As more advanced technology such as biometric scanners, various sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) open doors for the construction sector, it also brings about some challenges for future planners and architects.
Following a recent meeting of scientific minds which took place during BAU ONLINE in a studio of the Federal Ministry of the Interior for Construction and Home Affairs (BMI) in Berlin, Germany, several key points were discussed. We bring you the following summarised analysis:
Bringing technology to site
Currently, one of the biggest challenges in digitalising the construction process is bringing planning information and production data from architecture and planning offices to the construction site. Here the focus is on data management, as Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sigrid Brell-Cokcan (RWTH Aachen University, Individualised Building Production) highlighted in her keynote speech, “Robotics in prefabrication and on the construction site – what is realistic today, what awaits us in the future?”
She conducts research on the Internet of construction as part of a large-scale project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Here, researchers look at the gaps in information transfer – from design to the handover of data at the construction site. This is important for robot systems to be used reasonably on construction sites in the future.
Above all, they must receive and process construction and assembly-relevant information quickly and without errors. In addition to the data transfer, an important part of the research project is therefore the technical infrastructure, which is being created at RWTH Aachen University in a laboratory on the construction site at Campus West.
How AI is shaping our decision making
When speaking about artificial intelligence, many of us think of it as the translation of rational and irrational human decisions to machine intelligence. However, this is far too short-sighted, as Prof. Dr. Kristian Kersting of TU Darmstadt (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Lab) explained. In his keynote speech, “Use of artificial intelligence in the construction industry – research partnership between Hochtief and TU”, he explained that this approach is not the only option.
Primarily, it is a question of a good partnership between humans and machines and of complementing human beings in their decision-making power over the long term. Translated to the construction industry: Symbioses are to be created and innovations developed, which TU Darmstadt and its partner, Hochtief, pursue in the dual PhD study course “AICO – AI in Construction”.
According to Prof. Dr. Kristian Kersting, the AICO programme will develop solutions for the problems of the day after tomorrow, which will be tested together with Hochtief and on today’s construction sites for their real-life application options.
The case for automation
Another important field in the further digitalisation of construction is the automation of construction processes, to which Prof. Dr. Cordula Kropp of the University of Stuttgart (Chair of Sociology, with a focus on risk and technology research) dedicates her research.
In her keynote speech, “Digital building – on the way to new worlds of building”, she showed that there is a distinction being made between digitalisation as computerisation (originally analogue processes are converted into digital ones and automated) and digitalisation as computation (the use of algorithmic methods to support human intuition in the planning, building process and robot use).
This is accompanied by a paradigm shift in the way we think and act – in the future, construction will adapt to the technical possibilities and will not be limited by a building process that has been strongly influenced by craftsmanship for centuries.
Collaboration is vital to avoid data monetisation
The fact that there is a lot going on in construction – partly fuelled by a pandemic-related technology push – was also reflected in the closing panel discussion. It was hosted by Bauwelt editor Jan Friedrich, who also focused on another important issue by talking about “Growing awareness in the use of AI, robotics and computation: How can disruptive technologies be advanced in a targeted manner?”
All the speakers referred to the obligations of society and our solidarity community. We must manage to democratise the abundance of data and make future technologies available to all. We should realise that we create great value in research and practical application. The community must therefore resolutely oppose the efforts of individuals to secure the parallel growing pool of data for their own commercial interests and to monetise the knowledge.
Our sincere thanks and appreciation to BAU-Magazine for the use of the information contained in this article. For more information, visit https://bau-muenchen.com/en/bau-mag/magazine/bau-online.
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