Global construction is one of the biggest consumers of resources and one of the biggest polluters. According to AI Magazine, construction is responsible for 38% of global energy consumption, and the building sector alone accounts for almost 55% of final energy use. Buildings also account for 40% of global final energy consumption and 33% of greenhouse gases. It’s also well known that concrete and steel account for excessive emissions and material waste in building construction.

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Because of this enormous challenge, the future of sustainable construction may lie with AI. AI is able to analyze building efficiency performance by sorting through massive amounts of data to pinpoint the best opportunities for sustainable design and optimal material usage. With a tool like AI, the future of sustainable construction could advance much faster than in the past and help architects and designers work with new design tools, sustainable materials and methods to create our sustainable buildings and cities of the future. For example, construction 3D printing guided by AI can recommend alternative building materials to save money and waste by replacing wasteful and expensive materials like concrete and steel, and plan out how construction materials could be recycled.

Related: AI reveals how climate change will impact our cities

AI analyzes data sets to find sustainable construction opportunities

LinkedIn recently ran an article that had this to say in praise of AI as a tool for sustainable construction and said, “In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a promising tool for architectural design. AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data on building performance, climate conditions and user behavior to optimize building systems for energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction and other sustainability objectives.”

AI can also predict battery failures and optimize energy loads on the grid or within buildings. It can help predict or detect faults in building construction for earthquake zones or other areas prone to natural disasters such as hurricane-proof building design for coastal regions.

Think about the sustainable design process and how many factors play in to a sustainable building. You not only are building a system that is LEED certified and integrates sustainable efficient water and electrical systems or passive solar and heat retention. A designer also needs to plan the building for its environment. That means accounting for optimal use of sustainable construction materials for the local environment that are locally sourced or sustainably harvested. It also means minimizing shipping carbon emissions, hiring local workers where possible and working with flexible modular interiors to future-proof the building or using insulation and placing windows or glazed facades for balanced heat retention and ventilation.

Water harvesting or recycling can reduce water waste. Permeable pavers could help minimize runoff pollution to nearby streams. Many countries that are growing hotter from climate change have also started berming buildings to reduce A/C use. AI can help with all of this decision making and more. It’s likely that AI and designers guiding its analysis of sustainable construction methods and systems will create best practices for each climate zone of the world. Thereby, simplify the sustainable construction process for builders as green building becomes standard practice required by law to meet SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG 13 (Climate Action) global emissions goals.

How AI can make a difference in global emissions?

AI can continue to be used after construction to analyze how occupants use a building or community space, and to plan around occupant needs to minimize emissions. For example, AI can be used to automatically adjust heat and cooling levels according to how occupants use a building or based on time of day, or adjust building systems and warn occupants of excessive use according to seasonal droughts to reduce water waste and achieve SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) clean water goals. According to, AI can additionally be used to monitor for problems that avoid costly building repairs, and can help retrofit older buildings with the most efficient energy upgrades to help building owners maximize efficiency without breaking the bank.

To promote circularity and reduce construction waste or building maintenance, AI can predict the best construction materials for a particular location or building use and plan out the most efficient shape, construction method or timeline for building in an efficient way.

Nokia says that 78% of telcos are relying on AI to improve the energy efficiency of their network energy use.

“From the originally produced energy in power plants only 90% ‘arrive’ at the network so there is already a loss of 10% during energy transmission,” said Nokia. “From this remaining energy about 80% is consumed by the radio access, the rest by transport, core and OSS. Thirty percent of that network energy (35% of the original energy) is consumed by auxiliary passive components such as air conditioning and power systems, so that only 70% (65% of the original energy) is consumed by the network elements itself.”

Finally, there are green spaces to plan and quality of life to consider for achieving SDG 15 (Life on Land) goals. AI can help plan out local landscaping plants, help improve air quality, and plan out how to integrate green spaces to connect surrounding building spaces and communities.

What if AI becomes our new robot overlords?

I’ve got good news for you. AI is a tool like any other computer that recognizes patterns and is particularly good at analyzing massive data sets, but for the moment it is not remotely conscious and still requires the oversight of intelligent and ethical human beings to guide its work. AI can be used to speed up the future of sustainable construction to construct sustainability standards for the construction industry, as well as make construction more efficient and affordable. All of that has to be handled with respect for humans, so it’s really up to us to make it work.

What do you think about the future of sustainable construction using AI? It might come down to how much faith you have in human nature and intelligence guiding the development of the technology and its potential uses, but that is true of every technology. Let us know your take in the comments.

Via AI Magazine

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