In Part II, Gough discusses the construction industry's role and responsibility in minimizing climate change. Gough also talks about how the industry must standardize before automating with the help of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other technology.
Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director, innovation officer at Oracle Construction and Engineering, leads the conversation.
MG: We’re more interested in the product than the technology. What emerging technologies would help us create better products?
There is a huge amount of potential around automation and robotics, but let’s be honest, we’re not there yet. The concept of taking work away from risky job sites into safer and more controlled locations and environments is important.
We’re making a start by trying to standardize some of our products and creating a controlled process environment to employ some of that autonomy. We did a report back in 2017 on Industry 4.0 for construction and it highlighted just how broad the technological change will be in our industry.
If you work in banking or finance, there will be deep impacts from things such as blockchain and artificial intelligence, which are a given. But it’s unlikely these industries would be impacted by drones.
In construction, on the other hand, these new technologies are going to have an impact, including: blockchain, AI, drones, 3D printing, robotics, automation, sensors & IoT, augmented reality, automated vehicles.
They’re all coming, it’s just a matter of how fast and who’s ready.
But perhaps the biggest shift is coming from the climate change emergency. The construction and operation of buildings accounts for somewhere between 30-38% of all embodied and operational carbon.
And we must reduce the rate we are emitting carbon into the atmosphere immediately. How we capture, store, and use renewable energy in the future is very important to the construction industry moving forward.
This includes whether we can accelerate the application of new materials, like cement-free concrete, in addition to how we can reduce the massive amount of waste that we continue to generate as an industry. These are all very interesting trends for the built environment going forward.
MG: I'm of two minds at the minute; one mind is, we should start applying AI and machine learning now and we'll learn loads along the way. The power of data in many other sectors is enabling us to make better decisions at our fingertips.
And then the other part of me, which is somewhat more cynical, thinks that we're not quite ready for this stuff yet. I say this from the perspective of the industry, and Mace as a business and consultancy for the projects and commissions that we work on.
Every project that you go to is running a discrete set of processes that are tailor-made and customized based on how that project has been defined and ran.
We've just done some research as part of a project with the i3P in the UK, which is an infrastructure industry innovation partnership. It's a client-led and supplier-supported innovation collaboration program that researches where the industry needs to innovate and what’s important.
One of the interesting things that came out of the research is that this supplier site needs to industrialize, right? Within industrialization, there's a four step process that we need to follow, and most of the industry is not even on step one.
We need to standardize to control those conditions of operation. This involves doing the same process repeatedly, iterating, documenting, and optimizing.
Once you've got there, you can automate. You might start to enable some of the stuff to do with artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc.
The industry needs to remind itself that we must do some hard yards if we're going to truly realize the potential for some of this technological advancement. At Mace, we’re grabbing hold of this opportunity with both hands. But we also recognize that it's not a quick fix.
This is something that we are going to have to invest a lot of time and energy into to succeed. But succeed we must. The world needs a better construction industry to help tackle some of the challenges we all face moving forward.
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