Survey finds ‘inertia’ of construction bosses and caution over committing investment is preventing uptake

A “lack of vision” from construction bosses is holding back wider adoption of emerging digital tools such as AI, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has said.

The benefits that new tech can offer firms are being squandered by a culture of being too comfortable with the status quo, the RICS’ first annual survey into the use of data and disruptive technologies in the global built environment has found.

The report said that while there has been an uptick in adoption since the pandemic, firms are still reluctant to commit investment to new tech amid ongoing economic uncertainty.

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New tech could be adopted more quickly, the RICS report said

Words such as “inertia”, “fear” and “culture” appeared repeatedly in the survey when respondents, which included professionals working across a range of construction sectors, were asked why their firms had not adopted new tools faster.

“As experience has taught so many other sectors, the process of adopting and implementing new technology is as much about people and behaviour change as it is about the technology itself,” the report said.

“Whether or not the property sector is more conservative in nature than other sectors, it is people who will drive change and people who will, for many reasons, be resistant to it. 

“Leadership will be key in recognising the opportunities, and risks, of digitalisation, and in driving sustainable adoption of technologies that provide real value.”

Digital tools which are set to become more prevalent this year include AI, which can be used to model complex construction schedules and automated valuation models.

Other uses for AI include processing large datasets which humans would find difficult or time consuming to interpret into information that can help decision making and modelling.

While the report admitted many people are “understandably concerned” about the potential of AI to take human job roles, it said it is becoming clear that the tech allows analysis that humans are not capable of. 

“It complements the skills that people bring, and represents an opportunity to automate repetitive tasks that are already allowing people to focus on higher-value activities,” RICS said.