01 Mar 2019
Reimagining the Construction Continuum
Analysis of data shows that a whopping 90 per cent of all construction projects run late; 40 per cent of projects go over budget; and in every project, a minimum of 10 per cent of materials are wasted. Visualising the construction process as a continuum is a powerful mechanism for the industry to identify all opportunities to minimise waste and maximise efficiency, leading to profits and, of course, higher customer satisfaction as the project is completed in time and according to promised quality.
The construction continuum for buildings—spread over the five key stages of planning, designing, engineering, construction, and finally occupancy and maintenance—is rapidly being transformed by technology. Driven by digitalisation, and the deployment of cutting-edge technologies and processes, the entire construction continuum will soon be characterised by pervasive use of connected systems of sensors, intelligent machines, mobile devices, and new software applications—all bound with the common thread of Building Information Modelling (BIM).
Visualising the construction process as a continuum, or placing a building on the various stages of a continuum is also a powerful way for construction companies to analyse the business value of various technologies. Using the continuum as a reference, they can readily see the advantages digitalisation brings to construction or operations. Constructability is the most important and relevant need of the industry, and the arrival of new technologies and construction processes such as Constructible BIM, mixed reality, robotics, cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT) is driving a massive change in how we design, operate and build structures. As disruptive technologies, they not only have the potential to create new benchmarks of value for all stakeholders in the construction ecosystem, but shape new competitive advantages in the new digital-savvy world.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these important technologies.
IoT is all about sensors connected to the Internet and transmitting continuous data for better decision-making. In the construction industry, while this is commonly referred to as telematics, it means any object or machine component can have sensors installed to monitor operating conditions, performance levels and/or physical states of buildings.
Virtual (VR), augmented (AR) and mixed reality (MR) mark the beginning of a new era of visually immersive technologies and are an important next step in digitisation of the construction industry. Theoretically, using MR to plan a project can enormously reduce costs while delivering other results that lead to better construction.
Spanning the construction continuum, modern collaboration tools allow streamlined flow of information between different stakeholders and provide a single, centralised location for all construction-related documents, processes and communications that are accessible to everyone involved in the project. Thus, construction professionals have access to the same up-to-date information in the form of drawings, schedules, job information and reports; and can provide their own real-time input and updates as they work on the project. These tools are now so advanced that they can combine BIM with construction schedules and stream this rich information to smartphone apps, which in turn can measure stockpile amounts simply by pointing the phone at the pile and walking around it.
A continuum defined by technology
Connecting people, machines and projects delivers real-time data to infrastructure owners, architects, engineers, civil contractors and each stakeholder for enhanced information about material, people and asset utilisation, resulting in improved productivity.
At the planning and design stage, Constructible BIM provides a useful framework managing information from generic (2D or generic 3D), to specific (Specific 3D), to detailed (3D with detailed content). At the beginning of the design phase, engineers can start by using generic content, which is appropriate for structure design and can serve as space occupation. As more technical details become clear over the course of the project, the generic model can be elevated to a higher level: a specific 3D model.
Further, mixed reality technologies like Microsoft’s HoloLens can be highly useful at this stage, as they can add computer-generated surfaces, graphics and objects into the real environment around a user. A designer can, for example, manipulate objects, use voice commands, and move inside the designed environment using mixed reality.
Many architects, as well as general contractors and construction management firms, use SketchUp Pro, the easiest tool to draw in 3D, to jumpstart a project. SketchUp easily integrates into the BIM and allows programming, diagramming, design development, detailing, documentation, RFIs—whatever needs drawing. The next stage in the design phase is an accurate, constructible, detailed BIM model. This is where a BIM model is enriched with manufacturer-specific data, calculation parameters or maintenance data, enabled by Tekla Structures, the world’s loved 3D BIM software. Further, tools like Tekla Model Sharing and Trimble Connect allow cloud-based collaboration that helps minimise risk and wastage by establishing more efficient and accessible channels of communication between various stakeholders.