AI as a Tool for Constructing New Bridges and Buildings

Engineers are currently using artificial intelligence to develop lighter concrete blocks for construction in Pennsylvania where about 13% of the bridges have been declared structurally deficient. Artificial intelligence is also being used to develop a highway wall capable of absorbing noise and greenhouse gas emission from cars.


‘These are structures, with the tools that we have, that save materials, save costs, save everything,’ said Amir Alavi, professor of engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and a team member in the development of the AI projects in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PDT).


Considering that the manufacturing of cement alone makes up over 8% of the world’s carbon emission with over 30 billion tons of concrete used each year, the potential is enormous. AI could be developed with the ability to improve and speed up engineering challenges to an inestimable degree. It could also be more cost-effective and creative in discovering novel approaches.


However, the wide unregulation of the technology and the lack of evidence of its payoffs has discouraged its rapid adoption. Experts worry that AI’s ability to obtain information from the internet could lead to biased data and consequently unreliable results.


The infrastructure challenges in America have grown exponentially in recent years as 42,000 bridges are in increasingly poor condition nationwide.


In the bridge project, AI is used to develop new shapes for concrete blocks that maintain durability with 20% less material. Engineers in Pittsburgh are working with the PTC to develop a noise-absorbing wall that captures the nitrous oxide vehicles emit with the aim of saving 30% of material costs.


According to Dr Alavi, although these projects haven’t been tested in the field, they were successful in the lab. One of the most important advantages of AI in civil engineering is its ability to detect and prevent damage. According to Seyede Fatemeh Ghoreishi, a professor of engineering and computer science at Northeastern University, it could provide a real-time analysis of bridge collapses and help in deploying emergency responses.


Despite its numerous uses and advantages, stakeholders in tech have pushed for regulations from Congress. Just last month, President Joe Biden issued an executive order for some AI standards, including privacy, support, and safety for workers.


‘It really is a great tool, but it really is a tool you should use just for a first draft at this point,’ said Norma Jean Mattei, former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.


She added.’Once it develops, I’m confident that we’ll get to a point where you’re less likely to get issues. We’re not there yet.’


Lola Ben-Alon, assistant professor of architecture technology at Columbia University stressed the need to take time to understand the intricacies of the uses of AI.

‘There’s still a strong and important place for human existence and experience’ in the field of engineering,’ said Dr Ben-Alon.


Dr Alavi, while concerned about the potential risks of AI, is confident regarding the safety of his team’s AI designs.


‘After 10, 12 years, this is going to change our lives,’ he said.



By Marvellous Iwendi

Source: New York Times