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AI opens the path to designing sustainable societies

AI opens the path to designing sustainable societies
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AI enables designing sustainable societies

The revolution of machines is no longer limited to assembly lines, but increasingly complex tasks can benefit from different applications of AI. When designing and constructing our built environment, AI applications enable cost efficiency, but also make it possible to evaluate sustainability aspects of the projects systematically and objectively. 

Efficiency and sustainable development as drivers for change

Construction projects are increasingly complex, with a high number of stakeholders and requirements to satisfy. At the same time, both construction companies and asset owners are setting more ambitious sustainability goals than the minimum required by the regulation. As the lifecycle of the assets in our built environment can be decades or centuries, the decisions done early in the design phase have a significant impact on the eventual outcome and impact of the project.

While humans can consider and compare only a limited number of options manually, algorithms can evaluate millions of possible options and recommend an optimal solution within given constraints. This does not only increase the cost efficiency, but also frees the expert to focus their time on more strategic tasks, evaluation of complex cases and collaboration with stakeholders. 

Work is changing due to AI

In engineering, the collaboration between humans and machines has been an everyday reality with the help of CAD software for decades, but AI is further refining and deepening this symbiosis. Advanced algorithms and the increase in computing power enable considering far more criteria in the optimisation of design choices. In addition to verifying physical characteristics and environmental impact, lifecycle costs and preferences of end users can be considered in a holistic way. 

For both companies and individual employees, the application of AI requires new skills and new roles in the organisations. The need for manual and physical labour is decreasing, allowing human work to be focused on tasks requiring creative, social and technological skills. As a result, organisational structures will be changed, and agile teams combining diverse sets of skills are becoming more important.

Smart assets and new technologies enable data collection

The collection of data during the operational phase provides a feedback loop for the decisions done in the design phase, enabling systematic evaluation and wider application of AI. In an industry where many of the processes have relied extensively on paper in the past, the benefits of AI have been difficult to realise due to the limited availability of reliable and good quality data. However, the assets in our built environment are increasingly smart, and new technologies are enabling an extensive collection of data from our environment.

Modern buildings consist of numerous technical systems controlling, for example, the indoor environment and energy performance, collecting a large amount of data. In field work, remote sensing solutions enable more cost-efficient operations, as site visits can be supplemented with IoT sensors, drones or, in the case of larger areas, also with satellite imagery. Continuous data collection helps identify problems before they escalate, and predictively allocate resources where they are needed. This further reduces the time experts spent on routine tasks and enables them to focus on the bigger picture and more complex tasks. 

AI opens the path to sustainability

Throughout the whole life cycle of our built environment, data collection enables systematic and objective decision-making based on data. This helps in designing assets that are even better suited for the users’ needs while also considering environmental aspects and implementing these in a cost-efficient manner. 

From the sustainability perspective, the possibilities of digitalisation are essential. The whole building and construction industry requires new ways of thinking so that we are not limiting the benefits of AI in just cost minimisation.

About the author

Janne Liuttu – Chief Data Scientist | Ramboll

Janne is a visionary leader specialized in developing data-driven organizations and strategies, with hands-on expertise in advanced analytics. As Chief Data Scientist, he is leading global analytics & data science practice at Ramboll, creating sustainable solutions across buildings, transport, water, energy, environment & health and architecture, landscape & urbanism. Before joining Ramboll Janne has been working in strategic data initiatives for both startups and multinational corporations in various industries. Janne holds MSc in mathematics from Tampere University of Technology and MBA from Henley Business School.

Janne Liuttu will be presenting at the Data Innovation Summit 2021 at the Applied Innovation & AI Transformation Stage.

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