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FMI Quarterly/March 2020/March 3, 2020

AI: Engineering and Construction Firms Are Watching Early Adopters


Artificial intelligence in construction was just in its infancy when this article was published. The technology remains in very early stages and is expected to continue to evolve for years to come.

As with any disruptive technology in any industry, it takes time to grasp the new possibilities, let alone identify which new tools have the greatest potential value for your particular business. For AI to gain more ground in construction, for example, a few hurdles must still be overcome.

Integrating new technology can require a shift in mindsets and skill sets among workers. This challenge is complicated by the labor squeeze. It’s not easy to learn a new process or system when there are barely enough hours or hands to complete the familiar tasks. Firms must have a long-term view, understanding that struggles upfront will pay off over the long run.

As an industry, engineering and construction have yet to fully digitize and analyze data. A great deal of E&C work is still done via paper and pencil, which never makes it into a database. A movement toward digitizing data, however, is gaining momentum. The next steps are managing, understanding and leveraging the data.

As E&C firms see their peers putting AI’s potential into practice on real job sites, adoption of this and other technologies will continue to gain momentum.

This article was originally published June, 2019.


James Boileau is construction segment director for The Zurich Services Corporation of Zurich North America, a role he has held since 2014. Responsible for the technical direction of loss control services provided to customers and underwriters, James manages a team that studies emerging risks in the construction industry and leads the development of new products and services designed to help mitigate those risks. He joined Zurich’s Risk Engineering unit in 2002 and has served in a variety of construction-related technical and management roles. Prior to Zurich, he had experience directing project supervision as a project manager and superintendent in commercial and industrial projects. James holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a civil engineering technology diploma from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He holds the P.Eng. (professional engineer) designation from Professional Engineers Ontario and is a member of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the Construction Users Roundtable (CURT).

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