Too much hyperbole about the potential negatives of artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on operations is one of the most significant factors slowing its adoption among mid- and small-size construction firms, Craig Hurst, Director of Client Success at the Net Effect and Chairperson of the Canadian Construction Association tells Construction AI.

Negatives like potential job loss have been "over-hyped," Hurst says. Acknowledging that AI has potential drawbacks, such as issues with (unique) data integrity and intellectual property protection, Hurst believes the pros far outweigh the cons. "We have to mitigate the risks," he notes while stressing that the positive implications of AI are massive and well worth the effort.

Another factor slowing AI says more about the construction industry broadly than it does about AI specifically, Hurst says. "The construction industry has been slow to adopt any new technology generally," he notes. "There is an additional fear factor" regarding AI, he adds. "Some of the concerns are legitimate, but some are hyperbole, and it's made smaller companies afraid of adopting AI too quickly," Hurst says.

Hurst is optimistic about the future of AI adoption, foreseeing a 'substantial increase' in use in the coming years. He believes that as the benefits of AI become clear and fears are alleviated, smaller and mid-sized firms will be able to enhance their capacity, efficiency, and profitability.

Speaking of the workforce, Hurst also believes fears that AI will replace humans and cut jobs are generally misplaced. While AI will be able to handle more mundane and data-driven tasks done now by humans, it will free up firms to "do more with what they already have in terms of personnel.   
“AI isn't about cutting jobs or quality," he stressed. Neither is it about "doing things cheaper," Hurst says. Instead, he says that properly applied AI will help firms address the "significant" labor shortage bedeviling the industry while raising the bar on overall project quality.

The construction industry is beginning to find ways to use AI in their work, but the industry is still “a little bit scared of it,” he says.

“AI has left the barn, and we are all in the saddle,” Hurst says. “We have to decide how we will control the horse. Adoption will be successful with [a measured] crawl, walk, run approach,” he adds.