Updated: May 31, 2022
Insight from Civils.ai founder Stevan Lukic
It might not be obvious, but 2022 has been a big year for the construction industry. Let’s take a look at five projects shaping up to change the construction industry at its core.
1. Tesla’s Optimus Project
Elon Musk’s announcement late last year that Tesla is developing their first fully automated humanoid caught many by surprise. Even more so for the construction industry who in 2022 are realising that one of Elon’s primary commitments for this robot is to develop it to replace humans in tiring, repetitive, or high risk work.
Construction projects tick all three of these boxes. Using the sensor and best in class AI technology developed for their cars, these robots are expected to be one of the smartest in the industry, with Boston Dynamics the only robotics company currently in direct competition. The most popular robot developed by Boston Dynamics, Spot, costs a hefty $70,000 meaning that there is a gap in the market for a low cost humanoid robot capable of replacing humans.
The robot which is expected to stand at 173 centimetres tall and weigh 57 kilograms is designed to be physically weaker than an average human, however, use of these robots could drastically speed up the construction process, allowing for a tireless workforce capable of handling risky situations.
2. Civils.ai Artificial Intelligence and construction data
Civil Engineers rely on accurate data to make their design predictions and assessments. To find this data most Engineer’s need to spend hours pouring through PDF’s and technical catalogues searching for references. Or resorting to Google search and not necessarily following the advice “don’t trust everything you read on the internet”.
Accurate design and planning of construction projects are important. Finding cost, duration, programme, engineering properties and technical data is needed for Engineer’s to make the right decision. Civils.ai is an open-source Civil Engineering analysis and data provider. They are digitising construction information and providing calculators to solve a Civil Engineer’s most commonly occurring issues. With calculators for geotechnical analysis such as bored and driven pile design, bearing capacity and retaining wall design Civils.ai has Geotechnical Engineer’s well covered.
Structural Engineers can perform frame analysis, steel section design and beam analysis. Tunnel Engineers can design tunnel linings and mining SCL design on the platform. Civils.ai provides free Civil Engineering design calculators and most of the code is open-source, with a community of Engineers from around the world working tirelessly to improve the platform.
The end game for Civils.ai is to provide the first artificial intelligence solution to the construction industry on the database of construction information they are building, allowing for parametric design and Civil Engineering automation.
3. Internet of Things (IoT)
Tracking materials and resources are being increasingly important in the construction industry and several startups and breaking through with new solutions. Solutions are emerging to monitor the health and stress levels of lone workers and notify site management of any potential incidents involving the worker and to call for emergency assistance.
Other solutions are being created to provide a more complete overview of the supply chain, tracking items with QR codes linked to BIM repositories and RFID systems. Most IoT systems focus on tracking key metrics related to construction progress in terms of time, cost and resources and can provide meaningful insights into the status of a project.
Traditionally this kind of tracking would require the management team to communicate with the many stakeholders involved in a project and try to assemble the information and make the correct decisions, with IoT solutions, this can be automated.
4. HILTI Exoskeletons
The HILTI Exoskeleton is a fascinating piece of equipment. Costing only $1,599 it is regarded as the first affordable exoskeleton in the construction industry. The exoskeleton allows construction workers to perform overhead work for longer periods of time, complementing their range of anchors and fixing solutions, which are often installed, you guessed it, overhead.
The exoskeleton is a game changer as previous exoskeletons have cost upwards of $100,000 making this a near 100x improvement. Direct comparisons with other exoskeletons such as the full body Sarcos Robotics’ Guardian XO are not entirely fair due to the significant difference in load bearing capacity, with the Guardian XO amplifying human strength by a whopping 20x and the Hilti exoskeleton providing a minor reduction in arm and shoulder fatigue whilst using their drilling equipment. The price tag for the Hilti exoskeleton is certainly amazing and shows that the use of exoskeletons in construction has a bright future.
5. Digital twins
I will be totally honest, I hadn’t heard of the term ‘digital twin’ until a year ago. I commonly referred to any kind of 2D or 3D geospatial modeling as BIM. However digital twins are now the buzz and I’m happy to join the hype.
The key element of a digital twin is that construction is only one element in the lifespan of a building. If a building takes 5 years to build but has a serviceability life of 150 years, our construction BIM model is covering only 3.3% of its existence. The key idea of digital twins is that creating an accurate and precise digital twin of a project during its inception can pay huge dividends later in the building's lifecycle. Incorporating data into the digital twin on component details and supply chain data can make finding a replacement part 10 years from now a piece of cake.
Tracking building progress can also be simplified with a single source of truth for knowing which components are already installed, which are on their way, and where productivity is hitting snags