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ACEC recently hosted the third session in what will be a four-part series on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Business Development & Marketing. This session, entitled “Adopting AI Into Your Firm,” was designed to help participants create a strategy for implementing AI into their firms.

The session was conducted by two leading experts on AI and its uses within engineering firms. The first half of the webinar was led by Mehdi Nourbakhsh of YegaTech, a consultancy specializing in developing AI solutions for AEC firms. Nourbakhsh began his presentation by asking participants what emotions came to mind when thinking about AI. Attendees were able to respond in real-time, forming a comprehensive – and illuminating – word cloud composed of answers like “anxiety,” “awe,” “fear,” “fascination,” and “excitement.” The responses were broad, but one word not mentioned was “indifferent.” Feelings about AI – both positive and less so – are strong.

But, Nourbakhsh stated, “By learning more about AI, you can change the fear and anxiety to excitement.”

He shared one illustrative case study from a firm that successfully leveraged AI into its operations. The firm, a design fabrication and construction company, was noted for its plug-and-play onsite installations but was running into repeated challenges with the length of its bidding process. These delays, Nourbakhsh said, were mainly surrounding the procurement and analysis stages. “There were lots of inefficiencies,” he said. “It took them four to six weeks to bid on projects. The question was how can we reduce those six weeks to six days?”

The answer, it turned out, was AI that leveraged the learning from all previous projects to predict design and specs for future ones. Nourbakhsh was quick to point out that this solution was not a substitute for human learning but, rather, a mechanism to leverage what already is known and provide a platform for arriving at a faster solution. The final product, he stresses, is still that of the engineer. “At the end of the day,” he said, “AI won’t stamp on drawings. You, as the designer, are.”

The second half of the webinar was led by SSOE CEO Vince DiPofi, who began his presentation with a declaration. “AI won’t take your job away, but a competitor using AI will.

To support that assertion, he shared a slide demonstrating that firms that adopt AI now will fare far better than those that wait. Noting that A/E work now is about 65 percent human and 35 percent machine, DiPofi’s slide demonstrated that early adopters of AI don’t lose people but that the window to integrate AI is narrowing.

“You adopt AI now,” he said, “and you’re going to increase your capacity. The number of people [needed] will continue to be the same, but you’ll be able to do more. But if you wait, there will be an impact because others will take that work away. The machine will infringe on what your people can do. The earlier you adopt this, the better off your company will be.”

DiPofi went on to share a process for engineering firms to integrate AI into their operations. He recommended that firms view AI integration as a technology project being implemented across the company – and that it can and should be approached just like any other project: defining objectives, determining a scope, selecting a team, and setting a budget and schedule. DiPofi detailed the process his own company has initiated. “The strategy is to provide a foundation to allow AI to function seamlessly and securely within the organization and the overall AEC ecosystem.”

For more on how to implement AI into your firm, check out this month’s session (and the previous two), which are available here on demand. While you’re there, be sure to register for the fourth and final webinar in the series, A Legal and Ethical Review, which is scheduled for Tuesday, November 14 at noon ET.


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October 31, 2023



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