Gainesville and UF develop A.I. tool to speed building design

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Florida Construction News staff writer

The City of Gainesville is partnering with the University of Florida to design and develop construction projects using artificial intelligence.

“It’s a technological advance that is changing the industry landscape, saving time and money while providing more accurate, comprehensive and potentially life-saving reports on upcoming construction projects,” the city said in a statement.

To receive approval for any proposed development, developers must follow local ordinances specific to each municipality.

“Understandably, this can complicate design plans,” the city announcement stated. “It’s necessary to know the rules, pay attention to the details, and conduct a substantial amount of research before a project meets the standards of any given community.”

Currently, plan reviewers in municipal offices are responsible for reviewing submitted plans, checking to confirm compliance with local codes, ordinances and state regulations. Larger projects can move quite slowly.

“I think in any industry that you’re in, you have to look for innovation and you have to be able to capture the resources around you,” said John Freeland, City of Gainesville Building Official. “And in our community, we’re so fortunate to have the University of Florida here in our town.”

In 2017, Gainesville adopted digital permitting system and was looking for ways to increase efficiency in the building permit and review process. This led to sponsoring a research grant at UF that was aimed at finding ways to use AI to improve the plan review process. The building department worked with the UF team consistently for three years regarding code compliance methodology, and the work was then expanded into planning reviews.

Through this partnership with the City of Gainesville, Dr. Nawari Nawari of UF’s College of Design, Construction and Planning, along with co-founder Rob Christy, established a software development company called AutoReview.ai to “perform rapid, uniform, comprehensive, and consistent code reviews using a combination of the real and virtual worlds”. Once a file is uploaded to the web portal, the code compliance review software will deliver its municipal compliance results within 24-48 hours.

“Advances in technology and AI in the built and natural environment continue to evolve,” said Seth Watts, Director of Advancement, College of Design, Construction and Planning at the University of Florida. “The ability for companies like AutoReview.ai to be an industry leader in advancing our industry and profession is exciting for the future.”

Gainesville’s planning staff guided the software developers in supporting the needs of the reviewers while recognizing code compliance.

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