Industry Leaders to Launch AI Construction Institute


A team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture, CEE and CS/Machine Learning departments have recently announced its plans to establish an institute focusing on artificial intelligence in construction.

Information about the first-to-be National Institute for AI in Construction arrives after the team received grants and support from the National Science Foundation and the Discovery Partners Institute.

“This initiative will lead to the first-of-its-kind institute for the application of AI in design, construction and operation of buildings and infrastructure systems,” said project lead Mani Golparvar-Fard, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois.

While the team has stated that over 40 industry partners from architecture, engineering and construction as well as technology providers and venture capital investment firms will join the multidisciplinary effort to design the new institute, none have yet been named. However, in more recent reports, a school spokesperson told reporters that the list includes many of Engineering-News Record’s top 10 design, construction and owner companies.

Through the new institute, researchers hope that the programs will advance both the application of AI in construction and the science of AI research in general through identifying key areas for the highest impact of AI in design, construction and operation of the built environment.

“There is a compelling combination of complex problems in construction with open environments, multiple modalities and clear use-inspired objectives, where the solutions can be guided by carefully designed taxonomies and strong metrics for verifying success,” said David Forsyth, co-principal investigator, Fulton Watson Copp Chair and professor in Computer Science at Illinois.

Additionally, the team also plans to actively engage in the development of AI methods and tools, as well as entrepreneurship education, to bring these solutions to the market.

“Machine learning and AI are in the national spotlight because they can solve important problems,” said Derek Hoiem, co-principal investigator and associate professor of Computer Science at Illinois. “But the set of problems that can be solved is currently constrained by a need for huge quantities of annotated data, so domain-independent AI research tends to concentrate on topics where known methods will succeed. We believe applying AI methods to construction problems will produce a seismic shift in AI research.”

Thus far, the idea for the AI Institute has received $500,000 from the NSF and $140,000 in seed funding from the DPI for its vision of a $10 million institute of construction. Designs for the institute plan to be conducted with the research team, along with industry partners, through a series of planning workshops.

“Our goal is to develop communities and capacity to found an AI institute for construction which will create the foundational ideas, technologies and technical workforce that allow AI research to support safe, productive, efficient design, construction and maintenance of national buildings and infrastructure systems,” Golparvar-Fard said. “The institute can serve as a foothold for integration of AI and the construction industries that currently have little interaction. We plan to use this opportunity to build consensus on the educational programs and compelling and well-defined research problems that will have the most impact on the construction industry and drive general advances in AI.”

In addition to principal investigator Golparvar-Fard and co-principal investigators Derek Hoiem and David Forsyth, the University of Illinois team includes Julia Hockenmaier from Computer Science Department; Khaled El-Rayes, Nora El-Gohary and EJ Ignacio from Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and Randy Deutsch from the school of Architecture. Additional team members from Carnegie Mellon University are Burcu Akinci and Pingbo Tang.

Construction in Schools

Earlier this year, the University of New Orleans (UNO) announced that it would be offering a new bachelor’s degree program in urban construction management, beginning in the fall of 2020. The university reports that the new program is a first for the state of Louisiana and is the fifth bachelor’s degree program offered by UNO’s College of Engineering.

Currently, the university offers the only civil and environmental engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering programs in metro New Orleans, and one of only a handful of naval architecture and marine engineering programs in the nation.

According to UNO, the new urban construction management aims to provide a holistic approach to the topic through a variety of courses in engineering, management, history and urban studies. Primarily, the program will focus on urban residential and commercial development, in addition to rehabilitation, restoration and historic preservation of existing infrastructure.

Upon graduation, the university reports that graduates will be able to:

  • Describe different urban residential and commercial construction techniques;
  • Evaluate sustainability principles in planning, design, and construction of an urban construction project;
  • Manage an urban construction project effectively; and
  • Formulate restoration plan and manage rehabilitation of a historic construction.

In August, the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering announced the launch of a new master’s program in Advanced Design and Construction Technology.

According to USC: “The multi-disciplinary program will focus on the built environment, pulling together experts in various engineering disciplines such as civil and environmental engineering, computer and data sciences, large-scale 3D printing and artificial intelligence, to develop professionals who will apply design and engineering towards the creation of sustainable cities, infrastructure, buildings and systems of the future.”

The program aims to develop expertise in topics such as sustainability, data analysis and visualization, computing, modeling, simulation, process engineering and manufacturing. Innovation and entrepreneurship will also be part of the curriculum.

The program also aims to give students an understanding of how artificial intelligence and Internet-of-things technologies can be employed to optimize energy usage and ventilation, for example. In addition, the program will put emphasis on real-world opportunities and industry engagements.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Colleges and Universities; Construction; Education; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Technology; Tools & Equipment; Z-Continents

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