AI research project could help UK construction industry save billions


Saving the UK construction industry billions of pounds by harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at the heart of a new £1.2m research project won by Birmingham City University (BCU), in partnership with Leeds Beckett University (LBU) and London South Bank University (LSBU). Emerging technologies will be utilised to redefine cost planning and management.

The project, which is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will also involve a host of local and multinational construction, consultancy, accountancy, and IT organisations.

Dr Damilola Ekundayo, Principal Investigator and BCU Project Lead as well as Associate Professor in Built Environment, said: “Cost and time overrun is a common phenomenon. It costs the industry billions of pounds.

“This research will shape the future of construction cost planning by leveraging the pros of generative AI as a force for good, to improve what we do.”

The UK economy loses £24 billion annually from cost overruns – and that figure is expected to rise by 15% before 2030 (CITB, 2020).

However, using Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Generative AI (GAI) to more accurately estimate how much construction projects will cost can boost productivity by 25%.

Professor Hanifa Shah, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of BCU's Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment, said: “The university's commitment to excellence and forward-thinking research underscores its role as a catalyst for change within the construction landscape.

"By fostering collaboration between academia and industry stakeholders, the project aims to drive tangible outcomes.”

Experts from BCU’s Computing and the Built Environment colleges will collaborate with researchers from LBU and LSBU to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the development of an existing BIM-GAI cost prototype into a fully-fledged product for market.

Dr Ogerta Elezaj, a lecturer in Computer Science and co-investigator in the project, said: “The significance of generative AI in construction lies in its ability to revolutionise design processes, optimise resource utilisation, and enhance project efficiency.

"We aim to transform the industry, paving the way for innovative solutions, cost-effective designs and sustainable construction practices.”

The research will also transform the curriculum of BCU’s MSc Quantity Surveying conversion course and create future-ready graduates equipped with the AI expertise the industry needs.

“Our aim is to establish a costing process that takes less time and gives the client an accurate figure, empowering them to allocate budget and resources more effectively and avoid costly project creep,” added Dr Ekundayo, who is Programme Director of BCU’s MSc Quantity Surveying degree.

“By uniting our expertise across academia, construction and IT, we can make industry-wide changes that bring construction up to speed with other areas of the economy, such as manufacturing.”

The prestigious UKRI grant is part of a government initiative to stimulate economic growth by connecting SMEs with leading academic experts to innovate and drive productivity in a range of sectors.

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