In future, installing a reinforced concrete wall will run like clockwork, thanks to digitalised worksites. Imagine: delivered right on time, the wall is set up during an assigned time slot, exactly as planned. Built-in sensors indicate that the angle of inclination is just right, giving the green light for the next task. Insulation, windows and roller shutters have already been installed at the factory. The electrical and plumbing connections have also been prepared so that the appropriate tradespeople can finish the job on an automated schedule. The general contractor is able to consult every step of the construction process, documented in a 3D model. Sounds great, right?
The booming construction industry is hardly able to keep up with orders. Its biggest pain points are a skilled-worker shortage, rising prices for land and construction materials, and project complexity. Developments are becoming more and more sophisticated—think smart houses—while capacity shortages are making them increasingly difficult to coordinate. Traditional project management is no longer up to the task. Nevertheless, contractors must have up-to-date plans. Progress must be documented consistently and in a timely manner. Because missed deadlines and the resulting delays only spell trouble.
What the construction industry needs is predictability, flexibility and efficiency—the very building blocks of digitalisation. In future, building information modelling (BIM) will serve as a binding standard for the entire sector. But there’s still a long way to go until then. What can companies do to get a head start?
MODUS Consult, a Bechtle Group subsidiary, specialises in only a few industries, but its expertise runs deep. It has supported the construction industry for over 20 years, offering integrated application software to primarily medium-sized businesses. MODUS BAUVISION covers all building-related processes, from the initial inquiry, calculation and offer to implementation, handover and maintenance. This well-established solution is continuously improved upon and already offers BIM functions.
Because it already firmly embeds existing standards, BAUVISION is building a bridge between current and future best practices. For instance, the system links Microsoft applications, which are ubiquitous in the business world, with enterprise resource planning programs. When the enterprise content management and business intelligence applications thus connected can freely communicate project data for KPI analysis, all stakeholders have access to the latest information.
In future, construction projects will be managed through portals accessible to everyone involved. Secure cloud environments will integrate a variety of functions: real-time analysis of the technical state and workload of construction machines, precise weather information based on GPS data, automated workflows and approval processes, and more besides. All of this will be accessible in the office, on the road and on the worksite itself.
In BIM, the 3D construction model is placed front and centre. Planning scenarios linked to the model are used to make informed decisions early on in the project. This in turn can help avoid delays and cost overruns. In addition, risks are identified and eliminated before construction even begins, so design flaws aren’t literally set in stone. Stakeholders and tradespeople can be brought on board at any time, enabling them to coordinate their work based on the same, up-to-date planning data and progress information. All interfaces are designed to streamline the transition from one phase to the next, thereby promoting collaborative construction management.
Housing is an increasingly scarce commodity in large urban areas, and office space is also tight. Cities must construct new buildings—quickly and flexibly. One of the aims is to energise downtown areas through mixed-use developments that combine residential and commercial units. Apartments and offices will therefore be built on top of supermarkets, with car parks constructed underground. Building and civil-engineering experts from a variety of disciplines will work together seamlessly to throw up an entire ten-storey building in a relatively short period of time. Because the planning model will be set up well in advance, contracts can be signed and deadlines set accordingly. The system will automatically calculate how much material is needed, put it out to tender and then order it once approved. Everyone will know exactly what needs to get done and when, enabling them to prepare appropriately.
Throughout the construction phase, the builder, general contractor and subcontractors will be able to coordinate via the project portal. Automated clash detection will ensure that different components don’t inadvertently get in each other’s way. Prefabricated system components—either serial products or manufactured specifically for the project—will be delivered to the worksite just in time. Each pre-defined step of the construction process will be photographed and documented. Image analysis and artificial intelligence can then help identify any quality defects, thereby initiating the appropriate escalation process.
Overall, however, BIM will help keep the project on schedule and within budget. And then, once that ten-storey building is complete, the city will have 36 new housing units and three office floors. The delicious smell of grab-and-go lunch options will be wafting from the food truck in front of the supermarket. And anyone coming from further away to do their weekly shopping can park their car in the underground car park. Doesn’t the future look grand?
Bechtle update editorial team
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Published on Apr 15, 2019.