Lis Christy for Stacey Vaeth Photography
Wanda Lau
Wanda Lau
Wanda Lau
Wanda Lau
Wanda Lau

Can AI help you?

June 13, 2023

I can be slow to take up flash-in-the-pan technologies until they demonstrate a semblance of staying power. But when every recent dinner conversation and team meeting invariably turns to the topic of artificial intelligence, I know the time has come to face the technology that might be the demise of my career.

My concern is not unfounded. A March Goldman Sachs report estimates that AI could automate the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs. Around the same time, researchers at Open AI, the creator of popular large language model ChatGPT, estimated that 80% of the domestic workforce will have at least 10% of their responsibilities affected by LLMs; 19% will have an astonishing 50% of their duties altered.

This issue of Smart Building Technology centers on the role of generative AI and machine learning in three key building disciplines: architecture, construction, and operations. In my first-ever prompt to ChatGPT, I asked, “How can I introduce a magazine feature well on the role of AI in architecture, engineering, smart building design, and operations?”

ChatGPT returned a lengthy and matter-of-fact response. I was impressed and a bit spooked. Then its similarities to a corporate executive or politician spouting high-level sound bites gnawed at me. While AI can expertly synthesize and mash up existing information, it does for now need human creators to steer the ship.

While AI can expertly synthesize and mash up existing information, it does for now need human creators to steer the ship.

As this issue’s contributors discovered in their reporting, smart building professionals generally don’t have to worry about being displaced by AI or ML. Besides the fact that many brilliant minds and investment dollars have attempted to automate the construction process with little to show for it, buildings are innately a human-centric product. They—and their stakeholders—require a lot of handholding to navigate from napkin sketch to shovel-ready to opening day.

Make no mistake. Technology is why smart buildings exist. But at some point, humans need to step in to interpret owner needs, make the call when unknown field conditions arise, and assess firsthand which lighting and HVAC conditions work best in consideration of available daylight, space use, and energy efficiency.

Perhaps humans will ultimately become mere fuel sources for self-aware machines, as The Matrix (1999) teased. But I am optimistic that AI will remain more on the side of augmented intelligence to all of our benefit.

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About the Author

Wanda Lau | Editorial Director

Wanda Lau is the editorial director of Smart Buildings Technology, LEDs Magazine, and Architectural SSL. She is an award-winning editor, writer, and podcaster whose work appears in several publications, including Architectural Lighting and Architect, where she was most recently the executive editor. In 2021, she was named one of Folio: and AdMonsters' Top Women in Media, in the DEI Champions category. Along with working a decade in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, she holds a B.S. in civil engineering from Michigan State University, an S.M. in building technology from MIT, and an M.A. in journalism from Syracuse University.

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