Applications of Artificial Intelligence in the Built World

This is a guest blog by Nick Heim, P.E.

Civil engineers are designers and builders of many things in the built world, including buildings, roads, bridges, dams, ports, and many others.

No matter the asset, whether new or existing, there is a lot of work to be done — and with what seems like never enough resources.

Fortunately, applications of artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming more common and can help engineers more efficiently complete their tasks — while allowing them to focus on what is most interesting and important.

Today, I would like to summarize some of our top episodes from the AECTECH podcast, all of which relate to use of artificial intelligence in the built world.

If you find these brief summaries interesting, check out the full-length episodes!

In this episode, I talk to Dr. Ali Khaloo, Ph.D., the CEO and co-founder of Aren, about what digital twins are and how you can bring digital twins and artificial intelligence to infrastructure asset management.

Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Using Artificial Intelligence and Digital Twins for Industry Asset Management:

  • A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset. The digital twin must reflect what happens to the physical asset, which makes a digital twin a great way to do testing, monitoring, and maintenance simulations. In asset management, the digital model is the reference point of the physical asset to closely monitor how it has changed over time.
  • AI is here to augment processes, not replace engineers. It is here to place engineers in a situation where they have access to all the information needed to perform accurate engineering judgments with less guesstimating. Letting AI take over more and more of the repetitive tasks will free up time for engineers to be more productive. It is all about doing the job faster, getting more things done safely, and making more money for the company.
  • The current state of the built world and the infrastructure is a big issue. We need innovators to step up and help find solutions for this issue, propose them to the asset owners, and show them the benefits they will get from them. It will take a lot of collaboration between tech companies and engineering firms for the solutions to work properly. The best way to move the industry in the right direction is by showing the asset owners how new technologies will benefit them for years to come.
  • Engineers must be more open to technology and educate themselves on the latest and greatest things that are happening in industry. Realize that all the cool technology that is out there in the world that everyone gets excited about can be used in the engineering industry on a daily basis.

In this episode, I talk to Nat MacDonald, P.E., a product manager at TestFit, about his insights on transitioning from design engineering to tech. He discusses the role of software, computational design, and artificial intelligence in assisting engineers and the AEC industry.

Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About How Software, Computational Design, and AI Can Assist the AEC Industry:

  • TestFit is a program that resembles Google Maps and enables users to select an area of land for a feasibility study. The software provides instant results for changes in project parameters and helps determine suitable options for a given project.
  • The solver in TestFit delivers solutions within 20 milliseconds, enabling up to five design corrections per hour. By producing engineering models that nobody else is focused on and continually improving them, TestFit is fostering innovation in the industry.
  • Engineering offers a range of positions beyond drawings, schedules, and calculations. Some roles involve using coding to solve design problems. Software, like a modern calculator or spreadsheet, simplifies design tasks, freeing engineers to focus on critical issues.
  • AI is a tool to help people work more efficiently and effectively, not replace them. No software has ever replaced architects or engineers. Startups focused on improving modularization within building codes hold much promise.

In this episode, I talk with Dan Porcaro, VP of Sales and Partnerships at RoadBotics (now part of Michelin), about the fascinating world of AI road assessment technology. He also talks about the importance of partnerships with civil engineering firms and shares some valuable advice for engineers looking to leverage AI and innovative technologies.

Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Improving Road Safety and Efficiency with AI Road Assessment:

  • Since 2016, the robotics initiative at Carnegie Mellon has developed a user-friendly AI solution that generates pavement condition ratings from smartphone-captured videos, helping communities identify urgent road repairs (rating 5) and excellent road conditions (rating 1).
  • Democratizing data collection through a smartphone-mounted solution and AI analysis maximizes value-added time for engineers without replacing them. Consider leveraging this approach to enhance your capabilities.
  • The approach of using AI for tasks like crack and pothole counting enables engineers to focus on their core expertise. By efficiently covering the entire road network through video collection, it ensures consistency and saves time and money compared to manual sampling.
  • When leveraging AI and innovative technologies for infrastructure work, clarify your goals, explore case studies, and consider the reliability of the organization behind the technology.

About the Author Nick Heim, P.E.


Nick Heim, P.E., is a civil engineer with six years of experience in the repair and restoration of existing structures. Nick is also the host of the AEC Engineering and Technology Podcast (“AECTECH”) and brings valuable insights and expertise to listeners worldwide.

Nick’s interests lie at the intersection between the built world and technology, and he can be found looking for the ever-changing answer to the question, “How can we do this better?” He can be found on LinkedIn, producing content about use of technologies in his Civil Engineering career and small business.

We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about using artificial intelligence in the built world. 

Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.

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To your success,

Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success

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