In this time of disruption, most organizations are working quickly to adopt new solutions that enable their business to continue and to keep their workers employed without putting them at risk.
For construction, there is a new sense of urgency in having a precise digital replica of their existing conditions so organizations can make informed decisions while working remotely, thereby allowing operations to continue even if everything else in the world seems off-kilter.
The ability to work remotely has benefits beyond accessing site data. Teams can enable remote inspection processes to keep projects on schedule. You can ensure quality assurance and control, preparing the site for shutdown by documenting existing conditions while allowing you to share measurable data with subcontractors and stakeholders for off-site fabrication and WIP updates. And you can document a project’s status to prepare for possible legal disputes that might arise from work stoppages — even if a job site is temporarily closed.
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A move toward technology
Reality capture solutions such as laser scanning, mobile mapping and UAV systems allow a single team member to gather site data quickly, minimizing risk for personal safety.
Even before the current crisis, organizations have been increasingly turning to technology to collaborate, increase their productivity, and help them maintain the level of work amid a shortage of skilled workers.
In fact, a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey found six in 10 (60%) contractors say they are already using technology on the job site. That same survey found an even more significant number of contractors — 80% — think they will be using technology by 2022.
Solutions like DTM Surface Capture, Installation Verification, As-Built Measurement, As-Built Verification and Building Information Modeling (BIM) improve project delivery. More importantly, for the moment, they can also be used remotely or deployed with limited on-site operations.
Continuing operations will help organizations weather the current storm. It will also enable them to prepare for the future by rolling out — and by default testing in real-time — processes they can adapt and use in their business long-term.
Insights: Laser Scanners
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HOW TO GUIDE: IMPLEMENTING REMOTE MONITORING ON YOUR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
When so much of a project manager or project engineer’s attention is taken up by financials and paperwork, it’s hard to find the time to see everything that’s really happening on the project — even if that project is right outside their trailer window.
Remote monitoring helps project management teams improve quality, decrease turnaround times, handle critical processes faster, and increase profits. In this guide, we’ll show you exactly what it takes to make it work.
The Shift to Digital Construction
Learn more about how digital construction technology can improve your long-term operational strategy, and prepare your business to handle today’s crisis and future disruptions.
Reality Capture for Construction
Explore the need for digitalization and the role that reality capture plays throughout the construction process, fusing the real world with a digital world.
Best Practices for BIM in Construction
Learn how to get faster and easier access to high-accuracy BIM data with innovative hardware and software solutions for the entire construction process, minimizing rework and achieve new levels of efficiency, safety, and profitability.
Blogs & Articles
There is so much discussion about the “new normal” in the building construction industry, but no one knows how the new normal will look.
Right now, many projects are either shutting down, working with restricted staff levels, or expecting to do so soon. Coupled with well-documented existing worker shortages, the result is work is falling behind schedule, and uncertainty about the future looms.
However, the ability to pivot and embrace opportunities will allow teams to thrive, not just in the near term, but when the world returns to some level of normalcy. The key is to develop a set of habits that will make the next interruption less disruptive.
Even with the pandemic, not all projects have to come to a complete standstill – many are still proceeding, but with social-distancing restrictions in place.
Here are a few tips to prepare for when jobsites reopen and teams return to work
Perhaps the most significant pain point for owners, architects, and contractors alike during times of social distancing is limited jobsite access. This is making it hard to understand progress, answer questions and make informed decisions.
Regularly capturing construction progress digitally ensures information is up to date and available so organizations can make informed decisions while working remotely. Reality capture solutions allow a limited crew or even a single team member to gather measurable data quickly.
Access Data Remotely
Accessing data anytime and anywhere is critical to the future. Providing cloud access to data lets stakeholders virtually visit a site, so everyone has an accurate view of reality. This is particularly helpful for facility conversions that might be required at the moment, such as turning hotels, dormitories or convention centers into temporary hospitals, and for visualizing the prior state for restoring them to their original uses.
In the near-term, access to data will help justify invoices and eliminate over-payments for progress to date. But, looking longer-term, this data will continue to be useful for eliminating some trips to the jobsite, accelerating decision-making, and ensuring integrity through rich, easily-accessed reality data.
If there is a silver lining, perhaps it’s the opportunity to be more intentional about using 3D data, understanding the role of BIM, and managing crews with a better eye toward spatial interaction. This will enable organizations to more quickly resume normalized production levels when able and to better manage jobsites — and resources — in the future.
