In our interview with Janne Aas-Jakobsen, Founder and CEO of CONSIGLI AS, we delve into the transformative role of AI in engineering and construction. Janne, a pioneer in integrating AI into traditional industries, discusses how this technology enhances sustainability and efficiency. The conversation also ventures into global expansion strategies and offers vital insights for entrepreneurs. Janne’s unique perspective, born from years of experience in the industry, sheds light on the future of construction technology and the business acumen needed to thrive in this evolving landscape.
With your extensive experience in data-driven engineering, can you share how AI might change the engineering and construction industries, focusing on sustainability and efficiency?
AI in engineering leads to more efficient solutions. For example, in an average project, AI can significantly reduce the materials used in technical systems. In a typical building with 20,000 square meters, we have about 17 kilometers of water pipes, eight kilometers of ventilation ducts, and four kilometers of cable trays. AI’s ability to optimize these systems can reduce material use by 20%, which is significant in an industry that consumes 40% of all materials. This reduction impacts both embodied carbon and the carbon footprint related to the building’s operations. So, a 20% reduction in material use also translates to a considerable decrease in energy consumption.
Could you elaborate on how AI-driven technologies in construction contribute to sustainability goals, especially considering your emphasis on a Sustainable Future Society?
AI plays a critical role in energy usage. Traditional human-designed solutions in engineering tend to be less efficient, often using 20% more energy and materials than necessary. AI can address this complexity, leading to solutions that align with multiple sustainability goals. For example, in the context of schools and hospitals, AI can make otherwise unaffordable projects feasible due to cost reductions. This results in better facilities and has a broader impact on societal well-being.
What are the major challenges in integrating AI within your company and the wider construction sector? How have you addressed these challenges?
The construction industry is traditionally conservative. Three years ago, few people were familiar with AI. But with advancements like large language models, interest in AI grew as people saw its potential for competitive advantage. We’ve demonstrated AI’s practical benefits in real projects, leading to a gradual shift in perception. Initially, there was a phase where everyone wanted AI for any purpose. However, we prioritize real estate development, using AI as a tool to enhance our processes. For instance, we present AI as an autonomous engineer that supports our work.
Considering your background in structural engineering and technology management, how does this diverse expertise influence your leadership in consulting?
My dual master’s degrees in business and mathematical structural engineering, combined with 25 years in real estate, construction, and digitalization, have been invaluable. They have enabled me to leverage my entire skill set and network. I believe that my role at CONSIGLI integrates all my experiences and knowledge, allowing me to contribute effectively.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs aiming to innovate in established industries like construction?
Understanding the business processes in your target industry is crucial. While technical feasibility is important, knowing the practical aspects of the industry, including legal and economic considerations, is key to avoiding obstacles. This knowledge helps navigate efficiently, saving time and resources.
Could you discuss a challenging project where AI significantly reduced risk and cost?
We once re-evaluated a hotel project that was initially shelved due to high costs. By optimizing its design, we made it financially viable, enabling its commencement. Similarly, for a school project, our redesign of technical systems reduced costs significantly, allowing a municipality to afford its construction. This was particularly fulfilling as it positively impacted many children. Additionally, we reduced the plant room size by 270 square meters, leading to substantial long-term savings in operational maintenance. Such projects, including our expansion into skyscraper development in London, bring me immense pride as they contribute meaningfully to our community.
Regarding your vision for globalizing construction and technology, which markets or regions do you see as the next frontier for expansion?
This year, we expanded into the UK, initially to test our methods, which were well-received. We’re now integrating AI into the portfolios of major UK companies. We’re also scaling from our London office towards the U.S., hoping to secure our first American clients soon. Additionally, we’re exploring opportunities in France and the Middle East, and we already have a client in Japan. Our expansion focuses on regions with mature digitalization and AI awareness, like Holland, while avoiding less digitally mature markets like Germany. Our approach uses global ISO standards, facilitating our technical expansion worldwide.
If you were to start your entrepreneurial journey today, which sector would you choose, and how would your approach differ from your past experiences?
I would still choose the real estate and construction sector, where there is an abundance of data yet untapped for value creation. The industry is ripe for AI-driven innovations, and my experience in the sector has been invaluable. If I were to start anew, I would follow the same path, capitalizing on the vast possibilities for developing impactful companies in this data-rich field.
What core value or principle would you instill in every team member within your organization, and how would it transform your company’s culture and performance?
Our most valued principles are intelligence, speed, and a fun work environment. We’ve assembled a highly diverse and global team, comprising 16 nationalities, to foster a culture of innovation and trust. We don’t support remote work; instead, we emphasize collaboration and rapid progress, even if it means making and correcting mistakes along the way. This approach fosters a dynamic, fast-paced environment where intelligent, driven individuals can thrive and contribute to our global vision.
Our most valued principles are intelligence, speed, and a fun work environment. We’ve assembled a highly diverse and global team, comprising 16 nationalities, to foster a culture of innovation and trust.Janne Aas-Jakobsen
We’re nearing the end of our interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I encourage others to seize the current technological advancements to create impactful businesses. The pace of technological development is extraordinary, rendering our first solutions obsolete unless continuously updated. We live in a privileged time for innovation and change, making it an ideal era for starting and growing a business with a global impact.