Jobsite environments are rapidly changing with the increased adoption of onsite technologies advancing active and effective engagement. In this new age of design and construction innovation, there will be winners and losers. There’s a clear divide between early adopters and late bloomers that construction professionals cannot afford to ignore. The following describes the technologies we believe will continue to make an impact as well as emerging technologies that could begin to make a presence in 2016.
- BIM Building Information Modeling is a well-known process that is no longer a practice of just the larger firms. More and more, you’ll find new data reinforcing the presence of BIM throughout a building’s lifetime. The model continues to prove to be a reliable resource and digital representation of a building. If managed and consistently updated, the model allows for sharpened decision-making, enhanced construction documentation, heightened construction planning and finely tuned performance predictions and cost estimates. The model becomes the project’s centerpiece for referencing real-time information provided by the architect, engineers, builders, and owners. In addition, it provides an overall project visualization. To learn more about implementing BIM on your next project, read Learn the Truth About Your Project With a BIM Execution Plan.
- BUILDING PERFORMANCE The next generation of structures requires creating a plan for how a building can work for the client. Building performance requirements are growing and our industry will need adapt to an ever-increasing regulatory environment. As a first step, project stakeholders and owners need to commit to the long-term value associated with BIM. It is much easier to get BIM buy-in when the stakeholders understand that it can improve a building’s operations and maintenance over its lifetime, i.e. accessing critical systems information and assessing building performance. There are applications on the market today allowing designers to perform energy analysis of early concepts. It will not be long before you’ll find technologies planning and measuring a building’s performance in the areas of energy usage, renewables usage, indoor air quality, and water usage, etc. For further reading on this this subject, please read, VDC and the Future of Building Performance.
- SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AND GREEN BUILDING According to the experts at Greenbuild 2015, there is a promising immediate future for the industry after a couple down years. Building information modeling advances both sustainable design and green building. As a practice, BIM encourages teams to come to the table with sustainable design alternatives as well as identify the features and performance benefits by component. In real time, owners are able to see the affects of sustainable design alternatives via virtual walkthrough. When building materials are integrated into the BIM process, the team can create plans that significantly reduce construction waste and streamline materials procurement. The team is able to compare materials aimed to reduce a building’s environmental impact throughout its lifetime. While BIM helps to reduce waste on projects, it is particularly helpful for large campus projects that produce significant levels of waste if not well managed. For further reading on this this subject, please read VDC and the Future of Building Performance.
- BIM TO FIELD, POINT LAYOUT BIMThere is tremendous opportunity for increasing field productivity when it comes down to Field layout. Traditional field stake out is still in practice in field activities. However, doing field layout using Model Point Layout can improve productivity and accuracy in the field. Point Layout using Autodesk Point Layout (APL) is surprisingly easy. A VDC Specialist can assist field personnel by populating point layout in a Navisworks coordinated model then validate the location with the project assistant superintendent or foreman. Human error will always occur using tape measures and hand calculations. APL is a tool making real a difference in the field. Field verification before installation is critical to many field people including foreman, superintendent, MEP coordinators and others trades. Enabling on-site BIM access will enhance the construction process and improve productivity.
- 3D LASER SCANNING While BIM seems to be dominating this blog’s dialog, laser scanning technology is making a significant impact in the industry. 3D laser scanning creates digital reproductions of the position and dimensions of objects in a space then transfers that information into a point cloud image. Adding field-accurate information to enhance BIM models is a welcome addition to many construction sites. Laser scanning can be used to record existing conditions, document construction progress, support QA/QC processes, and validate field conditions. 3D laser scanning is used in new construction to generate reliable as-built data sets for building operation purposes. As-Built laser scanning has the potential to change as-built deliverables and, ultimately, save money for the owner. With the growth and enhancement of many construction technology solutions, laser scanning is becoming financially feasible for many construction projects.