Truthfully, it remains unclear whether sites will be required to operate with limited staff even after the world returns to “normal” or whether organizations may accelerate the adoption of lean construction principles that minimize crew overlaps to maintain momentum. Spatially-aware management can continue to play a significant role because avoiding crowding and crew overlaps has efficiency benefits in addition to public health benefits.
Some workers may be unavailable now and even after sites reopen. Tapping into reality data is a powerful tool to quickly onboard crews — whether existing or supplemental and replacement resources.
When jobsites reopen, teams will have to train new crews and personnel, and get them up to speed quickly, while recognizing sites could go back into shutdown at any time.
Engage with Teams
Right now, there are more questions than answers, and information is fluid at best. It’s crucial to maintain open lines of communication, and be candid about what is known and what is unknown.
Projects are changing, and the pipeline of new projects has been altered. Organizations may encounter continued supply chain disruptions for some time.
The goal is to maintain a level of business continuity while preparing to emerge standing and prepared for what’s ahead, even if it’s hard to predict currently.
Beyond the clear hurdles associated with closing many doors, there will be long-term impacts to the supply chain. McKinsey Global Institute suggests that economic activity could be back on track by early 2021—if the virus is contained within the next few months and the right economic policies are enacted. However, longer-term lockdowns or other severe restrictions could result in a severe and sustained economic downturn, with economic activity returning to 2019 levels by 2023 at the earliest.
Now, many construction businesses are forced to reassess their operations during this time of disruption. Enter technology, which can help reopen construction companies of all sizes.
Looking back to the financial crisis of 2008, companies that moved faster and had greater productivity, rapidly reallocated resources, and made bold moves came out ahead, according to McKinsey. There was also another common thread—many invested heavily in digital technologies. One of the first steps to emerge strong from this current crisis is to accelerate the rollout and adoption of digitization, according to McKinsey.
Now, looking forward, construction companies will need to leverage new technologies faster than ever before. In fact, construction was already headed in the direction of implementing the IoT (Internet of Things), AI (artificial intelligence), and data in new and exciting ways prior to the pandemic. Now, it is just being sped up.
Matt Wheelis, a thought leader in the Buildings & Construction space, is convinced that technology is going to influence the jobsite of the future, saying some of the lessons we are learning today might find their place in the field. For instance, technology gives us the opportunity to go experience a jobsite virtually and answer questions or approve progress without jumping on an airplane and flying out to a jobsite.
“I think some of those habits are going to stick with us and these technologies will play an increasing role in the future,” he says. “Perhaps not as intensely as during this time, but certainly I think we have learned some lessons about what we can take into the future.”
Another big factor seen during the situation with COVID-19 and the lack of access to the jobsite is this virus didn’t discriminate. All construction companies have been impacted in some way—and all sizes of businesses can tap into technologies to leverage their capabilities to rebound.
“The benefits of using technology are not limited to larger contractors. That has been somewhat of a fallacy over the years,” Wheelis adds. “Through the innovations around cloud computing and bringing down the access bar for the services, I see there are opportunities all the way from the smallest to largest of contractors to take advantage of technology to solve these same problems.”
He adds through various financing means and ways of gain access to the data, such as SaaS (software-as-a-service), these things are available whether you are a large contractor or a small contractor.
An Unexpected Opportunity
The pandemic is offering those construction companies willing to respond differently—by leveraging technology—to heighten productivity through digitization. Rising costs, labor shortages, and the emergence of new digital tools were moving the industry in this direction prior to the pandemic. Now, the implementation of new technologies has been expedited for many.
For instance, automation can help with digital construction, space management, and visualization workflows. As one example, Pointfuse and Leica Geosystems announced an agreement to streamline the use of reality capture into deliverables that will drive every stage of the building construction, operations, maintenance, and lifecycle management.
In a Constructech Thought Leadership article, Wheelis also suggests that the silver lining in all of this is the opportunity to be intentional about using 3D data, embracing the role of BIM (building information modeling), and managing crews with a better eye toward spatial interaction.
All of this was already beginning to happen but may play a greater role after the pandemic subsides. Going forward, technology will continue to find its place in the jobsite of the future and building on the lessons we are learning today.
While seemingly dire, technology is enabling organizations to continue some operations and keep projects on track.
Organizations are adopting new solutions to maintain a level of business operations and to keep their workers employed without putting them at risk. There is also a chance for organizations to put in place an approach to minimize disruption from the next crisis—whenever it might occur–and that’s one reason why construction technology is increasingly important.
No access, no problem
While construction is an essential business in many places, access to some jobsites remains limited, hampering progress and making it challenging to make informed decisions.
Using a laser scanner to create a point cloud shows the facility as-installed and can easily be shared as a lightweight mesh model. The model—a “digital twin” of the site—can be compared to the planned installation in a building information model.
With a digital twin, crews can make informed decisions using up-to-date information while working remotely. Reality capture solutions—such as laser scanning, mobile mapping, and UAV systems—allow a single person or a small crew to quickly collect measurable data and help the whole team make informed decisions.
Data protects everyone
Providing cloud access to information provides stakeholders with an accurate view of reality, crucial for organizations turning hotels, dormitories, or convention centers into temporary hospitals, and for visualizing the prior state for restoring them to their original uses.
While teams need trustworthy information now, longer-term, this data helps eliminate trips to the jobsite, accelerating a fuller range of decisions, and ensuring integrity through rich, easily-accessed reality data. Beyond informing decisions, data also helps teams justify invoices and eliminate over-payments for progress to date.
Prepare for the future
Right now, information is fluid, and it’s unclear whether sites will be required to operate with limited staff even after the world returns to “normal” or whether organizations may accelerate the adoption of lean construction principles that minimize crew overlaps to maintain momentum.
The silver lining is the opportunity to be intentional about using 3D data, embracing the role of BIM (building information modeling), and managing crews with a better eye toward spatial interaction, which may continue to play a significant role after this pandemic subsides.
Tapping into reality data is a powerful tool to quickly onboard crews—whether existing or supplemental—and replacement resources. When jobsites reopen, some workers may be unavailable, and teams will have to train new crews and personnel and get them up to speed quickly while acknowledging sites could shut down again at any time.
It’s critical to maintain open communication because projects are evolving, the pipeline of new projects is altered, and organizations may encounter supply chain disruptions. The goal is to maintain business continuity while putting in place processes to emerge stronger and prepared for what’s ahead.
As COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide, uncertainty has sparked historic volatility in the global markets and inspired drastic measures at national, regional, and local levels as the world tries to contain this pandemic.
As a global health crisis persists, information on where the virus has been contracted and where it’s currently concentrated is critical to understanding where it may spread next. The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University is tracking this data, which is in the public domain for use among many sources, such as the New York Times.
A team within Hexagon’s Geospatial division developed an interactive map on the Smart M.App platform to display updates from the Johns Hopkins data. At present, this map shows COVID-19 data that can be viewed and analyzed in real time. Smart M.App’s ability to layer on any data and information available can help make sense of this dynamically changing scenario and target the crisis with location intelligence.
For example, aerial imagery from the HxGN Content Program covering the United States and Europe has been made freely available for government agencies and non-profit organizations managing the COVID-19 outbreak. The imagery can be used to create maps, spatial data products and geo-information for those responding to national emergencies.
“With the release of this high-accuracy aerial imagery, our hope is it will be used as a key source of information for effective response by authorities and others working to contain and treat the virus,” said John Welter, President, Geospatial Content Solutions, Hexagon’s Geosystems division.
The exceptionally high resolution and accuracy of the aerial data provides detailed views of building and objects down to street level, allowing first responders, healthcare departments and GIS professionals to make faster and more informed decisions during emergencies. The data can be used to assess the situation, visualize the scope of affected areas, plan coordination efforts and improve responses for swifter action, and ultimately, recovery.
The combination of multiple data sources could potentially provide the ability to get a handle on the coronavirus outbreak. For instance, cities could use available sensor data that tracks movement in public places. This would enable them to layer historical data on a map with real-time information and compare it against the spread of confirmed coronavirus infections to give them better insight to how lockdowns are faring.
“If we had that data, we could generate a two-meter buffer around the track and determine intersections in time and space with other people,” said Uwe Jasnoch, Vice President of Business Development, with Hexagon’s Geospatial division. “That would help us understand the chain of infection and most probably help breaking that chain.”
In South Korea and Singapore, areas that have been heralded as highly effective in controlling outbreaks of the coronavirus, data from “contact tracing” has helped mitigate the spread. The New York Times reported that health officials in South Korea have retraced patients’ movements using surveillance methods that include security footage, credit card usage and even GPS data.
According to the Financial Times, Singapore recently launched an app called TraceTogether, for which citizens provide permission for the government’s health ministry to track their distance from each other and the duration of how long they are in contact. The FT reported that this data is encrypted, and then deleted after 21 days.
