Building out digital construction industry in megabits and pieces

July 11, 2020 | 08:00
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Vietnam’s social distancing measures have proven effective, and we are lucky to see many businesses resuming normal operations, but the effects of the recent pandemic crisis will continue to reverberate through the economy and society for some time to come.
1499 12 building out digital construction industry in megabits and pieces
Mark Concannon - EVP, EMEA and Asia Hexagon Geosystems

A majority of construction industry participants have suffered secondary impacts, including a slowdown in the real estate market and dwindling foreign investment. They also faced rising costs as border closures shut down supply chain imports and foreign labour, while social distancing requirements meant fewer workers could be onsite and inhibited the ability of survey and inspection personnel to visit. This made it difficult for them to make informed decisions, causing many projects to be delayed further.

However, projects that implemented digital technologies and processes prior to the pandemic were able to continue monitoring progress in real-time using information captured by sensors such as cameras and laser scanners, mobile mapping, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

These UAV systems allow a small team, or even a single trained team member, to gather site data quickly and accurately, minimising the risk to personal safety. As a result, organisations that used them could easily access up-to-date information, verify developments, and make informed decisions while working remotely. If adopted, these new solutions can help individual businesses and the industry as a whole to recover, make progress, and be prepared to handle future crises.

Digitalisation is the answer

The trend towards extensive digital connectivity is accelerating across construction sites worldwide, concurrent with the digitalisation of many other industries. Today, project managers, foremen, and installers can collaborate and work as never before by leveraging digital technology to produce reality data that allows them to complete their projects as planned and under budget, allowing for better return on investment and lower total costs.

On jobsites around the world, contractors are now using accurate and efficient data mapping from reality capture devices and UAVs to enable digital geospatial technology such as DTM Surface Capture, checklists, installation verification, As-Built Measurement, As-Built Verification, and Building Information Modeling (BIM).

These technologies are fast, safe, cost-effective, and can be used with minimal crew. They allow on-site contractors to fully document their work in virtual inspections, which speeds up the process immensely, with the ability to grant stakeholders access to dynamic, critical information and virtual walkthroughs, ensuring up-to-date insights into the site’s progress.

Geospatial solutions help companies ensure that projects are financially sustainable at each stage, which is more crucial than ever due to shrinking foreign direct investment and company budgets during the economic slowdown. Implementing them now can help companies rise above the fray in the current competitive environment. By detecting issues early and allaying concerns regarding financial sustainability in advance, geospatial solutions can be the most valuable assets for modern and efficient construction projects.

A path to the future

With a full suite of complementary world-class digital construction solutions, Leica Geosystems supports those in the Vietnamese construction industry working to meet exacting demands and navigate the industry’s inevitable digital transition. Leica Geosystems’ range of solutions are well suited to overcome logistical and geographical challenges. These solutions are already being used at work sites in Vietnam, such as the Hyosung Vina Chemicals Port in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau. The main challenge for scanning the whole port was the selection of scanning positions in a complex area where there was significant traffic and where disturbances from the ongoing construction work could compromise the stability required for precision scanning.

To mitigate the challenges of working in this disruptive, heavy traffic environment, Vietnam’s leading port and coastal consultant Portcoast decided to conduct the scans from elevated locations above the internal road. The firm then processed that data and converted it into precise as-built drawings to create a digital reference model for future development.

As a result, one topographic survey was cut from 12 hours to three, meaning less time and fewer employees required. Work on the site was finished in just 10 days.

Many countries have already integrated digitalisation in their building processes and construction worksites. In Singapore, the Building and Construction Authority’s Integrated Digital Delivery implementation plan aims to encourage more built environment sector firms to go digital.

In Switzerland, the construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel used reality capture devices to provide precise first-person panoramic views while monitoring the surrounding environment to ensure stability.

In the United Kingdom, the Hinkley Point C Power Plant, which is designed to deliver 7 per cent of the country’s electricity needs, made use of Leica Geosystems’ machine control technology to decrease the time to orient the drill mast, while also saving on labour costs.

With a range of solutions from reality capture, aerial mapping, machine control, to digitalised workflows, geospatial solutions are suited to overcome any challenges.

A response to spur progress

While the global pandemic’s spread was limited in Vietnam through forward-thinking policies, there is still the distinct possibility of second and third waves and other future crises, which the country must prepare for as travel restrictions are loosened.

This was not the first and will not be the last epidemic the world will face, but the right tools can allow future situations to be better tracked and monitored in workplaces, and the presence of digital infrastructure will let construction companies continue operating while complying with regulations on face-to-face contact.

Vietnam will also benefit from creating a network including state authorities, investors, consulting designers, project management consultants, BIM solution providers, and contractors to research and develop standards that minimise the challenges of project installation and operation. Applying digital solutions to the construction industry is the necessary next step in its evolution, and this will improve the efficiency of design, construction, and project management while meeting global quality standards – now and for the foreseeable future.

By Mark Concannon

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