June 8, 2023
Forget multi-billion dollar megaprojects. This random building in Antwerp, Belgium is the talk of the town. (Source: Impact)
Anytime a construction meme makes a big enough splash, we're all over it. If you were on LinkedIn or Twitter anytime in the last week, chances are you couldn't escape this image:
ChatGPT is only as good as it's prompt-asker
In the old days (ie., a week ago) an ad on a building or billboard only reached the eyeballs that decided to take a break from the road to gaze up at it. This ChatGPT burn is iconic marketing, proven by the fact that it reached peak social media virality and ignited thoughtful discussions on AI job displacement that will long outlive its demise (the ad is due to be taken down tomorrow).
We talk about AI all the time in The SLAB, mostly because it's always in the news and has saturated our daily lives (can you believe ChatGPT has only been around since December?)
We usually write in a mock-fearful inflection; fearful it takes our jobs, fearful it replaces the need for human ingenuity, fearful it ends humanity as we know it. Just last week, we featured a story where AI experts, including the CEO of ChatGPT's parent company OpenAI, warn that AI's unchecked development will lead to the extinction of humans someday. Dramatic!
All we can really do is laugh off stories like this because... what else can we do? We could make a big stink that the sun will become a red giant in 6 billion years that absorbs the earth. But it's such a ways off that we might as well mock the sun in its weak, relatively less disastrous form now.
The ChatGPT ad was created by Belgian ad agency Impact, who said: “AI can do a lot. But AI can’t finish this building on the Keyserlei in Antwerp. AI can't fix a leak or install a heating system neither. Crafts(wo)men are here to stay, and they deserve to be recognized. Their skills are simply irreplaceable.”
Asking ChatGPT to finish construction on a building—in spite of ChatGPT being a generative-language AI model that's best suited for giving high school sophomores rough drafts of their 1984 essays to work from—is comical because of how wildly inappropriate a task it is.
No, luckily ChatGPT still needs an extremely detailed and fine-tuned prompt even to do that rough draft of the 1984 essay. For now, we can mock AI's shortcomings and flip off the sun in its pre-red giant form—taking solace in the fact that both issues are another day's problems.
RentCafe put out a study revealing that build-to-rent (BTR, if you can fit one more acronym into your hippocampus) homes are on the up-and-up. These rent-only abodes hit a high in 2022 at 14,500 houses, with 44,700 more currently underway. With BFR homes gaining traction in major metropolitan areas, developers and investors are tapping in—and who can blame them? They’re up 47% from 2021, and over double the highest yearly construction rate pre-pandemic per the same study.
On the developers’ side, interest rate hikes would, at first glance, make you cringe at the idea of BTR homes. But investors are seeing a certain level of safety in build-to-rent properties, so it’s likely to continue its momentum. Especially in Phoenix, Dallas, and Detroit:
Phoenix’s build-to-rent inventory is the one to beat at 8,239, tripling its 2018 numbers
Dallas is a close #2 with 2,800 single-family rentals completed in 2022, and 7,800 total
Detroit gets the bronze, clocking in at 2,200 additional BFRs in 2022 for a total of 4,600 to date
🔨 Here's the Thing
Even Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are getting in on the real estate action. There's a build-to-rent home popularity boom, and developers are hopping on the bandwagon in droves—a 47% increase in the past two years isn't a passing fad. No need for a crystal ball here. Blame the pandemic if you must. Nowadays, remote workers crave more space, privacy, and room for activities.
Build-to-rent homes are on the rise in seemingly direct response to a stifled multifamily sector. Multifamily's rebound, already hampered by inflation, is indefinitely delayed by the recent banking failures that make them harder to get off the ground. When buying homes is off the table (if you're in Los Angeles, you have to have been in at least three Mission: Impossible movies to own a home), renting homes in relatively affordable places like Phoenix and Dallas for the same price as what you'd pay to rent an apartment in LA or NYC is a trade worth accepting. At least, that's what developers are betting on.
