Errors and rework remain an acute headache within US construction, especially for critical infrastructure projects, particularly from a waste/carbon perspective. Recent estimates put the cost of rework at around 5 percent of total project costs, and also suggest it accounts for more than 30 percent of all work on site. It’s a situation that requires urgent pain relief.
The recent Infrastructure Bill has ushered in a wave of mega infrastructure, including nine nationally significant projects. Whilst this is all well and good, it comes at a time when labor shortages are escalating, construction costs are rising, and the climate crisis is heating up. It’s squeezing margins tighter than ever before. This means contractors cannot afford to waste a single resource, especially through wholly avoidable rework. With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake and Net Zero emission goals on the line, it’s an issue we can’t ignore.
To try and combat these issues, many leaders are turning to digital technologies to drive up quality, accuracy, and efficiency, making on-site operations slicker, safer and smarter. For example, recent advances in cutting-edge innovations like digital twins, Computer Vision (CV), and Engineering Grade Augmented RealityTM are changing the game, offering new ways to manage projects, build with greater accuracy and ultimately reduce costs and waste on even the most complex projects. They are gradually making errors and reworking a problem of the past.
The question is, how much of an impact are these technologies having in the drive to reduce errors, and can the industry survive without them?
Since the introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM), construction has drawn more and more on Computer Aided Designs (CAD). In fact, a recent Dodge Construction Network report found that BIM is now used by around 80 percent of civil engineers. As part of this new digital normal, project teams can now also lean on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and increasingly advanced IoT-enabled hardware to view and interact with 3D design models like never before.
This uptick in digital adoption is supercharging modern construction methods and creating a new breed of surveyors and engineers that are supported by the accuracy software and digitally-enabled hardware provides. Taking human error out of the equation is a critical step in eliminating rework.
Sticking to the plan
Digital technology is also improving construction efficiency by syncing up project management workflows with digital models. For instance, computer Vision is automating quality control, realigning construction with designs by identifying defects and eliminating human error in real time. Meanwhile, digital twins can peer into the future and predict errors by simulating scenarios using highly accurate 3D models and structure replicas. Backed by AI-enhanced sensors, these living, breathing design assets mold to reflect real-world changes and autonomously update.
In parallel, Augmented Reality (AR) is another game-changing innovation that allows construction crews to view and position holograms of 3D design models to real-world structures and proactively identify errors. The latest Engineering Grade AR can place models to within 3-5 millimeter accuracy, giving rise to a new standard of engineering that ensures structures are built right, first time. Design models are coming to life through the lens of digital technologies with the underpinning initiative being to eliminate reactive error detection.
Outdated surveying techniques like laser scanning that are carried out after works are completed can take weeks to produce outdated, inaccurate results. By the time this data is available, the damage is done.
It’s not just humans doing the work today either. Drones and robotics are supporting field crews by taking on repetitive tasks and literally reaching new heights to monitor structures with state-of-the-art infrared and RGB cameras.
Sewing virtual threads
The digitalization of construction is building an information superhighway between the office and construction crews in the field. Advances in technologies like AR and CV are upgrading monitoring capabilities and creating greater synergies between BIM and the real world, and this cohesion is reducing miscommunication. This seamless real-time integration of fieldwork with back-of-office systems ensures the most up-to-date design models are being used on site, and that any changes are instantly recognized. The result – reduced instances of error and rework, saving on costs and waste.
Digital information is more accurate, easily distributed, and can be stored safely in data clouds. It can be easily shared and accessed at the click of a button, reducing the need for transcribing scribbled notes and working off paper 2D paper designs. This saves contractors more time to focus on quality and delivering projects on time.
The benefits of this highly accurate information are two-fold as it also means we can analyze data like material and energy costs to inform project cost analysis, address mistakes for future operations, and inspire the research and development of more advanced digital technologies.
A not-so-distant future
We are seeing the rippling effects of the global move to industry 4.0 reshaping construction and advanced technology is helping to secure a financially stable and greener future for the industry. This futuristic age will be catalyzed by interoperable cloud management platforms and greater data analytics along with a new type of fully managed service provided by the leading technology providers.
Rework is still a major challenge in construction, however, thanks to innovations in digital technology and the superhuman accuracy they are enabling, the end for rework is in sight. Leading general contractors are already adopting technologies like Augmented Reality and seeing the returns, reporting as much as 9x return on investment in some cases. As the industry regains its feet after the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia-