AI and the Future of the Built Environment and Resident Safety/Sustainability

A Bird's Eye View of the Urban Cityscape

Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to revolutionise the built environment, along with having major implications for resident safety and sustainability. According to recent findings by the British Standards Institution (BSI), a significant 52% of people globally think that AI can help us create a built environment that is more energy-efficient. This sentiment is echoed within the industry itself, where 55% of professionals hold the same opinion. Moreover, a substantial 68% of those working in the built environment sector foresee the widespread adoption of AI technologies by 2030.  

With 73% of construction organisations surveyed by KPMG already using drones in some or all projects, it is becoming increasingly evident that AI will be a pivotal force in shaping safer, more sustainable living and working spaces for the future. In this article, we’re looking at the different ways we think that AI will revolutionise the built environment: 

Driving Towards Carbon Neutrality 

AI can be a great tool for driving carbon neutrality as it can be used to enhance circularity by using data to assess how best to repurpose and reuse materials from buildings nearing the end of their lifecycle. It can also help with designing new structures that are water- and energy-efficient from the outset, thereby avoiding the need for costly retrofitting. Additionally, we can expect AI to facilitate carbon-neutral design by improving the procurement of sustainable materials, optimising energy and water usage during construction, and reducing waste through efficient planning. All of this technological advancement will help the industry directly address its sustainability challenges, with a view to shaping a better future.  

Enhancing Safety in the Industry 

As construction is a high-risk industry, we can expect to see AI being used to enhance safety and efficiency. Real-time safety monitoring using sensors and cameras, coupled with predictive trend analytics, is already making construction sites safer. AI-powered tools like drones and Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensors, along with real-time building information modelling (BIM), are enabling site managers to coordinate operations better, especially on complex sites with hundreds or thousands of workers. These technologies provide immediate insights into potential hazards, streamline communication, and ensure that safety protocols are strictly followed. By leveraging AI, construction sites can significantly reduce accidents and improve overall safety, making daily operations more secure and efficient.  

Using Data to Build Sustainably 

AI has the capability to rapidly assess and synthesise vast amounts of information. The construction industry can leverage this ability to design more-efficient buildings, in terms of both energy use and occupant functionality. 

By analysing asset usage data, which measures how efficiently building resources are utilised, AI can influence building design in a way that corrects human bias and anticipates user needs. This data-driven approach can eliminate inefficiencies across a broad range of issues as varied as the overstocking of materials before construction begins and the inconvenience of long queues for restrooms in public buildings.  

AI Enhanced 3-D Printing and Design

By integrating AI within the early design stages and combining it with 3D printing, the early stages of projects will be revolutionised. AI will be able to rapidly generate and optimise designs based on each project’s unique requirements, ensuring precision and efficiency right from the start. Combining AI and 3D printing will enhance the quality and accuracy of the project.

Enhancing Safety with AI-Enabled Monitoring 

AI can significantly enhance resident safety by providing advanced monitoring and predictive maintenance capabilities. Smart sensors equipped with AI can monitor a building’s structural health, detect irregularities, and predict possible failures before they become hazardous. This technology is crucial in areas that are prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes, as it can quickly alert residents and authorities about potential structural failures. 

AI-driven security systems using facial recognition and motion detection technologies are becoming more common, too. These systems enhance security by accurately identifying individuals and detecting unusual activities, ensuring a safer living environment. 

AI in Emergency Response and Management 

During emergencies, timely and effective response is critical. AI enhances emergency preparedness and response strategies through simulation and real-time analysis. By processing data from multiple sources, AI can provide predictive insights about the spread of fires, the impact of floods, or the movement of crowds, enabling quicker and more effective responses. 

Moreover, AI can automate emergency alerts and communications, ensuring that residents receive timely and accurate information. This can be particularly useful in large complexes or densely populated urban areas where speed of communication can save lives. 

Companies can ensure that they are getting the best out of AI by ensuring relevant staff members have had sufficient training on how to use it most effectively.  Adopting a phased approach to test such solutions is also important to allow continuous testing and improvement as usage grows over time. Additionally, staying informed of new technologies can help find solutions for mundane business problems so that it frees up time for other important functions. Businesses should also be aware of issues like security, data oversharing, and lack of transparency when it comes to using AI. In this rapidly evolving technological landscape, building systems that complement the industry and striking a balance between AI and human efforts will be the way forward.