The construction industry has generally been slow to adopt technology due, in part, to the cost and complexity of it. Still, 70% of contractors believe that advancements in technology can increase productivity, improve scheduling, and enhance safety. And one of the more recent technological advancements with the potential to change the construction industry?
Artificial intelligence (AI) tools.
Many emerging AI tools allow professionals and small business owners—including construction companies—to become more efficient and drive revenue. In fact, by 2035, AI is expected to increase the construction industry's profits by a whopping 71%.
One of those tools—ChatGPT—gives construction companies, contractors, and professionals a cost-effective way to adopt new technology (and the benefits of AI) without breaking the bank.
Let's go over everything you need to know about ChatGPT and construction, including how it can be used in your business, benefits, and best practices.
What Is ChatGPT?
The tool's human language model is made up of a database of more than 300 billion words—and trained on information from articles, books, news, and research—to give it the functionality to hold conversations about a wide variety of topics.
Users can discuss these topics by providing ChatGPT with prompts—commands, instructions, or queries that the tool uses to generate a response, whether that's creating a job bid, scheduling jobs, or summarizing chunks of data.
There are currently two versions of ChatGPT—a free version, GPT-3.5, and a premium version, GPT-4 (available through a ChatGPT Plus subscription for $20 per month).
So, what are the differences between the free and premium versions? While both GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 are limited to 2021 data, GPT-4 can use plugins that give it access to more recent information. ChatGPT-4 users can also write longer prompts, with the tool generating longer and more detailed human-like responses. The paid version also has a better understanding of context and tone.
Why Should You Consider Using It in Construction?
When it comes to using ChatGPT to support your construction business, there are a variety of potential benefits. The platform can help you:
- Save time on administration, management, and planning: Management and planning eat up a significant amount of time and resources. Construction companies can use ChatGPT as an automation tool to generate schedules, create budgets, and assign resources, cutting down the time you need to spend on planning.
- Handle tedious tasks: Construction professionals can use ChatGPT to handle tedious and/or administrative tasks, like summarizing meeting notes, generating invoices, and creating purchase orders, reducing your paperwork and saving time.
- Idea inspiration: Because ChatGPT is trained on a massive amount of information, you can use it as a source of inspiration for your business. After inputting a list of your ideas or plans (like architectural styles or types of building materials), the tool can generate comparisons or new ideas to consider.
- Problem-solving: ChatGPT can answer questions and solve complex math equations and other common issues that come up in construction, like determining the amount of materials a project needs. And by feeding it your proprietary data, it can help identify specific risks for your business and provide potential solutions for improving safety.
- Improve communication: ChatGPT can give your clients important information via frequently asked questions or progress reports. This can help you keep them in the loop and help to improve client satisfaction, increasing the potential for repeat work or referrals.
Prompt Engineering—and Why It's Important
Now that you know some of the different ways ChatGPT can support construction businesses, let's touch on the #1 skill you need to get the most out of the platform—prompt engineering.
Prompt engineering is the process of giving ChatGPT the right commands, instructions, or queries to get the response you want—and in order to effectively leverage ChatGPT in your business, you need to know how it works.
Unlike search engines—which give you results based on whatever keywords you use at the start of your search—ChatGPT gives real-time answers based on the context of your initial input. In other words, it's a lot like speaking to a human (and that's the point!). This means that the more concise, detailed, and specific your prompt, the better the response ChatGPT will generate.
For example, a general search-like query of "construction site safety" generates a generalized response, while "how to maintain proper construction site safety when working on a commercial site near live wires and gas lines" gives you a detailed blueprint for those specific risks.
How To Use ChatGPT in Construction to Make Your Job Easier
Now that you know how ChatGPT benefits the construction industry—and how to leverage prompts to get the best responses—how can you actually use the tool to make your job easier?
ChatGPT can speed up and improve the accuracy of project management, including reporting, estimating and budgeting, and performance monitoring. By inputting information from a project checklist into the tool, ChatGPT can help:
- Identify all the parties and stakeholders involved in the construction project.