Construction Dive shared some insights into the aforementioned “Robots taking our jobs” dilemma alluded to re: ChatGPT finishing buildings. Workers across essentially all industries have had this lingering fear. However in construction, safety-focused robotics can actually create new jobs, especially in the engineering, maintenance, and programming industries. On the construction side, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) could support hazardous projects that pose confined spaces or otherwise dangerous conditions.
So, robots can save lives—and limbs. Which is vital in an industry that has had a stagnant fatality rate for decades. Here’s a quote from Katherine Mendoza, senior director of workplace programs at the National Safety Council:
“Recent advancements in data science and artificial intelligence mean that robotic vehicles and arms aren’t just capable of augmenting complex, precise tasks alongside human workers, but in many instances, can eliminate their [employees’] exposure to dangerous machinery and workplace hazards.”
Equipment World: How one company is using Spot the robot construction dog (blog)
Procore: Why a pile of point solutions is no solution at all (blog)
Buildr: How to calculate workforce utilization rate (blog)
ENR: Boosted by all sectors, construction adds 25K jobs in May (news)
ConstructConnect: Construction takeoff: remember these 7 tips before you start your next project (blog)
TopLuxury: Tokyo's impossible super skyscrapers (video)
Behold the future of VR
Applevision: Apple intro'd its $3,499 Vision Pro which could be the future of VR/AR, but at the very least is a massive bring-with-you-anywhere TV that will be perfect for airplanes and embarrassing yourself in front of your family because you chose to wear it at the dinner table for some reason.
Duck Duck Goose: A lesser-publicized though equally important update from Apple this week, your phone autocorrecting to "ducking hell" will finally be gone on the next iOS update, as Apple plans to use AI to understand your usually-not-talking-about-ducks context. Wondering what they will now text each other when there's slim pickings on a given day, duck hunters across the country are up in arms.
Crypt-uh-oh: Another dark day for crypto as the SEC sues the two biggest exchanges, Binance and Coinbase, meaning that one friend of yours that has two Bitcoin in a digital wallet that they lost the password to in 2014 may tell that story less frequently now.
ChatGPT, finish this news story: For all its answers, generative AI aggregates published information, which is why it's now posing a huge threat to news organizations whose content could be Disinformation Central simply because AI isn't great at 'the whole aggregating thing' yet.
King of the hill: This week's "Movie ranking list that better have The Shining on it," is 15 best Stephen King movies, ranked.
Spoiled: 13 foods you should definitely toss after they expire. It can't be good that the jar of avocado mayo in our fridge was purchased during the "toilet paper shortage"-era of Covid.
LIV Free: In the most shocking merger since the Scranton and Stamford branches of Dunder-Mifflin combined—the PGA Tour, DP Tour and LIV Golf agreed to a merger.
Slab EP: Indie band Wombo is releasing an EP in honor of our little newsletter. We're flattered.
Fishing for compliments: Someone caught a world record 9-foot catfish after almost an hour-long struggle which means the prior fish-holding pic on his Hinge profile can be updated to this one.
Junk in the bunk: Economy class bunk beds on flights are close to being a thing. Yelling "Top bunk!" before you jump up there then asking your bottom bunk-mate every 5 minutes if they're asleep yet is expected to be the "kicking the seat of the person in front of you" of bunk beds on flights, say experts.
Virginia-based Martin Horn is looking for a Senior Preconstruction Manager/Estimator in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. If you or someone you know might be interested, here's the link to apply.
Florida-based WPC is looking for an Estimator in the Orlando, FL area. If you or someone you know might be interested, here's the link to apply.
Utah-based Mint Construction is looking for a Senior Estimator in the Salt Lake City area. If you or someone you know might be interested, here's the link to apply.
Catch wind of an open pre-construction role? Fill out our job post submission form for a chance for the posting to be featured in a future edition of The SLAB.
Adios, The SLAB
PS: Check out Marques Brownlee's first impressions of Apple Vision Pro (video). When it comes to evaluating tech, ducking hell, do we trust Marques Brownlee.
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