In both South Korea and Singapore, experiences with MERS and SARS outbreaks, respectively, provided frameworks for managing COVID-19. Data intelligence will not only help us fight further outbreaks of the coronavirus, but also will aid in whatever recovery eventually looks like — and provide critical insight to approach future pandemic responses.
As an example of how the data we are collecting now can be layered and utilized, the University of Leuven in Belgium used Hexagon’s Luciad platform in 2017 to visualize, analyze and filter Hepatitis C (HCV) migration in space and time over a 100-year period on a geographic map and time filter.
It’s difficult to imagine the total impact that COVID-19 will have, but putting data to work can help us see the effects and act in real time to control this crisis. Regardless of where we end up, location intelligence can deliver a better understanding of its spread and give hope for controlling future outbreaks of this disease and others.
Dan Marcec is the Corporate Communications Manager for Hexagon AB, supporting communications, public relations, content development and strategic messaging. Dan has 15 years of experience in communications, content marketing, and journalism across various industries, having written extensively about corporate governance and executive compensation, digital advertising and marketing technology, hotel investment and franchising, and commercial real estate development. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Georgia and is based in Atlanta.
- When faced with an inspection delay related to the COVID-19 pandemic on a project in Nashville, Tennessee, general contractor DPR turned to its existing technology tools to maintain the schedule and ensure on-time delivery to its customer, WeWork.
- Just two weeks away from completing a 60,000-square-foot WeWork space in The Gulch, a LEED-certified community near downtown, the local fire marshal canceled all inspections indefinitely due to safety concerns around the novel coronavirus. This left DPR without the necessary lighting inspections to reach substantial completion, which would allow WeWork to take over the space.
- The DPR team was using a 360-degree camera to shoot progress photos and footage for the owner, so they decided to do the same for the fire marshal. After a review of the sample video, which allowed the inspectors to get a 360-degree look at the space as well as rotate the view up and down, the fire marshal authorized a full virtual inspection, which DPR passed. This allowed DPR to turn the project over to WeWork on time.
Some inspectors around the country had been dabbling in video inspections before the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted construction projects, but others have been forced to up their technology games in order to continue providing services and adhere to social distancing guidelines, and the trend is catching on.
The video inspection process is a fairly straightforward one, with an inspector and onsite representative connected via Facetime, Skype or some other similar tool. The individual on the jobsite physically moves around the inspection area, giving the inspector the necessary views. As long as the in-person inspection would have been visually based, then a video inspection can be substituted.
However, organizations like the International Code Council realize that some building departments need guidance in making the shift and offered the following advice during a recent webinar.
- First, obtain authorization from governing authorities.
- Communicate clearly to contractors and customers about what the process entails and provide step-by-step instructions.
- Make sure the system is secure.
- Set out and abide by established record-keeping requirements.
- Whenever possible, expand or modify existing software tools for use in the new video program.
- Ensure that the building officials conducting remote inspections have ready access to current building codes and standards.
Still, there are some challenges in getting building officials to make the move to digital tools, like motivating older inspectors, who are used to operating within a paper system, to embrace a new way of doing things. Another is educating contractors about their roles in video inspections and getting them to follow the correct steps.
The benefits are hard to deny, however, which led the building officials who participated in the webinar to agree that it would be hard to return to their previous methods of conducting inspections. From not having to spend as much money on gas or fleet maintenance to being able to conduct inspections earlier in the day due to the elimination of travel time to the project, many building departments are discovering that technology has a significant role to play in the inspection process.
We’re Here to Help!
Hexagon can help companies in the industry make the adjustments needed to ensure their business will emerge intact from the crisis. Through our reality capture solutions and services, we can provide owners, contractors, engineers, and architects with current, precise job-site data that everyone can use to continue design and construction planning.
For a variety of reasons primarily related to the pandemic, many of our customers and the market are being faced with the challenge to quickly capture the existing conditions of their construction projects. If you’re facing a similar situation, we can help you.
As part of Hexagon, Leica Geosystems is partnering with our nationwide Multivista services organization to ensure fast, accurate capture and delivery of construction site data to help our customers manage through this disruptive time.
We have two options for you to consider:
For more information on the current crisis, check out the COVID-19 sections in these leading industry publications:
- ACG: Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates
- Construction Business Owner: COVID-19 in construction
- Construction Dive’s daily news and resource tracker
- ENR: Latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic
- ForConstructionPros: Construction’s coronavirus daily update
- KHL International Construction: Construction and COVID-19: rolling news update
- Professional Builder: How coronavirus is impacting the housing industry
- World of Concrete: Construction in the time of coronavirus