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Applying Artificial Intelligence to Construction

Applying Artificial Intelligence to Construction

By Luke Carothers

Rene Morkos is the founder and CEO of ALICE Technologies, which is the industry’s first AI-powered simulation and optimization platform for construction planning, scheduling, and management.  Born the son of a civil engineer, Rene was raised in the construction business.  And, as an adult, Rene Morkos has worked on projects large and small that span across the globe including places such as: Beirut, Dubai, Afghanistan, and Athens.  No matter where he went, however, the same questions plagued every jobsite on every continent: “How do we build faster?” “What can we do to speed up the job?”  “Why are crews waiting?”

The answer came to Rene when he was researching during his PhD in Construction Management at Stanford; the research revealed that on any given construction site, work was only being completed 3 percent of the time.  Morkos describes this moment as an “epiphany” and made him wonder what he could do to make the construction industry more efficient and more effective.  Stanford’s location at the heart of Silicon Valley gave him inspiration on where to start.

Morkos soon began researching ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) could play a role in addressing the construction industry’s inefficiencies.  The result was an application of AI to construction scheduling and ongoing project management.  Thus, ALICE Technologies was created.

Now, ALICE has evolved into a tool that helps contractors and owners plan, bid, and build more effectively, focusing primarily on the infrastructure segment.  The technology is so effective, in fact, that for a typical $500 million dollar construction project ALICE cuts the project duration by an average of 15 percent and reduced labor costs by an average of $30 million.

ALICE is able to do this because it does what no human can do, generate millions of potential scheduling options within minutes.  It also allows owners and operators to analyze and choose which of these scheduling options works best for them.  This becomes even more prescient when projects are delayed or altered by unforeseen circumstances—global pandemic, delayed shipments, extreme weather, etc.—that have the potential to slow construction and raise both material and labor costs.

ALICE is simple to use as well, requiring only that users upload a 3D model, break down scope, input construction methods and cost information, and add addition constraints.  Within ten minutes of setting the plan, ALICE generates a multitude of valid resource-loaded solutions for building and optimizing resources.  This helps contactors manage risk, selecting the best strategy and schedule for their project.  Knowing that they have covered all major contingencies also helps contractors bid more confidently because they know their proposal is not only constructible but is also optimized to their goals.

For now, ALICE has primarily found a home in larger markets, serving big companies—such as Parsons, HDCC, and Kajima Corporation—that work on big projects.  Morkos also believes there is a ton of room to grow.  He notes that much of the technology within the same sector—Excel, Microsoft Project, and P6—was developed decades ago and are still being used.  He believes that ALICE represents a powerful new alternative to these old methods.  The key now, according to Morkos, is helping the market understand how to put these alternatives to work and make it easier for customers to embrace and use them.

Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.