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ᐅ Ushering in a New Era of Artificial Intelligence to Enhance the Efficiency of Hong Kong’s Construction Industry

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing at an incredible pace, with ChatGPT in particular creating a global buzz in recent months. The Construction Industry Council (CIC) has encouraged the local industry to widely apply innovative technologies -- including AI – in building projects to enhance efficiency, quality and quantity.

Recently, Professor MA Yi, a world-class scholar in computer vision, Director and Chair Professor of HKU Musketeers Foundation Institute of Data Science, and Professor of University of California, Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, was invited to a CIC See What I See seminar to share his expertise on AI and its potential for the construction industry.

Promoting the Industry with AI

Professor MA began his talk with a brief overview of AI research over the past 80 years, giving the industry audience a clear understanding of the concept. He pointed out that AI’s greatest benefit is to automate labour-intensive work, allowing workers to focus on higher value missions to improve productivity. In this respect, AI and other automation technologies could alleviate the labour shortage problem and benefit traditional industries such as construction.

Said MA: “In recent years, the construction industry around the world has faced the problem of a shrinking and ageing workforce. In mainland China, the construction labour force has been decreasing every year, which has pushed up costs. So, the introduction of AI and automation is imperative. Hong Kong cannot miss the opportunity to adopt AI in its construction industry.”

Understanding AI Accurately

At the same time, automation cannot fulfil every function in the industry. In the construction industry, said the Professor, AI and automation cannot currently replace human craftsmanship or creativity. Similarly, it is too early to say whether widespread concerns that AI might replace human workers altogether will prove to be true. As he pointed out, many concerns stem from fundamental misunderstandings of the term ‘AI’. While the technology seemed to be developing at an awesome pace in the past decade, it was in fact still lingering at the stage of forming mechanical perception, recognition and memory functions. Memory is not a kind of intelligence. When a machine has no creativity, no ability to predict future conditions or to generate objects, it cannot be said to possess a superior wisdom.

According to Professor MA, AI is currently ‘passive’, without the ability to think independently, nor consciously learn from the outside world. Basically, it is a machine that still requires human direction and control. It is very premature to worry about AI attaining consciousness and ruling the world.

Master Class Participants Share their Knowledge

The Master Class series organised by CIC has proven popular among construction industry experts. Graduates of Master Class on AI joined a panel discussion in the event to share their learning experiences.

Henry Wong, Chief Construction Manager – Civil, MTR Corporation, pointed out how his company has been adopting technologies such as AI and digitalisation to a variety of service areas. The relevant strategy includes three pillars: firstly, to develop Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the Common Data Environment (CDE) so that construction projects may be digitalised; secondly, to digitalise project management so as to control progress and expenditure; and thirdly, to enhance site safety and control quality and quantity through AI and digitalisation.

SY Liu, Manager of Digital Solutions, Asia, from Atkins, pointed out how AI could be adapted by the construction industry. He believed that automating the process will help regulate production according to the needs of the project, and will allow for more accurate predictions of project performance and operating costs. Leveraging AI could also eliminate human error and handle large amounts of data.

Joanne Kiu, Senior Land Surveyor/Spatial Data Infrastructure from the Development Bureau, shared information of the Common Spatial Data Infrastructure platform set up by the HKSAR Government to develop Hong Kong into a ‘smart city’. The platform aims to facilitate the effective exchange of high-quality, up-to-date spatial information and services among government organisations, enterprises/professionals, scholars and the community. Users are able to view, share and use the spatial data from different government bureaux/departments and public organisations.

“CIC is leading the way in promoting AI. When we were working on the group projects, we adopted AI in construction by using a large amount of 3D environment data for AI in design, especially in design optimisation“, said Kiu.

Encouraging Industry to Embrace the New Generation of Intelligence

Rather than eroding the construction industry, AI strengthens its ability to analyse data, monitor site safety and instantly spot unusual working patterns, all of which helps to improve efficiency.

The CIC will continue to promote AI and encourage the industry to adopt innovative technologies for a wide variety of work. At the same time, the CIC will communicate with partners across the Greater Bay Area on the application of AI and other innovative technologies such as digitalisation, and to learn from each other and jointly improve the industry.

Ir Thomas Ho, Chairman of the CIC, concluded: “There’s much more AI can do in construction, including cost prediction, design optimisation, project planning and more. AI has become a major trend in all walks of life, and the construction industry is no exception. CIC will encourage the industry to use these technologies widely and is committed to training practitioners and giving them up-to-date skills to embrace this new era of AI and help to drive Hong Kong’s development as a smart city.”

Last Updated: 2023-09-28 15:12:41