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Guidelines for applied machine learning in construction industry—A case of profit margins estimation

Bilal, Muhammad; Oyedele, Lukumon


Muhammad Bilal
Associate Professor - Big Data Application


© 2019 Elsevier Ltd The progress in the field of Machine Learning (ML) has enabled the automation of tasks that were considered impossible to program until recently. These advancements today have incited firms to seek intelligent solutions as part of their enterprise software stack. Even governments across the globe are motivating firms through policies to tape into ML arena as it promises opportunities for growth, productivity and efficiency. In reflex, many firms embark on ML without knowing what it entails. The outcomes so far are not as expected because the ML, as hyped by tech firms, is not the silver bullet. However, whatever ML offers, firms urge to capitalise it for their competitive advantage. Applying ML to real-life construction industry problems goes beyond just prototyping predictive models. It entails intensive activities which, in addition to training robust ML models, provides a comprehensive framework for answering questions asked by construction folks when intelligent solutions are getting deployed at their premises to substitute or facilitate their decision-making tasks. Existing ML guidelines used in the IT industry are vastly restricted to training ML models. This paper presents guidelines for Applied Machine Learning (AML) in the construction industry from training to operationalising models, which are drawn from our experience of working with construction folks to deliver Construction Simulation Tool (CST). The unique aspect of these guidelines lies not only in providing a novel framework for training models but also answering critical questions related to model confidence, trust, interpretability, bias, feature importance and model extrapolation capabilities. Generally, ML models are presumed black boxes; hence argued that nobody knows what a model learns and how it generates predictions. Even very few ML folks barely know approaches to answer questions asked by the end users. Without explaining the competence of ML, the broader adoption of intelligent solutions in the construction industry cannot be attained. This paper proposed a detailed process for AML to develop intelligent solutions in the construction industry. Most discussions in the study are elaborated in the context of profit margin estimation for new projects.


Bilal, M., & Oyedele, L. (2020). Guidelines for applied machine learning in construction industry—A case of profit margins estimation. Advanced Engineering Informatics, 43, 101013.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 8, 2019
Online Publication Date Dec 2, 2019
Publication Date Jan 1, 2020
Deposit Date Dec 3, 2019
Publicly Available Date Dec 3, 2020
Journal Advanced Engineering Informatics
Print ISSN 1474-0346
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Pages 101013
Keywords Applied machine learning; Profit margin forecasting; Construction simulation tool; Interpretable machine learning; Predictive modelling
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Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Guidelines for applied machine learning in construction industry—A case of profit margins estimation; Journal Title: Advanced Engineering Informatics; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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This is the author’s accepted manuscript. The published version can be found on the publishers website here:

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