The Emerging Role of AI in Pre-Construction

This year kicked off with promising developments and displays of artificial intelligence (AI) – namely programs such as ChatGPT and Remini. From software developers to photo editors to writers, there has been a question of what role this technology will play throughout their respective industries. And while the construction industry is historically slow on the uptake when it comes to technology, it’s clear that artificial intelligence is here to stay and is already making waves.

As a whole, AI is a technology that uses large amounts of data to solve problems, but where does that fit into the future of preconstruction?

Well, in reality, a form of AI has been involved in pre-construction since the mid-2000s: Building Information Modeling (BIM). The technique of clash detection is a model that combines the MEP’s structural, and architectural plans into one digital model allowing the design team to address conflicts between the various mechanical systems and structure before the project even breaks ground. Additionally, the machine learning (ML) algorithm can explore various options and even suggest the best possible solution. This use of AI discovers issues before a project starts and can help reduce risk, costly delays, and change orders.

In general, AI can be best applied to repetitive tasks – for example, quantity takeoffs. What would generally take an estimator days or weeks to complete could be automated and optimized with software. Companies such as Kreo, Workorder, and have already started to roll out such programs. Other purposes for AI could be reviewing 2D floor plans, extracting information, and producing scopes of work for the project. With all of these tasks being accomplished with artificial intelligence, an estimator regains time to focus on subcontractors, value engineering, and client relationships.

With the introduction of these types of software, the question becomes whether estimators will be eliminated in the future. The short answer is no, but the role of preconstruction will need to change. Estimators will need to become more of an information manager, reviewing the data that AI is providing and figuring out how it relates to the project. This use of technology can clear up time for teams to focus on reviewing the results with an emphasis on searching for project over-design, alternate materials, and scope gaps. Overall, it will help teams to keep up with the increasing importance of value engineering as project costs continue to climb. However, even with new bidding and takeoff software and the ability to send mass bid invitations, the best results may still come from face-to-face meetings or phone calls to a subcontractor, design team, or client.

Who knows what future technology will be introduced into the construction industry but change is inevitable. History has taught us that the companies that adapt the fastest will have a competitive edge. Being able to design and build projects for our clients faster, safer, and more cost effectively is a team effort and what we strive for every day.

Will a robotic superintendent be on your next project? Only time will tell.


Pete Zimmerman, Vice President

Pete Zimmerman

Vice President

The Douglas Company

Read More >