Drones are becoming increasingly popular in the real estate industry. IMAGE: Unsplash
  • Artificial intelligence is likely underutilised at present.
  • Building and construction to soon see leaps and bounds in drone adoption and benefits.
  • While in its infancy, 3D printing and additive manufacturing likely to create many efficiencies that have broader ranging benefits.

Innovation and new technology is rapidly changing the way we live, work and play.  From brick-laying robots to 3D printing, technology is also changing the way we plan, design and build communities and homes for the future.

While there is a lot happening in the tech world, the technology likely to have the biggest impact across the board is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI is rapidly evolving and transforming every aspect of our lives given its ability to simulate human intelligence and process enormous amounts of data to solve problems and perform a wide range of tasks.

Futurist Stephen Yarwood provided a stark analysis of where AI technology is headed in his keynote address at UDIA WA’s State Conference in June.

“The next era of humanity will arise in the next 30 years,” Mr Yarwood said.

“We are likely to have neural laces, connected with artificial intelligence as voices in our head, fundamentally changing the operating system of our cities.”

While the step change that Mr Yarwood predicts may be difficult to comprehend, there is a range of AI capabilities that are already available and influencing the work of the development industry.

UrbanistAI is a revolutionary company based in Rome that is using AI to create generative designs and ideas to enhance the co-design and planning process.

The AI tool can enhance urban planning and architecture projects by helping to visualise projects during workshops and co-design forums as well as when presenting proposals or collaborating on architectural designs.

While the use of AI is growing rapidly, UrbanistAI Founder Damiano Cerrone says AI implementation requires a change in current ways of thinking and existing processes.

“I am observing a lack of understanding in relation to the change in processes required to use this technology to its full potential,” Mr Cerrone said.

“Currently most uses of AI are around speeding up processes or substituting some elements but they’re not changing the way we work yet, which is a bit of an issue.

“This technology has a transformative opportunity but not everybody wants to put the time and energy into learning something new and changing the way they work.”

Damiano Cerrone, UrbanistAI

Mr Cerrone said that much more than just providing planning and design efficiencies through generative AI, UrbanistAI is helping their partners consider the way they work and how to use AI to understand, change and improve efficiency in the way they work.

“Businesses need to understand how to use the extra time that AI provides,” he said.

“For example, take a traditional design process: let’s say you spend a couple of months making new designs, you take them to a consultation session but get negative feedback, so you take the designs away and come back in three months with new designs, and you keep repeating that process until you get to a finished design.

“That could take six months to a year.

“With AI, the whole process can be condensed into a single workshop because you can co-design the future of the public space directly with citizens or with your customers.

“The most important thing is working out what to do with that extra time – if you have saved six months, you could spend that time improving the quality of your work.”

“However, in the longer term, a better use of that time might be to understand how to use AI more effectively and start training AI to understand your processes and outcomes even more efficiently.”

“Every office needs to build their own genetic AI models because only then will AI be truly beneficial, because it will be able to produce designs that conform to and enhance their own style of working.

“Right now, AI is seen as a bit of a gimmick because it can inspire you, but it cannot design for you yet.”

“But if businesses start training their own models, train the AI in the kind of design features, objects and buildings based on their ideas and style, we will start to see the true benefits of AI in our sector.”

Droning on

Drones are another technology that will continue to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of businesses, including in the property industry.

While this technology has been around for a few years, it is the advances and learnings since the pandemic that has really brought this technology to the forefront.

Steve Kanowski, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics and the National Lead – Transport, says that since 2020 the uptake and advancement of drone technology has been rapid, increasing dramatically from before COVID hit.

“COVID has really sped up the process, particularly in supply chain logistics and other areas such as development and construction, as some businesses look to reduce the amount of human activity involved because, sadly, humans get sick,” Mr Kanowski said.

“We are also seeing drones used more in construction or industrial applications because they can get to sites that are very difficult to reach, whether they’re physically hard to get to, there’s hot temperatures involved, or they are in an unsafe environment.

“We’ve seen examples of drones being used to do inspections of assets, which may have previously taken one or two people a full day or two to complete.  Instead, they send out a drone, get the information back, look at it remotely and determine what needs to be done and plan accordingly from there.

“The cost and time savings really are phenomenal.”

Steve Kanowski, Deloitte Access Economics

Despite the cost savings and the efficiency improvements on offer, Mr Kanowski says the construction industry is lagging behind some other sectors that are using drones much more effectively, however, he is confident the uptake in the construction industry will take off rapidly very soon.

“Agriculture is the sector that is probably leading the way now, we were actually surprised at how fast it moved in agriculture, it quickly advanced from simply observing to administering herbicides to ultimately providing detailed information to allow farmers to use much less herbicides, which brings with it a range of benefits.

“You will see similar advancements in the construction industry as it evolves from the current site inspection phase to eventually being able to analyse the construction site for stability and safety and looking at how you can improve things.

“The evolutionary curve with these technologies is rapid, it doesn’t take long for you to start with something that looks pretty simple and basic but soon people start to see the advantages, and the clever minds start to work out ways it can be advanced and improved.”

3D printing

Another technology making waves in the construction industry is 3D printing construction, also known as additive manufacturing, which has the potential to expedite housing production, enhance affordability, and improve housing quality.

The process involves creating three-dimensional objects by applying concrete, plastic or an eco-friendly solution layer by layer into a chosen design until construction is complete.

3D printing provides several advantages including reduced construction timelines and labour costs, greater flexibility in design and customisation and has good potential for environmentally sustainable practices through the use of eco-friendly materials and reducing material waste.

Given it is still a relatively new construction material it faces various regulatory challenges, questions over its structural integrity, and as with the rest of the construction industry at the moment, it is facing a lack of skilled workers and equipment to implement the technology on a large scale.

Despite these current drawbacks, the potential for 3D printing as a long-term construction method is relatively strong given the potential advantages and environmental sustainability benefits.

As part of their efforts to address the current housing shortage, the Federal government has established programs like the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living and the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, which are designed to encourage collaboration and innovative solutions. In addition, various research institutions and universities across the country are actively contributing to advancing materials, technologies, and construction methods in 3D printing through research and investigations.

While this construction method is unlikely to completely overhaul the current methods for building homes, the continued advancement of alternative options will be good for the industry in the long run as we continue to tackle the housing supply shortage.


This story was originally published in The Urbanist magazine, an official publication of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (WA). It has been edited for republication by The Property Tribune. 

The Property Tribune thanks the UDIA WA for the opportunity to republish the work, and share thought leadership in relation to urban development and community creation with our readers.

Read the original copy of The Urbanist by heading to UDIA WA’s website under the News tab.

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