- Outline responsibilities, tasks, and assignments for each involved party.
- Plan estimates and budgets.
- Allocate resources to reduce waste and costs.
- Create schedules (including overall project schedules and work schedules).
- Conduct risk assessments.
And the result? Improved efficiency, less room for error, and less time spent on work that doesn't directly generate revenue.
I am a construction contractor overseeing a team of 12 subcontractors. My company is responsible for building a storefront for a local restaurant owned by J. Doe and C. Smith, with a deadline of 1/30/24. Create a project plan that defines deliverables, outlines tasks, identifies suppliers, allocates resources, plans a budget, and creates a schedule.
Project Plan: Storefront Construction for J. Doe and C. Smith's Restaurant
- Project Name: Storefront Construction
- Project Duration: [Start Date] to 1/30/24
- Project Manager: [Your Name]
- Project Owner: J. Doe and C. Smith
- Project Objective: Construct a storefront for the local restaurant owned by J. Doe and C. Smith.
- Completed storefront meeting client specifications and local building codes.
- Handover of all relevant documentation and permits.
- Final inspection and sign-off from relevant authorities.
Project Tasks and Subtasks:
- Pre-construction Phase: Research local building codes and requirements.
- Submit permit applications.
- Follow up and obtain necessary approvals.
- Clear the site of any debris or obstacles.
- Set up temporary fencing and safety signage.
- Review the architectural plans and engineering drawings.
- Collaborate with J. Doe and C. Smith for final approval.
- Excavate and pour the foundation.
- Install necessary structural supports.
- Frame and erect the storefront structure.
- Install windows, doors, and exterior finishes.
- Paint or apply desired exterior treatments.
- Install electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems.
- Construct walls, ceilings, and flooring.
- Install lighting fixtures and outlets.
- Apply interior finishes, such as paint or wallpaper.
- Install fixtures, including cabinets, countertops, and seating.
- Complete final touches and quality checks.
- Coordinate inspections with relevant authorities.
- Address any necessary modifications or corrections.
- Compile all relevant project documentation.
- Hand over keys and necessary information to J. Doe and C. Smith.
Suppliers and Materials:
- Building materials supplier: [Supplier Name and Contact]
- Electrical supplier: [Supplier Name and Contact]
- Plumbing supplier: [Supplier Name and Contact]
- HVAC supplier: [Supplier Name and Contact]
- Fixture and equipment supplier: [Supplier Name and Contact]
- Construction Contractor: [Your Company] and team of 12 subcontractors.
- Project Manager: [Your Name]
- On-site Supervisor: [Supervisor's Name]
- Skilled workers for specific tasks, such as plumbing, electrical, etc.
- Total Estimated Budget: [Specify the budget allocated for the project]
- Breakdown of Costs: [Provide a detailed breakdown of costs for each task and material]
- Develop a project schedule with key milestones and deadlines.
- Allocate sufficient time for each task and consider dependencies.
- Regularly review and update the schedule to track progress.
Note: This project plan serves as a starting point and should be customized based on the specific requirements of the project and your company's processes. Regular communication with J. Doe and C. Smith is essential for successful execution.
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95.5% of all data in the engineering and construction industries goes unused. To put even a portion of your dataset to use, you would have to invest in hiring analysts and data scientists, eating into your bottom line.
But that was before ChatGPT came on the scene. ChatGPT can quickly analyze large quantities of data and identify patterns and trends, helping you make better decisions or giving you deeper insight into a project.
This analysis can also alert you to possible issues, like budget overruns or material shortages, avoiding delays and maintaining (or improving!) efficiency.
So how, exactly, can you use GPT for data analysis? By feeding the AI tool with historical data and other information to create context and give it a basis to build upon.
For example, you can input data about past worksite accidents and injuries. From there, you can ask the tool to calculate how likely certain workplace injuries are for a similar job site. This can help you take steps to improve job site safety (like avoiding certain materials or requiring extra PPE) or plan for the possibility of additional expenses (like increased insurance premiums or the cost of replacing an injured worker).
