Historically, the construction industry is slow to adapt to new technologies; however, many companies are now looking to fast-track implementation and take advantage of cutting-edge technology on project sites through Internet of Things (IoT), Building Information Modelling (BIM), augmented reality, drones, and robotics.

The electronic eyes behind construction

One major IoT example stemmed from PCL Construction realizing that there were plenty of inefficiencies and risks around the lack of real-time job site information and monitoring. To address this, PCL developed Job Site Insights (JSI) internally, and most recently partnered with Latium Technologies to advance the capabilities of the platform even further.

As an industry leader on the internet of things technology on project sites, we are experts at leveraging this technology to monitor job sites more efficiently and reduce risk.

JSI is a centralized Internet of Things (IoT) platform that collects and analyzes data from many connected sensors or connected assets on a job site providing real-time monitoring, threshold alerting, and insights to make more data-driven decisions. Users can monitor job site conditions, allowing for customizable threshold alerting to help mitigate rework, advance project schedules, optimize energy consumption, bolster safety, and reduce costs for our clients. Think of JSI as the Microsoft Office of construction. It synthesizes multiple applications into a single pane of glass, a cloud-based interface accessible from any PC or mobile device.

JSI uses embedded sensors that are strategically located throughout buildings under construction. These sensors collect actionable data such as moisture levels, temperature, concrete curing time, localized job-site weather, sound, vibration, volatile organic compounds, and frost levels in the ground. 

These sensors can also identify water leaks. Water damage accounts for 70% of insurance claims in buildings, exacerbating rising premiums. However, JSI, in partnership with Eddy Solutions, delivers water leak detection and water shut-off capabilities to protect buildings from water damage. This technology can monitor, control and conserve water use, protecting the building and critical systems against the risk of water damage during construction.

Sensors are just one part of the JSI ecosystem. Users can also monitor access on a project site to keep things safe with Job Site Access (JSA). This badge and Near-Field Communication (NFC) recognition platform identifies and admits authorized personnel to the site. Additionally, Job Site Resourcing (JSR) is another helpful tool that enables construction sites to effectively manage deliveries, storage, and movement of site materials. 

Building it right, building it once, through BIM

The construction industry has come a long way from using 2D drawings to the Digital Twin environment it has today. For example, PCL develops a BIM model on every project providing huge value. A BIM model is a rich ecosystem of data not only helpful during the construction process but for operations and maintenance following project completion. BIM allows the team to model quantities, spatial dimensions, and more, while also allowing users to input issues from quality inspections and RFIs — serving as a repository for the project.  

With sophisticated technology, PCL’s team can harness the power of BIM to build it right and build it once. For projects like Denver’s 16th Street Mall renovations, the team has leveraged the BIM model to visualize existing conditions and utility locations using augmented reality software. This software incorporates pothole and as-built data into a BIM or CAD file allowing the project team to know exactly where utilities are, simply by opening their iPad camera while in the field.

“This software not only improves safety – significantly reducing the risk of utility strikes – but improves culture and communication between PCL teams in the office and the field as well,” said Chris Armstrong, 16th Street Mall project manager.

From proven success on this project specifically, PCL will start implementing this cutting-edge technology on other projects as well.

Additionally, we are seeing the benefits of a data-rich BIM model to drive a Digital Twin for an increasing number of clients for their operations, maintenance, and equipment asset management.

The industry is also leveraging BIM through drone footage. Project teams can overlay BIM models with drone imagery which has proven extremely beneficial from a safety, quality, and cost savings standpoint. For example, for high-level pre-pour quality control checks, engineers can verify that rough-ins are in their correct location and identify any missing components.

Improving accuracy, productivity, and efficiency with robots

HP SitePrint 

PCL was one of the first companies to explore the use of HP SitePrint on George Brown College — Limberlost Place in Toronto and is looking at using it on projects in Orlando and Vancouver regions. HP SitePrint is a layout printing robot that acts as a surveyor in the field. Think of it like a Roomba vacuum — only this robot can print ink on any floor in a different colour, from letters, numbers, lines, and even curved shapes, and the ink can remain in place for more than four weeks.

“With the labor shortages companies are facing across North America, tools like HP SitePrint and Dusty Robotics are extremely beneficial considering they are often more efficient, productive, consistent and much more accurate than traditional manual methods,” said John Boktor, PCL senior manager, digital construction. HP SitePrint can complete up to 5,000 square feet of line layout per hour which is five times more than what a human is capable of completing.

Spot the Dog

PCL collaborated with Intel and Boston Dynamics to test Spot the Dog on a large commercial tower in the Greater Toronto Area. While Spot the Dog is not a layout robot, it has a more diverse set of skills including laser scanning, movable 360-degree cameras, scanning, and video. Spot the Dog has the capability to go through a rugged site, confined spaces, and areas that may not be safe for a human to go (for example, close to an edge). Spot can also withstand heat so the robot can get close to welding operations and can withstand dust and loud noise. This robot can do several tasks simultaneously — ultimately saving time and money. Spot also acts as a guard dog monitoring for issues on a site such as fires, theft, or other major safety concerns.

Further exploration on how to leverage advanced technology continues in construction to reduce costs, and increase safety, quality, and efficiencies. This starts during the estimating process when teams evaluate scheduling, cost drivers, and site conditions.

As experienced builders with over 116 years of construction knowledge coupled with our  technology developers, we are transferring that institutional knowledge to our clients, guiding them in making the best decisions when it comes to implementing technology on projects across North America and Australia. Our company prides itself in determining what technology has the best advantage(s) to help PCL better serve clients and stakeholders.

You can watch Augmented Reality in action below.

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