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AI Is Interesting

The arrival of new systems seems, at first, to scare everyone. Take artificial intelligence.


Recently, I tried the AI image generation tool DALL-E 2, asking it to create images of construction workers. I also tried ChatGPT, the generative AI tool everyone’s talking about. Both systems are provided by OpenAI.


I was dazzled, amused and mostly impressed. Could generative AI, using its built-in image recognition and classification capabilities, recognize unsafe worker behavior on your job sites and then propose ways to better train crews? Could chatbots like ChatGPT write guide specifications for metal framing? Could they generate installation instructions?


Using DALL-E 2, I typed in the prompt, “A doghouse framed with cold-formed steel.” Lo and behold, I got a pentagon-shaped doghouse with a steel-framed floor. What fun!


Next, I tried, “An Impressionist painting of construction workers stretching.” That’s what I got. Renoir would be proud—sort of.


Finally, I tried: “A construction working using a screw gun to hang drywall while standing on a boom lift.” The result? A worker with an oddly shaped head—not on a lift—hanging narrow strips of drywall. Not so good, that one.


Generative AI works by “spidering images from across the internet, absorbing the visual culture contained within them by scanning their captions,” says Paul Ford in a Wired article. Sometimes you get a pleasing result. Other times you get weirdness. They say it depends on your prompts.


My ChatGPT prompt was specific: “Explain how the strength of cold-formed steel stud framing is achieved by using bridging, bracing and blocking to a 12-year-old.” Here’s what I got:


When building walls using cold-formed steel studs, it’s important to make sure the walls are strong and sturdy. This is done by using three things: bridging, bracing and blocking.


Bridging helps to keep the studs from bending or twisting by connecting the studs together. It works like a bridge, spreading the weight of the wall evenly across all the studs.


Bracing provides extra support for the walls. Think of it like a prop that helps keep the wall straight and strong. Bracing is usually attached to the top and bottom of the wall.


Blocking is used to connect two walls together or to keep a wall from moving. It works like a big piece of LEGO®, connecting one wall to another so they are both strong and stable.


Together, bridging, bracing and blocking make sure the walls built with cold-formed steel studs are strong and able to hold up whatever is put on them.


That seems spot on.

The Next Frontier

A 2022 McKinsey survey showed that AI adoption has more than doubled in five years and that investment in AI has seen similar growth. And the technology is loaded with possibilities.


“Generative AI models can produce code, video, audio or business simulations,” says McKinsey in the article, “What Is Generative AI?” It can help senior executives predict market environments “with tremendous precision” and even prescribe courses of action.


Sure, generative AI isn’t perfect. But it has a variety of uses, from “organizations in need of marketing copy” to “technical materials, such as higher-resolution versions of medical images,” McKinsey says.


If chatbots could serve the medical industry, where precision is crucial, why not also wall and ceiling construction?


McKinsey says AI applications could recommend a specific design to engineers and architects. They could propose a structural solution, such as the type of connections—welded or bolted—based on criteria like the timeline to complete construction and the likelihood of mistakes made in the field. “Contractors [will] have more information with which to make an informed decision,” McKinsey says.


Time to get in sync with the coming AI, if you ask me.

Mark L. Johnson writes for the wall and ceiling industry. He can be reached via

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