Few would deny that construction has fallen well behind other industries that have adopted technology and used it to boost their own productivity levels.

Take large-scale manufacturing, where production lines are now routinely ‘manned’ by robots; they can perform relatively complex tasks with ease – and at speeds no human can match.

The difference between manufacturing and construction is that the same process is repeated time and again in manufacturing, a situation that lends itself very well to automation. In construction, every project is unique and comes with its own never-before-seen challenges.

Advanced BIM models can not only offer a visualisation of a proposed structure, but can also detail required materials and estimate total costs

That said, it must also be conceded that there is an inherent reluctance to change the way things are done in construction – and it is becoming clear that technology has answers to some of the biggest productivity questions found in the industry.

Could BIM (building information modelling) be the answer? It is a prime example of how, without making too big a leap – at least in terms of the job site – a host of benefits can be gained at every stage of a major project.

As the name suggests, building information modelling begins with the creation of a three-dimensional virtual model of a proposed structure.

This is the first advantage as, when it comes to tendering, a BIM model demonstrates that a contractor has the requisite technological know-how to deliver a project in a timely and efficient manner. In other words, it breeds confidence.

It also shows with great accuracy the materials that will be necessary for the build and can accurately forecast the total cost, both in material terms and manpower.

This is the first advantage as, when it comes to tendering, a BIM model demonstrates that a contractor has the requisite technological know-how to deliver a project in a timely and efficient manner. In other words, it breeds confidence.

It also shows with great accuracy the materials that will be necessary for the build and can accurately forecast the total cost, both in material terms and manpower.

He says his company can not only design structures using digital technology, but can also optimise it and simulate their lifecycle.

Regarding the wider potential of the technology, he says, “In BIM we see the first approach to make cities smarter and more innovative. In former times we needed to program simulations towards energy efficiency, which costs a lot of money and was very time intensive.

Bright colours within a BIM representation help designers identify potential clashes

“BIM allows us to understand the design effects of a building, or infrastructure. I can say that, if you use BIM at the design phase, for sure, you will have a much faster project. We have seen time savings from a few weeks up to two months.”

Another key benefit of using BIM is clash detection. A clash occurs when components within a built asset are not spatially coordinated and conflict with each other; in other words, they are found to occupy the same space, or one component in some way interferes with another’s operation.

Clashes detected within the virtual BIM design can be simply resolved, without the need to hold up construction, waste valuable resources or incur the expense of purchasing replacement components or materials.

Of course, clashes should not occur in modern construction. However, as a project moves from architectural design, through structural, environmental, mechanical and electrical engineering, to the construction itself, there are many opportunities for errors to creep in.

These opportunities can be drastically reduced when all stakeholders are working on and viewing the same structure – as a 3D visualisation – at the same time.

UK-based company NBS provides cloud-based systems that enable architects, engineers and designers to reduce the risk of unfortunate clashes within built structures.

The company says, “In a Level 2 BIM process, a range of federated models are produced and coordinated data drops used to inform a master model. BIM modelling software and BIM integration tools allow designers to check for clashes in their own models and when models are combined.”

NBS continues, “Clash detection software is becoming increasingly sophisticated, allowing the user to check for clashes within specific subsets (structural elements against walls, for example) and for these to be flagged on screen.”

A design collaboration model created from data input to Autodesk’s BIM 360 Design software

Impact of Covid-19 on construction technology

Autodesk is one of the world’s leading proponents of BIM technology and recently launched a European data centre to support the increasing popularity of its services – especially its new BIM 360 Design software. According to the company this is now used in more than 150 countries and on some 40,000 projects.

In fact, Autodesk says subscribers to the system have doubled in Europe in the first quarter of this year, and leapt up by around 350% globally since working conditions shifted from the office to home, due to the spread of Covid-19.

BIM 360 Design uses the cloud to allow collaboration between disparate project teams – across architecture, engineering and construction disciplines.

Alex Mortiboys, head of BIM at Dutch architecture firm Office of Metropolitan Architecture, says, “We are always looking to drive efficiency in our design process, so we have put cloud-based collaboration at the core of our practice.”

In basic terms, current users of Autodesk’s Revit 3D design software can now use BIM 360 Design to effectively manage permissions for all stakeholders in a project, making it much easier – and more secure – to share files across different disciplines and between different organisations, wherever in the world they are working.

Complex construction projects benefit from use of BIM

Topcon says scanning equipment, such as its GTL-1000, can verify the installed geometry, increasing client confidence in BIM


Nicolas Mangon, vice president of Autodesk’s AEC business strategy and marketing, says the exponential growth in BIM 360 Design users over the past two years is an acknowledgment of the, “increasing complexity of projects and the teams working on them.”

He adds, “In these unprecedented times, there’s a greater need for project continuity and flexibility of teams to stay on track from wherever and whenever they must work.”

Topcon Positioning Group is a global construction technology leader, specialising in geospatial solutions through both software and precision measurement hardware.

The company’s business development manager for vertical construction, Adam Box, says that while there is still some way to go for the technology to propagate the whole delivery cycle of a construction project, “a number of BIM’s key principles are now seen as ‘business as usual’.”

He says the value BIM has brought to producing well-coordinated, buildable models cannot be argued with. However, he cautions that the industry needs to be aware that, “delivering that value through the construction phase and into asset ownership and maintenance still represents a challenge.”

He adds, “Within the delivery space, BIM has yet to realise its full potential. This is evident from the enormous strides being made to bring technology to the construction site to drive use of the BIM data and spatial information. Ensuring that construction data is easily accessible to all and that it remains accurate and current is certainly an area that Topcon is heavily focused on.

“This ranges from helping companies embrace autonomous or assisted construction machines, to offering solutions that provide a near real-time, as-built model as construction takes place – factors that are essential in helping to get the full BIM vision onto the construction site.”

Last year, Topcon released the GTL-1000 scanning robotic workstation, which Box says is the kind of tool that can give companies more confidence on their BIM journey.

Box comments that the workstation, “puts everyday as-built verification into the hands of the site engineer.” He adds that without this continual verification of the installed geometry, “the value of the 3D model diminishes throughout the project, making it almost impossible to deliver an accurate Building Information Model to the client.

Source: https://www.khl.com/international-construction/bim-software-shows-the-future/145700.article