AI will not replace human interaction but could improve infrastructure

Fewer than 25% of built environment professionals believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will be able to replace human interactions.

Over three-quarters of built environment professionals believe that AI will have a positive impact on the infrastructure sector, according to research conducted by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

As many as 60% of those surveyed believe AI will increase productivity.

Tim Broyd, president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said: “Our industry and much of society is only beginning to realise the transformative power of AI. Now is the time to assess and analyse how we can best take advantage of it, identifying both the challenges and opportunities. The research shows that the government, built environment professionals and the technology sector should work together to build the necessary leadership, governance framework and skills to fully exploit the potential of AI.”

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As part of a survey prior to the James Forrest Lecture by Andy Green, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) commissioner, representatives of the industry were asked their views on the development of infrastructure.

This revealed that; 78% of built environment professional think AI will have a positive impact, while 63% believe it will improve productivity.

However, fewer than 25% believe it will improve human interactions such as dispute management, consenting and project approval

A workshop following the lecture revealed that many in the sector fear that the technology is not widely understood. Many also believe that piloting would be required in order to demonstrate to everyone involved in the infrastructure sector what benefits AI could bring.

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Kyle Clough, vice-president of Membership at the Institution of Civil Engineers, added: “AI opens the door to new ways of working, with potential to improve performance and efficiency. Much has been made of the looming skills gap we face but the benefits of AI may go some way towards mitigating the problem. By combining the use of AI alongside continued efforts to recruit and train the next generation of engineers, we can future-proof our workforce, the health of the industry and that of the wider economy.”


Those who completed the survey held mixed views when asked how AI would impact the nature of the profession. While half think that that AI could pose a threat to jobs in the sector, a similar number (48%) believe that AI will lead to new skills and professional opportunities.

Andy Green, National Infrastructure Commission commissioner concluded: “Artificial Intelligence is an integral part of our lives – it’s only right that it should also help boost productivity and improve how we manage our infrastructure.”

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“Today’s survey findings reveal an industry ready to accept that challenge, and see how this new technology can make a real difference to the sector and to people’s lives.”

“We at the National Infrastructure Commission are also exploring this key issue, and it will be incumbent on all of us to ensure these innovations are widely understood both among professionals and the general public.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...