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Green Revolution: AI in Sustainable Building


Big Data, AI, Machine Learning—these are more than mere tools; when applied to the realm of sustainable construction, they prove to be invaluable assets. Over the past years, artificial intelligence has prompted businesses across multiple sectors to invest in AI solutions to enhance productivity.



So how can AI contribute to the work of consultants in sustainable construction? 

It could provide consultants with new work tools, allowing, for example:


  • Support for the integration of renewable energy sources and the adoption of sustainable materials.

  • Analysis and simulation of building performances: energy consumption, thermal comfort, natural day lighting.

  • Evaluation of different design iterations, taking into account factors such as solar orientation, insulation, and natural ventilation.

  • Assistance in project management.

  • Optimization of construction schedules and resource allocation.


What about AI-driven BIM?

To develop digital plans for a building, various approaches exist such as 2D, 3D, and up to 10D. In green consulting, these different approaches are used to model all types of buildings, more or less precisely.


Among these approaches, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) involves using computer technology to assist in designing a product and encompasses all activities of a design process. However, CAD is quite restrictive, limited to 2D technical drawings, 2½D systems (depth extension for CNC-controlled machines), and 3D systems (working with wireframe, surface, volume, or solid models).


This is why it is preferable to use Building Information Modeling (BIM), a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a building used to make decisions throughout its life cycle.


With BIM, additional information can be added:

  • Planning with BIM 4D

  • Estimation with BIM 5D

  • Sustainability with BIM 6D

  • Facility management applications with BIM 7D

  • Health and safety with BIM 8D

  • Lean construction with BIM 9D

  • Industrialization process of construction with BIM 10


Traditionally, creating a BIM model required extensive human intervention to collect, organize, and structure data related to a project. With AI-driven BIM, this step is significantly simplified and, in most cases, automated. AI algorithms can analyze massive volumes of data and generate complex BIM models in record time, allowing green consultants to save time and optimize their efforts to focus on more strategic aspects of sustainable development.



In practice, what can AI really do?

  1. Automatic building optimization 

Engineers will now only need to input energy, shape, and dimension criteria for their projects and 2D and/or 3D plans to obtain an optimal solution generated automatically by AI. Thanks to its ability to analyze a large number of possible models in record time, AI can extract the solution that will be optimal for the criteria entered by the engineer. AIs can identify design strategies aimed at maximizing energy efficiency while ensuring an optimal level of comfort for occupants, considerably freeing up time for the engineering team to focus on developing criteria tailored to the project rather than searching for the best compromise.


  1. Mitigation of conflicts between models and risks

Ensuring the alignment of elements in a project that fall under different fields of expertise will no longer be an issue. With AI, it will be possible to automatically identify potential conflicts between plumbing, structural components, and electrical systems. In addition to reducing the need for correction work, AI can generate alternative solutions to resolve identified potential conflicts. It is interesting to note that it is also possible to automatically check the alignment of a project with building codes and local regulations.


  1. Predictive analyses and decision support

Analysis of historical data, especially related to construction programs, costs, and performance indicators of past projects, allows AIs to support decision-making. The team can then make informed decisions regarding the chronology, budget, and resource management of a project. The interest of AIs in this aspect is to identify errors that have been made on projects of the same type, in the same geographical area, or with the same constraints and to indicate the most judicious decisions to avoid their recurrence.


  1. Project visualization by Virtual or Augmented Reality

It is not always easy for a client or the entire team to imagine the final outcome of a construction project. To remedy this, AIs allow visualizing the project in its final version through Virtual or Augmented Reality. By being immersed, various project stakeholders will be able to provide rapid feedback, and consequently, communication between project members and with the client is more effective.


  1. Facility management and Maintenance

What about post-construction stages? AIs simplify building management during daily use. The maintenance program is generated automatically based on the installations present on the site, their use, and their age; equipment failures are anticipated, and resources are used judiciously. Thus, facility management is optimized, and expenses related to repairs are controlled and limited.



What to expect for the future?


Ethical aspect

The continuous and rapid evolution of AI in all domains raises ethical questions that must be addressed. Data confidentiality is a major concern, given the amount of sensitive information used in models and simulations. With AI use, professionals will need to find a delicate balance between accessing necessary data and protecting confidential information. Another ethical challenge lies in algorithmic biases that can creep into AI models, potentially influencing design and construction decisions. It is essential to be attentive to these biases and actively work to mitigate them to ensure reliable results that adhere to safety standards.


Furthermore, a major point to raise concerns the impact on the roles of architects and engineers. As AI takes on increasingly complex tasks, professionals are forced to adjust their skills and roles to avoid being "replaced" by AI, transitioning from a more manual approach to closer collaboration with emerging technologies.


New horizons

The future of AI in sustainable construction promises exciting advances. Predictive modeling and future simulation will become increasingly precise as we accumulate more historical data. Models will be able to anticipate energy performance, thermal comfort, and other aspects with greater finesse, allowing for even more efficient and sustainable design. As with all fields, real-world case studies and applications will help inspire and improve current models.


The future also holds notable improvements in terms of the ease of use and processing speed of CAD/BIM software. This rapid technological evolution promises to make project design and management more efficient, offering new perspectives and possibilities for consultants in sustainable construction.



Conclusion

In conclusion, artificial intelligences (AIs) drive a transformation of the Sustainable Building landscape and the role of Sustainable Building Consultants. From automatic building optimization to post-construction management, AIs simplify processes, freeing up time for creativity and innovation. 


However, ethical challenges and professional role adjustments must be considered. The future holds significant advancements, with more precise modeling and software simplification. Moving from using the computer as a drawing tool, engineers will co-create with technology, focusing on defining goals and criteria, ultimately leaving the determination of the most optimal solution to technology.




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