The value of synchronised construction in delivering projects

It’s been great to see technological advances within construction over the last decade or so, with BIM software in particular having become a central part of the industry. However, software is in many ways just a part of the story, with digital hardware also having a critical and valuable role to play in helping deliver projects safely, efficiently and productively.

Building Point UK and Ireland’s Sam Hough was delighted to team up with Trimble Technical Manager, Steve Jackson, to put together this informative piece that’s just been featured on the Trimble Tekla website and also by New Civil Engineer.

Synchronised construction

When it comes to synchronised construction, digital hardware can be the second piece of the jigsaw, helping to take the 3D model from the drawing office to the site. All too often, companies will invest time, money and resources in building a constructible 3D model, packed full of information and project-rich data. And yet, when it comes to setting out and building the structure on site, this same data will be reduced into a mere A1 page 2D drawing or General Arrangement plan. With this at odds with the data-rich 3D model, it’s clear that you’re inevitably going to lose some value along the way.

Instead, by combining digital software with hardware, teams can benefit from a more connected way of working, ensuring an effective flow and integration of data throughout the entire construction process. We all know and regularly witness the value of BIM at the detailing and fabrication stages, so why should this end when you reach site? After all, you’ve already done the hard work by building the model, so why wouldn’t you use it? 

Site surveys

When it comes to setting out on site, it surely makes sense to use the same approved 3D model as you used for fabrication. With a single source of truth, connected workflow and the use of a total station, you can easily transfer the model and its information-rich data from software to hardware, and vice versa. With no loss of information and no change of format, you can benefit from peace of mind, knowing that the information will be translated smoothly from model to site. 

Survey equipment, such as the Trimble X7 (a 3D Laser Scanner with a very straightforward workflow) can also be invaluable at the earlier detailing stage of the construction workflow. While we have thankfully moved past the days of a tape measure, piece of string and a sketchbook being the survey equipment used, having digital hardware that connects to your chosen BIM software can bring even more advancements. Not only can teams generate a point cloud survey with millions upon millions of points, they can also then feed this data directly into their model. Such pinpoint levels of accuracy can be critical when it comes to retrofit projects, where new steel or concrete elements are being installed in and around an existing structure. 

Trimble RealWorks pointcloud with IFC from Tekla Structures overlaid

Mixed Reality

Delve deeper into the modern-day construction industry and you’ll find Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality technologies, with some amazing hardware available to truly bring the 3D model and its benefits to life. Whether accessed via a headset (Trimble XR10) or tablet (Trimble ConnectAR), Augmented and Mixed Reality technology has the power to bring the 3D model directly to site, with project teams able to view the model overlaid on the real site context. 

It’s no secret that 2D drawings and GA plans don’t show everything. Often, they will only provide you with a small 500mm splice of a floor plan, meaning that it’s very easy for teams to miss out on the detail and simplify the model too much in order to make it fit into the 2D environment. All of this can lead to confusion on site, as well as more queries coming back to the drawing office.

Instead, by utilising total stations and Mixed Reality technology, project teams no longer need to lean on 2D drawings and informed ‘guesstimates’. Now, you can actually see, measure and visualise the as-built structure on site. This can be especially valuable when it comes to planning access and installation logistics, enabling you to better manage the positioning of plant vehicles and cranes and visualise the space you have to build and manoeuvre within. 

Two construction workers wearing Trimble XR10 view model onsite

Quality control

All of that said, digital hardware isn’t just reserved for use on site – it can also be brought into the fab shop, used as a means of Quality Control and Quality Assurance at the fabrication stage. 

It’s no secret that rework is a big concern on construction projects, with the potential to cost thousands and require many design or fabrication hours to rectify, all pushing the project dangerously over budget and over deadline. It can also lead to material wastage, not ideal when the industry is working so hard on reducing its environmental impact. As such, spotting any issues early on is vital, as the further along the construction sequence you get the more expensive and disruptive rework can be. 

This is perhaps especially key when it comes to offsite construction, where structural units and elements have to be fabricated to incredibly tight tolerances in order to fit first time on site. Here, accuracy is critical, otherwise the efficiency benefits of offsite suffer as a result.

Whether it’s carrying out total station surveys or laser scans to bring the site context into the 3D modelling environment; utilising the automatic clash detection features and parametric capabilities in intelligent modelling software; or using digital hardware as a means of fabrication verification, there is much that project teams can do to minimise the likelihood of rework, with both software and hardware playing a part.

For example, by using Mixed Reality technology via a headset or tablet to view the 3D model overlaid on the fabricated component, fabricators can ensure that the measurements, concrete embeds, sheer plates, end connections and openings (in the case of modular units) are all correct. For the larger and more complex fabrications, teams can even bring total stations into the factory for additional verification, replacing the need for lengthy trial assemblies. 

Two fabricators use mixed reality technology via headsets to view the 3D model overlaid on a fabricated component

Moving forwards

We’ve always done it this way can be a dangerous attitude within the construction industry, with those reluctant to change and adapt in line with new technologies. While many businesses have modernised and accepted BIM software as a part of the modern-day industry, perhaps in part due to BIM Level 2 being mandated on government and public sector projects, by failing to complete the circle with the implementation of digital hardware, people are still not reaping the full rewards.

Implementing synchronised construction with the employment of both digital software and hardware – all connected by a central source of truth (in Trimble’s case, the cloud-based Trimble Connect) – can enable project teams to truly take control of their 3D model, with a streamlined, efficient and accurate process. While acquiring hardware can be a significant investment, it is an investment that will only continue to deliver. As well as saving time and money by having this coordination and connectivity between the physical and digital world, bringing this knowledge and expertise in-house can only be a positive change, putting you in control.

BuildingPoint and Trimble

At Trimble, our connected hardware, software and service solutions are there to help connect both the digital and physical worlds, helping people and businesses work more productively, efficiently, safely and sustainably.

Sam Hough, Business Manager at BuildingPoint UK & Ireland: BuildingPoint UK and Ireland brings tried and tested workflows to the UK and Irish markets. These workflows have been developed to deliver increased productivity, schedule adherence and cost discipline through tighter coordination, improved project transparency and collaboration.

The recent rebrand allows us to apply further focus and understanding to develop workflows to suit each customer – not one company is the same. Whether it be steel, concrete or modular builds, each company has its own quirks on their ways of working – that’s something we love tailoring our offerings to.

Gone are the days where using complex technology required the operator to be highly skilled – with Trimble Buildings’ hardware, we can train anyone within mere hours. After all, you don’t need to be an expert in internal combustion to drive a car; why should it be different to use any of Trimble’s hardware?

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