- VIRTUAL REALITY This is supposed to be the "year of VR," and in some ways it is. This year virtual reality will arrive in a form that can be bought and used in your home. From a builder’s perspective, the spatial virtual reality experience allows for a more interactive inspection and validation. Teams can make a design change in an immersive environment in real time. The idea is to make project changes at the design phase, reach an early consensus, and gain owner acceptance and approval. As a result, there will be fewer scope changes and constructability issues leading to project delays. When this kind of progress is made early on in the design phase, there is a reduction in design changes, and time and cost savings for the owner. As virtual reality continues to make it’s way into our homes, it is only a matter of time before we are all using the technology as part of our project-planning program. For further reading on this this subject, please read 3 Key Benefits of Building with Virtual Reality.
- AUGMENTED REALITY Just beyond this year’s big wave of virtual reality technologies could be AR. Right now, AR is mostly an enterprise technology, i.e. it's not for your living room. Yet. However, AR does provide many benefits to an active jobsite. Quick Response (QR) codes used in combination with Augmented Reality (AR) apps extend the use of a tablet device or smart phone in the field. Affixing a QR code to any tangible object (building), allows anyone who scans the code to access information the project team associates with it. Unlike working through traditional project plans, augmented reality encourages interaction among project stakeholders. A project manager can perform a jobsite walkthrough with a BIM overlay, allowing for instant comparison, collaboration, and problem solving. With the enhanced functionality of AR, BIM models can continue to be leveraged in the field. For further reading on this subject, check out 7 Solid Reasons Why Augmented Reality is Here to Stay.
- PREFABRICATION A growing number of teams use modeling intelligence and construction details to prefabricate and install building components. The 4D model serves as a tool to optimize work sequencing and scheduling. At this stage, teams actively look for prefabrication opportunities. In addition, the team can identify constructability efficiencies using clash detection. Having access to in-house architectural, MEP fabrication and installation modeling capabilities allows teams to avoid rework or modeling twice. Project savings can be even greater when consultants and the trade trades are engaged early on. Results can include site manpower reduction, controlled fabrication in clean environments, higher quality control and accurate as-built.
- SECURE DATA STORAGE Cloud-based collaboration is critical to BIM and virtual design and construction VDC activities. With MiFi or My WiFi or WiFi hotspots and a tablet or iPad, anyone can connect with a mobile phone for access to the cloud, allowing field professionals to easily obtain a range of data pertinent to their active construction site. Cloud-based activities open up the opportunity for a security breach. Today, there are many cloud-based options on the market today providing secure file sharing and collaboration. There is no doubt that as jobsite activities become more and more reliant on the cloud, there will be hackers looking to wreak havoc. Construction IT professionals need to be forever vigilant in making sure project exchanges are safe and secure.
- GORILLA GLASS Corning®, the company behind the Gorilla® Glass often found on smartphones, is coming up with innovative ways to use glass in everyday life. The glass surface is similar to high technology displays; it is clean, smooth, flat, strong, and offers crisp clarity. For interior architecture applications, the glass can be installed in panels, fitting seamlessly together. Panels can easily be changed or replaced. The glass is an ideal cover sheet for touch screens. It can handle the surface pressures intrinsic to these devices, and exceptionally thin to enable more sensitive and accurate responses. These characteristics make it possible for designers and builders to incorporate the glass in a range of commercial applications.
- NEAR FIELD COMMUNICATIONS (NFC) Near field communication NFC is a communication protocol allowing two electronic devices, like a smart phone, to establish communication by bringing them within a short distance of one another. The devices are provided with apps that read electronic tags or make payments when connected to an NFC-compliant apparatus. In construction, this technology is particularly helpful for materials tracking, prefabrication, and workforce management. The ability to instantly track prefabricated materials is great for identifying if incorrect sections are being delivered or if there are missing parts.
All these new technologies can be very exciting but adopting them is not the first step. It is important to first understand the practices needed to support and take advantage of new capabilities. A culture encouraging constant innovation will bridge the divide between early adopters and late bloomers. The modern jobsite is rapidly changing. Keeping the pulse on the latest technology trends and being able to respond accordingly will be important today more than ever.