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

Published on October 30, 2023


The City of Gainesville is partnering with the University of Florida to expedite the design and development of construction projects through the use of artificial intelligence (AI). 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.

To receive approval for any proposed development, developers have to follow local ordinances that are specific to each municipality. Understandably, this can complicate design plans. 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, the job of reviewing all of those submitted plans is the work of plan reviewers in municipal offices. They do the job of checking to confirm plans comply with local codes, ordinances and state regulations. This review process takes time. Larger projects can move quite slowly.

Back in 2017, Gainesville had a newly 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.

“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.”

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’s technologies 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 & Planning at the University of Florida. “The ability for companies like to be an industry leader in advancing our industry and profession is exciting for the future.”

Gainesville’s planning staff played an integral role in the development of the software, guiding the software developers in supporting the needs of the reviewers while recognizing code compliance.

Now, AI review processes are being adopted by other municipalities across the country, and Gainesville’s planners are proud of their contributions to this new, exciting technology.

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