Education, Training, and Research
ChatGPT can be an effective training tool, helping to cut down on training costs and time and serving as a handy reference guide for your employees in the field.
Because ChatGPT is built on a huge database of information, you can use prompt engineering to ask specific construction-related questions. And by custom-tailoring your prompts, ChatGPT can present this information in a simple, easy-to-read guide that's a lot like supplemental study material. For example, you and/or your employees can input a query about a specific building technique, prompting ChatGPT to respond with an answer.
From there, you can ask for comparisons to other building techniques or even examples of famous buildings constructed using those techniques.
And because this AI technology is built on mimicking human-like conversations, you can continue to ask it for additional information, like the definitions of unfamiliar construction terms or examples of concepts it's touched upon.
This provides a simpler and easier way of narrowing down the industry-specific information you're after, especially compared to a typical online search (using a search engine).
I am a construction contractor. What are the best materials to use to build a home in California that can best withstand heat, humidity, rain, and earthquakes, and help mitigate wildfires?
Building a home in California that can withstand heat, humidity, rain, earthquakes, and mitigate against wildfires requires careful consideration of materials. Here are some of the best materials and construction techniques you can utilize:
- Foundation: Use reinforced concrete foundations with proper footing and anchoring to ensure stability during earthquakes. Consider deep foundation systems like driven piles or caissons in areas with high seismic activity.
- Framing: Opt for steel or engineered wood frames instead of traditional wood frames. Both materials provide better resistance to earthquakes and are less susceptible to termite damage.
- Exterior walls: Choose fire-resistant materials such as stucco, fiber cement siding, or brick veneer for the exterior walls. These materials have excellent fire resistance and can help mitigate wildfires.
- Roofing: Select Class A fire-rated roofing materials like concrete tiles, metal roofing, or fire-resistant asphalt shingles. Avoid flammable materials like wood shakes or shingles.
- Windows: Install dual-pane or tempered glass windows with metal or vinyl frames. These windows are more resistant to thermal stress, provide better insulation, and are less prone to shattering during earthquakes.
- Insulation: Use closed-cell foam insulation or mineral wool insulation in walls and attics. These materials have good fire resistance and provide effective thermal insulation.
- Ventilation: Incorporate a well-designed ventilation system that provides adequate airflow while minimizing the risk of ember intrusion during wildfires. Install ember-resistant vents and use screens to prevent ember entry.
- Landscaping: Plan landscaping with fire-resistant plants and create defensible space around the property by keeping vegetation clear of the house. Consult with local fire authorities for recommended native plants and clearance distances.
- Water management: Implement proper drainage systems to handle heavy rain and prevent water accumulation around the foundation. Ensure the home has an efficient rainwater management system, including gutters, downspouts, and grading.
- Electrical systems: Install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to minimize the risk of electrical fires. Consider surge protectors and proper wiring to safeguard against power surges and lightning strikes.
It is important to work with experienced architects, engineers, and contractors who are familiar with California's building codes and regulations to ensure compliance and safety. Additionally, consult with local authorities or seek professional advice for specific regional requirements and recommendations.
Improve Jobsite Safety
Producing and following a safety plan is important for protecting your workers and reducing the likelihood of an insurance claim or lawsuit. In 2020 alone, workers in transportation, material moving, construction, and extraction occupations accounted for 47.4% of all fatal workplace injuries. And sometimes, general safety regulations aren't specific enough to warn your team members about the risks and dangers they might face on a job site.
One tool that can help? ChatGPT.
By inputting data about your particular work, clients, accident history, and risks, you can generate unique safety procedures and protocols to protect your workforce from the dangers and risks they're most likely to face. This can make it easier and more convenient for your workforce to follow proper safety measures—and understand the implications of ignoring them.
I am a construction contractor overseeing a team of 12 subcontractors. Over the last year, we had 12 job site injuries. Ten were minor (a combination of slips, falls, chemical exposure, and one case of frostbite), and two were severe (a welding accident and an electrocution). Create a safety plan for a commercial job site where similar risks will be present to protect the subcontractors. Use a conversational but serious tone.
