Construction is already on track to be a $10.5 trillion dollar industry by 2023, but it has the potential to be even more.
When it comes to improving engineering and construction through technology - specifically AI - the industry still has a ways to go. A 2018 McKinsey & Company study examined the adoption of AI in 13 industries, including construction. When compared to the other big industries, construction was in the bottom three for current AI implementation and last in terms of future demand trajectory.
From addressing labor shortages to increasing productivity and efficiency, AI solutions have endless potential for helping engineering and construction teams achieve the elusive dream of “on-time, under-budget” project delivery, all while taking on more work in the process. Yet projects are still being bottlenecked by tedious manual labor or pen and paper.
But times are changing.
The inclusion of technology such as AI in project proposals is no longer simply a novelty that will turn heads - it’s quickly becoming a make-or-break element of bids.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is set to lead the way for the expansion of technology within the engineering and construction industries. Here are three waysthis landmark legislation is encouraging the adoption and implementation of innovative technology in infrastructure design and construction:
Dedicating $100 million to digitizing all phases of design and construction
As the infrastructure bill was coming together earlier this year, several companies saw the legislation as a monumental opportunity to modernize the construction industry. Thanks to lobbying from the Coalition for Smarter Infrastructure Investments, the bill includes an entire section devoted to technological development within surface transportation. The $100 million in federal funds over five years will help establish a program for “technology and innovation deployment.”
The goal is to assist states and localities in managing complex infrastructure projects more efficiently through the adoption of “advanced digital construction management systems applied through the construction lifecycles (including through the design and engineering, construction, and operations phases)." The program will track and report benefits and reward states and localities for implementation.
Requiring grant applications to be evaluated based on criteria that include the incorporation of technology
Most of the $1.2 trillion are allocated to various infrastructure sectors, and states and localities can submit project applications to request grants from the earmarked federal funds. As part of the evaluation process, the bill states that the Secretary of Transportation must take into account the benefits of “innovative design and construction techniques” and “innovative technologies" presented in the applications. Variations of this language can be found in several sections of the bill, including the bridge investment program, railroad crossing eliminations, and local or regional infrastructure surface transportation. Knowing this, private companies can leverage their firms’ technology use when bidding on state or local infrastructure projects funded through federal grants.
Establishing the groundwork for creating acceptance standards for geomatic data
As new technologies emerge, industry standards must constantly evolve to guide implementation, consistency, and quality. In construction, digital methods of Geospatial data collection and analysis are rapidly becoming more widespread, and the inclusion of the section on geomatic data recognizes the need for the standardization of data collection, presentation, and use across various federal project types and geographic locations.
While the current goal revolves around developing initial standards for “remote sensing and land surveying, cartography, geographic information systems, global navigation satellite systems, photogrammetry, or other remote means," these standards may end up being more than just a baseline for acceptance of these types of data. Digitization and GIS are on track to soon be preferred over traditional manual surveying methods.
Failure to embrace technology and AI in design or construction may be costing your team more than you realize. The pointed references in the infrastructure legislation make it clear that technology is no longer considered an expensive add-on, but a high-priority project component.
A popular way for civil and land surveying companies to incorporate technology is through drones and remote sensing in early-stage design projects. What some firms don’t realize is they can take their technology use a step further by processing drone data with AI and autonomous drafting. Integrating AI drafting software into your projects can help win more bids by meeting technology requirements - with the added benefits of reducing costs and speeding up project delivery.
Interested in learning more about autonomous drafting? Learn more about AirWorks here.