, with amazing results—and it’s easy to implement. Our biggest challenge to adoption is simply convincing GCs and developers that the numbers they’re seeing are real.”