Industry experts talk AI: Rob Charlton on the future of Artificial Intelligence in construction

Written by LetsBuild

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According to McKinsey & Company, artificial intelligence is the next frontier for construction technology. Nevertheless, it seems that the building sector is still behind the curve when it comes to the implementation of AI solutions.
In an effort to understand why this is happening, we introduce today our fresh AI interview series with title Industry Experts Talk AI. Our goal is to discuss this critical issue with some of the brightest thought-leaders of the industry and come up with vital conclusions in regard to the application of artificial intelligence technology in construction.
Our first guest is Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group and founder of BIM Show Live. He was kind enough to have a quick chat with us, introduce himself and share his thoughts on the advent of Artificial Intelligence in construction:

What is your favourite book?

Good question. I have read a lot of business books. They are my favourite. I don’t read any fictions. All non-fiction I read. My favourite book at the moment is Hacking Growth (by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown) which I read about a month ago. It has some really cool points about marketing. It’s one of the books you read very quickly and is quite influential.

hacking growth

What is your favourite film?

My favourite movie is Grease. Just nothing too heavy, a bit of a laugh!


Where and how do you work best?

I guess it’s a difficult question. I work anywhere. I think just where I’m relaxed and it depends on what I’m doing. I mean I work while on a train. I can work anywhere. I don’t have a desk. So I just go where it’s appropriate. Not anywhere in particular.

Should construction care about AI?

Yes, absolutely. I think it’s a huge thing for us going forward, as we’ve got a lot more data now. It’s a reality!

Is the industry ready to fully leverage AI?

I don’t think the industry understands it or knows what it is. It has the potential but the industry doesn’t know what it is.

artificial intelligence in construction

Can you see any areas which are more susceptible to AI right now? Low hanging fruits?

I think it’s going to be about building operation and how spaces are used. The connection between people and buildings is an area of great interest, as well.
We have clients who are interested and would like to test AI but I haven’t seen anything yet. I have seen a lot of measurement systems but no AI. I haven’t seen any AI really make a significance in the construction sector yet.

In 5 to 10 years what could AI do for AEC?

I think what it’s going to do is make buildings smarter and give people in them more information going forward so they can make buildings more efficient and intelligent.

Rob Charlton

What’s the best advice that you ever received?

Focus on people. It’s a bit of a cliché that people say. Your business is your people. But it definitely is and you can spend an awful lot of time when your people aren’t going in the right directions. So it’s important to have good people around you who are on message and understand what you’re trying to achieve. I think that’s the best advice.

What’s next for you?

We are always looking to make buildings smarter, continue to improve outcomes for our clients, and develop our existing brands. The business is all about improving outcomes for clients, so we are continuously looking for new opportunities. We don’t just do things because they are clever, we do things because they add value.

Read also: Welcome to data ecosystem revolution

All the things we are trying to achieve if we could do them in an analogue way we would. But we also need the digital which helps improve outcomes. So we’ll just continue to do that, continue to find new opportunities. I think Grenfell is identifying the inadequacies of our sector. Truth is that everybody in the industry knew them all along but Grenfell just brought them to the fore and made them visible to people who may not have been aware from outside the sector.

Wrapping it up!

Artificial intelligence has still a long way to go in construction but it’s very encouraging to see that more and more industry thought leaders address the issue and discuss openly the next day in construction.
GenieBelt wants to remain an active part of this effort. With that in mind, more AI content and interviews are coming soon on our blog. Stay tuned!
Rob was interviewed by Gari Nickson. Gari is an expert in the application of artificial intelligence in construction. He’s an entrepreneur, co-founder of GenieBelt, and adviser to Contractor Freedom. Follow Gari on Twitter – @garinickson