AI has so much potential in the construction industry. Until now, large construction companies have been slow to adopt new technologies. Part of this is because contractors are bogged down with current projects and unwilling to take the time and risk to try something new.
Aspart of our series about the future of Artificial Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Murphy, Founder & CEO of Togal.AI.
Murphy launched Togal.AI to revolutionize pre-construction with the use of artificial intelligence. He’s also Executive Vice President of Coastal Construction, the largest General Contractor in Florida. In addition, Murphy was one of the first millennials to serve in U.S. Congress, representing Palm Beach and Treasure Coast from 2013 to 2017.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path in AI?
Iactually grew up around construction with my family’s business, Coastal Construction. I started as a day laborer, then project engineer, estimating assistant and accounting manager. After college, I worked at Deloitte but then made a big shift. I ran for U.S. Congress and became one of the first millennials to win a seat.
Once I left office, I had the opportunity to chair the Future Forum Foundation, a nonprofit researching artificial intelligence. This experience brought my mind back to construction. I was determined to revolutionize a mundane job I used to do — estimating in pre-construction. So I recruited an elite team, and after years of testing, Togal.AI was born.
Togal automatically calculates the square footage of areas, performs linear take offs, counts objects, and compares drawings, with online collaboration — compressing weeks of work into seconds.
Before Togal, estimators had to manually measure and label construction plans — literally with
rollers and rulers, or with antiquated software where the user clicks and drags a computer mouse over each area, object and line to quantify and label it.
Now that they don’t have to do that anymore, we are saving time and money. With Togal, Coastal Construction estimators are cutting their workload by 40 percent — saving $800,000 a year and 10,000 hours of work. Our crews now have more time to bid on new business.
And we had an exciting win recently. Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary gave Togal first place in Miami’s eMerge Americas Startup Competition. We are getting ready to launch new features and products and are thrilled to keep our momentum going.
What lessons can others learn from your story?
In every job you have an opportunity to work hard, learn and make things better. Being a critical thinker and innovator is important, and in the end, your hard work and skills will benefit you the most.
My experience in construction as a teenager, time as a CPA, Congressman and nonprofit chair were all key steps to lead me to where I am today. Without these diverse experiences, Togal.AI wouldn’t exist.
Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
We have an exciting project we’re preparing to launch. Recently, we discovered that our Togal algorithms can also be used to scan construction plans to automatically point out building code compliance issues. This will accelerate the approval process for building, so crews can get to work faster. We’re aiming to debut CodeComply.AI early next year.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Since I can remember, my dad has always told me to pursue my dreams. But whatever I do, I better work harder than anyone else and give it my all — whether this meant trying to play college sports, getting my CPA license, running for Congress or starting a new business.
The funniest story is probably when I decided I wanted to run for Congress. While I’m sure my parents were proud of the decision, when I had to tell my dad (republican) I was running as a democrat, he didn’t hesitate for a second to continue his support.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?
Number one: AI has so much potential in the construction industry. Until now, large construction companies have been slow to adopt new technologies. Part of this is because contractors are bogged down with current projects and unwilling to take the time and risk to try something new.
But that brings me to number two: AI benefits, like from Togal.AI, are too good to ignore any longer.
Number three is that more than ever before, builders must incorporate digital solutions to meet the growing demand for new construction and to compress margins. Several factors are accelerating the need for AI, including labor shortages, supply-chain disruptions, inflation and threats of a recession.
Number four is that because of AI we can simply build better jobs. Instead of spending time on mundane tasks, like labeling rooms and walls, estimators can focus on creating ideas to improve designs and we can bid on more new business.
Lastly, and most importantly, AI can improve safety. Togal is more than 99 percent accurate and teams can collaborate in real-time so that plans are updated correctly and mistakes are avoided.
What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?
The five things that concern me are misconceptions, implementation, investment, competition, and lack of innovation. I think that we need to change the perception around AI. We are not “replacing humans” or eliminating jobs, instead we’re making teams more efficient and allowing workers to focus on higher value tasks.
Once we can get past the misconceptions, the biggest challenges are convincing companies to adopt and invest in new technologies. And as more do, the focus will be on standing out in a competitive market and remaining innovative, constantly improving our algorithms and machine learning capabilities.
As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?
For centuries, humans have often been scared and hesitant around progress and new inventions. From modern agriculture (in 1890 50% of society was in agriculture, today it’s under 2%) to the steam engine to ATMs, humans have continued to evolve and find better uses of their time, skills and creativity.
AI will be as disruptive as the industrial revolution — humans will continue to create and be needed in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine today.
The changes will be dramatic and lead to massive disruption, displacement and conflict, but I’m optimistic that humans will not only be needed, but serve in roles more important and impactful than they do today.
If done correctly, AI will increase productivity and grow the global economy thereby lifting more people out of poverty. Despite all the fear over computers taking everyone’s jobs and leaving people unemployed and in poverty, the exact opposite has happened. In 1980, around 50% of the world lived in poverty (lived on under $2 per day), by 1990 that number was down to 35%, and today global poverty is around 12%!
Because of technology (including AI), more people will have access to healthcare, renewable energy and education. This will continue to help reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for millions.
What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?
We need to keep telling the success stories in the media to create awareness about how AI is helping. Journalists like you are playing a key role here.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
I’m helping to develop and promote the use of a product called renco. This is a revolutionary building system that is 98 percent more sustainable than concrete –yet stronger, lighter and more durable.
This will change the world and enable more people to live in better housing — cleaner, safer and greener homes.
While serving in Congress, I had an opportunity to meet a lot of great people with very diverse backgrounds. These relationships will help grow renco and make the world a better place.
As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?
Change starts with us. At Togal.AI, our Chief Operating Officer is a woman. The media recently featured our COO, Karlie LaCroix, during this year’s 24th Annual Women in Construction Week. Telling stories like Karlie’s will only encourage more women to get into the business.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
The harder you work the luckier you get.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
A movement to provide higher quality education for free to more people. Specifically, I would focus on educating the students of today around climate change and giving them the tools to help solve the problem.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Learn more about Togal.ai by visiting the company’s website www.togal.ai.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!