In the ever-evolving landscape of construction and technology, visionaries emerge who shape the future of their industries. Ayad Chammas, a partner at Nirman Ventures and a resolute advocate for construction technology, stands at the forefront of this dynamic intersection. With a remarkable career spanning over three decades, Ayad has made a significant impact by spearheading large-scale construction projects worldwide.
Throughout his illustrious journey, Ayad Chammas has led and executed projects in a multitude of countries, leaving an indelible mark on the landscapes of UAE, Qatar, Oman, USA, Russia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Singapore, India, and Myanmar. His extensive global expertise has earned him recognition as a seasoned construction technologist and a prominent figure in the realm of digital transformation.
As a technology investor and a digital transformation expert, Ayad is recognized for his exceptional ability to navigate the complexities of large corporations and revolutionize critical processes through digitization. His insightful guidance and role as a director on the boards of several startups worldwide have enabled him to contribute to the growth and success of innovative ventures across diverse markets.
At the heart of Ayad Chammas’ passion lies his unwavering advocacy for Artificial Intelligence in construction. Embracing the potential of AI to revolutionize the industry, he is actively engaged in collaborating with cutting-edge startups in this field, contributing his expertise and insights to drive advancements in construction technology.
In this exclusive interview with The Emirates Times, we sit down with Ayad Chammas to delve into the depths of his journey, his beliefs, and his vision for the future of construction. Through his perspective, we aim to understand the transformative power of technology in construction, and how his leadership has played a crucial role in shaping this paradigm shift.
TET: Good day, Ayad. Thank you for joining us today. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to delve into the fascinating world of AI in the construction industry. To kick things off, what are some of the most promising applications of AI in this field?
Ayad Chammas: Thank you for having me in this interview. It’s my pleasure to be here. Indeed, the applications of AI in construction hold immense promise. Safety, for instance, is a critical area where AI can make a tremendous impact. By monitoring construction sites for potential hazards and even predicting accident-prone zones, AI can play a pivotal role in ensuring worker well-being.
TET: That’s remarkable, indeed. And what about cost savings?
Ayad Chammas: Yes. AI’s potential for optimizing the design and construction of buildings is quite exciting. By identifying the most efficient materials and construction methods for specific projects, we can significantly reduce costs without compromising quality.
TET: Sustainability is a growing concern across industries. How can AI contribute to more sustainable construction practices?
Ayad Chammas: Absolutely. AI can be a game-changer for sustainability in construction. By optimizing energy efficiency, water usage, and waste disposal, we can build eco-friendly structures that positively impact the environment. AI’s predictive models can help estimate a building’s energy needs over its lifespan, further reducing our carbon footprint.
TET: Fascinating! While the potential of AI in construction is vast, we understand there may be challenges. Could you elaborate on some of the hurdles to adopting AI in this industry?
Ayad Chammas: Certainly. Data availability and Data Quality are two key challenges. Though the construction industry is data-rich, much of it is scattered across different systems, making it hard to harness AI effectively. Algorithms require accurate data for training. Collecting large datasets is costly and time-consuming for most construction companies. Additionally, the shortage of skilled workers familiar with AI technologies can be a roadblock, as is the initial cost of implementing AI solutions for small and medium-sized companies.
TET: Overcoming these challenges is crucial for industry-wide progress. For construction companies considering AI adoption, what advice do you have for them?
Ayad Chammas: Start small and focused! Implementing AI across the entire business can be overwhelming. Begin with a pilot project to understand how AI can benefit your specific needs depending on what your main pain points are as a business—whether it’s safety, productivity, or cost savings. Building a team of AI experts is vital to ensure a successful transition. Remember, patience is key; AI solutions take time to develop and refine.
TET: Indeed. Now, let’s look into the long-term implications of AI in construction. What significant transformations do you foresee?
Ayad Chammas: The long-term vision is captivating. AI can revolutionize the entire construction process. Safer construction sites equipped with wearable AI-powered devices, increased productivity through automation, and more sustainable buildings with novel materials and methods—these are just a few examples. It may even create entirely new job roles and businesses specializing in AI for construction.
TET: The potential impact is undeniable! Speaking of which, any striking statistics on the current state of AI adoption in construction?
Ayad Chammas: As per a recent McKinsey report, only 1% of construction companies are using AI at scale currently. However, brace yourselves, as the report predicts rapid growth in AI adoption in the coming years. By 2030, AI could have a staggering $1.3 trillion impact on the global construction industry. Larger construction companies have realized that AI provides an edge in their operation models and is now becoming a business differentiator. Smaller and mid-size companies who are still contemplating AI adoption will most likely have a rude awakening five years down the road.
TET: A trillion-dollar impact is awe-inspiring! Could you share some examples of innovative technologies in the construction sector that have caught your attention?
Ayad Chammas: As a VC in a construction tech-focused fund, I come across some fascinating technologies. One that stands out is the utilization of autonomous construction equipment, such as self-driving trucks and drones for site surveying. These technologies enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and, most importantly, improve worker safety.
TET: Impressive indeed! Now, let’s talk about the workforce. How do you see AI and automation influencing job roles in the construction sector?
Ayad Chammas: An important question, and one that sparks much discussion. AI and automation are more likely to augment human capabilities rather than replace workers. Mundane and repetitive tasks can be automated, empowering workers to focus on higher-level activities that require creativity and critical thinking. Upskilling the workforce will be vital to fully embrace AI’s potential in construction. The construction industry is too fragmented to be taken over entirely by AI, and hence, I don’t have such a concern about it. My concern is in the quality and assimilation of data that is key for this technology to work. Construction companies are now looking at their data in a very organized and integrated manner into the processes of building models and algorithms, which allows for better decision making and innovation.
TET: Absolutely. And what about the projected financial benefits of implementing AI in construction?
Ayad Chammas: According to McKinsey’s study, the adoption of AI in construction could lead to impressive cost savings of up to 20% and productivity improvements of around 50%. But the intrinsic value that AI adds to critical operations involving Safety, Health, and Environment surpasses any monetary value.
TET: Thank you Ayad Chammas once again for your time, and we look forward to witnessing the remarkable transformations AI will bring to the construction landscape.
Ayad Chammas: It’s been my pleasure, and I’m thrilled to have had this engaging conversation. Embracing AI in construction is not just a trend; it’s a path towards a brighter, safer, and more sustainable future.