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Episode 085: The Strategy and the Now of AI in AEC

Today’s episode of the AEC Leadership Today podcast features Mehdi Nourbakhsh, Ph.D., author, speaker, and CEO of YegaTech – a technology consulting company in the AEC industry. Our topic is A.I. – artificial intelligence – and how it can be leveraged to solve increasingly complex problems, improve efficiency, and position us for both the future and the now. 

The Strategy and the Now of AI in AEC 

AEC professionals are under increasing pressure to solve increasingly complex problems, improve efficiency, lower costs, reduce waste, and produce faster while still turning a profit. 

Artificial intelligence is an incredible opportunity for AEC organizations to both lead and manage this seemingly impossible feat – yet “A.I.” is still one of the most under-utilized emerging technologies in the industry. 

A.I. can be an intimidating topic for many of us, especially with the many misconceptions surrounding the topic both in the AEC industry and society in general. 

As technology progresses at an ever-increasing rate, however, it’s crucial for us as leaders to be curious about A.I. and start learning how we can implement it to improve the efficiency of their business now and in the future. 

If action is not taken now, we run the risk being left behind as other companies begin to use A.I. to solve their challenges and position themselves to provide higher quality, lower cost, and faster results for their clients… while also attracting high-achieving talent. 

A.I. can’t solve every problem we face – but it’s collaboration with essential human thought and creativity can truly set us apart while also advancing our industry as a whole. 

 Our guest is Dr. Mehdi Nourbakhsh, CEO of YegaTech, and author of Augment It: How Architecture, Engineering and Construction Leaders Leverage Data and Artificial Intelligence to Build a Sustainable Future. Mehdi is devoted to helping our industry and organizations grow through the use of A.I. and technology. He joins us today to discuss the fears and misconceptions surrounding A.I. and the importance of leaders beginning to learn how this technology can be used to address challenges and create a sustainable and successful future. 

A.I. is already being used in more ways than many of us realize, including in social media, streaming services, search engines and more. Now is not the time to sit back and let other leaders discover innovation, and Mehdi demonstrates examples of businesses that have failed to invest in new technology leading to an eventual shut down as a result. 

As A.I. learning takes time, it is critical that we do not put off learning about A.I., and start evaluating the challenges we face, then discovering how A.I. could be used to solve them. 

“If you could invest a quarter million dollars in building a solution that gives you $4 million or $3 million of returns in just one year, that’s a huge win. In the end, it’s all about augmenting your capabilities and having a return on investment that makes you different in the market.”

— Mehdi Nourbakhsh, Ph.D

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Mehdi’s background in AEC and his discovery of A.I. applications for industry leaders.
  • What A.I. really is, including misconceptions surrounding A.I. in AEC and society as a whole.
  • How A.I. can address some of the AEC industry’s major challenges, including a heightened demand for buildings and infrastructure, a lack of skilled labor, material and resource shortages, and natural disasters. 
  • The importance for AEC executives to be curious about A.I. and to begin learning and implementing it sooner rather than later in order to stay ahead of the competition.
  • The necessity for AEC organizations to invest in areas of A.I. that can provide market differentiation.
  • How A.I. can work in tandem with businesses based on their needs, whether it be using partial or complete automation.
  • Examples of current ways A.I. is already being utilized in everyday life that aren’t commonly recognized.
  • How to evaluate your business to find inefficiencies and areas for improvement where investment in A.I. can provide critical benefits in the future.
  • The timeframe in which a business can augment new A.I. solutions.
  • The limitations of A.I. systems and what it really can and cannot do for AEC businesses.
  • The difference between “wicked” and “tame” problems that businesses face and the need for human vs. A.I. solutions in these situations.
  • How A.I. factors into social media and our unconscious biases, including how to mitigate biases built into A.I..
  • The importance of having a diverse team with different backgrounds to limit bias.
  • How A.I. technology gets better and better over time at creating solutions and can be leveraged to bring more value to the industry.
  • The importance of AEC industry leaders and A.I. leaders to work together to help the industry move forward. 

“There are a lot of people coming from the A.I. background, but they don’t know much about the industry. And we have many, many people in the industry who don’t know about A.I., and every day we need to get closer. People inside the industry need to learn the language of A.I. and people from outside the industry can learn our problems; if we can make that happen, it’s a win-win for everyone.”

— Mehdi Nourbakhsh, Ph.D

Mehdi’s insights into the use of A.I. in the AEC industry are both practical and strategic and provide a unique perspective that clears up the confusion surrounding A.I. technology, allowing us to innovate and set ourselves up for success in the future. I am grateful he took the time to join us on the podcast, and I hope his knowledge and expertise on this new and fast-evolving topic encourages you to seek education about A.I. technology and consider the ways it can solve challenges for your business – while providing you with a competitive edge for years to come. 

About Mehdi Nourbakhsh, Ph.D

Mehdi Nourbakhsh, Ph.D, is an author, speaker, and CEO of YegaTech, a prominent technology consulting company in the AEC industry. He finds novel solutions for demanding problems, helping business executives use A.I. technology and innovation to improve their organizations. 

With a decade of experience in the research and development of innovative A.I. solutions in the AEC and manufacturing industry, Mehdi brings a unique perspective to this space. He has led and advised on several A.I. solutions that are used by tens of thousands of AEC and manufacturing professionals every day, has filed six U.S. patents on the use of artificial intelligence in the AEC and manufacturing industries, and served as a member of the technical advisory committee of the Center of Integrated Facility Engineering at Stanford University. 

A graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology with a PhD in building construction and a master’s degree in computer science, Mehdi has also given regular leadership talks, run workshops, teaches A.I. courses, and mentors start-ups.

In his new book written for AEC innovators and executives, Augment It: How Architecture, Engineering and Construction Leaders Leverage Data and Artificial Intelligence to Build a Sustainable Future (April 28, 2022; Grammar Factory), Mehdi aims to address the three “P” challenges faced by today’s AEC leaders: Pressure, Productivity and Profit. Including case studies of how A.I. is being used in AEC businesses today, Augment It explains how AEC executives can invent, innovate, and augment their capabilities using A.I.. 

Mehdi is devoted to helping AEC leaders use A.I. solutions to become industry innovators and create a sustainable and profitable future for their organizations. 

Listen here to this powerful excerpt

Thanks for listening to the AEC Leadership Today Podcast!

I sincerely hope you enjoyed today’s episode. Be sure to visit Mehdi’s website and resource links below. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share the podcast with your friends, colleagues, partners, and peers. Look forward to seeing you in the next episode! 

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About the Host

Peter C. Atherton, P.E. is an AEC industry insider having spent more than 20 years as a successful professional civil engineer, principal, major owner, and member of the board of directors for high-achieving firms.  Pete is now the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, and the creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process. Pete works with AEC firms and leaders to grow and advance their success through modern and new era focused strategic planning and implementation, executive coaching, leadership and management development, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design.

Trace the steps to preventing and reversing burnout in you and your team.

Trace the steps to preventing and reversing burnout in you and your team.

Episode 085: The Strategy and the Now of AI in AEC