Sure, I'd be happy to help you create a safety plan for your commercial job site to protect your subcontractors from potential risks. Safety should always be a top priority on any construction site, and it's important to address the specific hazards that your team may encounter. Here's a safety plan that you can implement:
- Conduct a thorough site assessment: Before starting any construction project, assess the site for potential hazards. Identify areas that may pose risks, such as uneven surfaces, slippery conditions, or exposed electrical wiring. Regularly update and communicate this assessment to all subcontractors.
- Develop comprehensive safety policies: Establish clear safety policies and procedures for all workers. These policies should cover topics such as personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, work area cleanliness, and safe work practices. Ensure that all subcontractors are aware of and trained on these policies.
- Provide adequate training: Offer comprehensive training programs to your subcontractors, covering topics like hazard identification, proper equipment usage, and emergency response procedures. Include specific training sessions for tasks with higher risks, such as welding or electrical work. Regularly reinforce safety training to keep it fresh in workers' minds.
- Promote a safety culture: Encourage a strong safety culture among your subcontractors. Foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable reporting hazards or near-miss incidents. Promote open communication and address safety concerns promptly. Recognize and reward individuals or teams that prioritize safety.
- Supply appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE): Identify the necessary PPE for each task and ensure that all subcontractors have access to the required equipment. This may include hard hats, safety goggles, ear protection, high-visibility vests, gloves, and steel-toed boots. Regularly inspect and maintain the PPE to ensure its effectiveness.
- Implement a hazard communication program: Establish a system for communicating potential hazards on the job site. Use clear signage, labels, and color coding to indicate hazardous areas or substances. Provide safety data sheets (SDS) for chemicals used on-site and ensure all subcontractors are familiar with their contents and proper handling procedures.
- Maintain a clean and organized site: Keep the job site clean and well-organized to minimize hazards. Implement regular housekeeping practices, including the removal of debris, tools, and equipment from walkways. Ensure proper storage of hazardous materials and provide designated waste disposal areas.
- Regularly inspect equipment: Conduct routine inspections of tools and equipment to identify any potential safety issues. Develop a maintenance schedule and ensure that all equipment is properly maintained, repaired, and tested. Encourage subcontractors to report any malfunctioning equipment immediately.
- Establish emergency response protocols: Create an emergency response plan specific to your job site. Clearly communicate evacuation routes, assembly points, and emergency contact information. Conduct regular drills to familiarize subcontractors with the procedures and ensure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.
- Ongoing monitoring and improvement: Continuously monitor the effectiveness of your safety plan and identify areas for improvement. Encourage subcontractors to provide feedback on safety procedures and suggestions for enhancing the work environment. Regularly review incident reports to analyze trends and implement preventive measures.
Things To Be Aware of When Using ChatGPT in Construction
Though ChatGPT and construction can make for a powerful mix that benefits your business and its clients, there are certain things you'll want to keep in mind to ensure you're using the platform effectively (and safely!). Best practices include:
- Fact check: Unless you have a ChatGPT Plus subscription and a relevant plugin, ChatGPT is limited to 2021 data—which means responses aren't guaranteed to be accurate. In other words, you shouldn't rely on ChatGPT for information about recent laws and regulations, rules, safety protocols, and other time-sensitive data. Additionally, because the tool is still in beta (which means development is ongoing), practice common sense before acting on any of its advice—and fact-check any claims or data points it includes before you rely on them and/or present them to clients.
- Provide context and data: ChatGPT can be a powerful assistant if it's provided with context. Include relevant data that the algorithm can use to generate a more effective response based on your unique situation. For example, include details about your specific construction sector, the location of the job site, and preferred materials.
Use ChatGPT to Make Your Construction Business More Efficient (and Easier to Manage)
ChatGPT is a powerful and effective AI and optimization tool that can support your business as it grows and evolves.
By making use of ChatGPT, you can cut down the time you spend on management and planning to cut costs, reduce turnaround, and provide high-quality work that leads to increased client satisfaction and revenue.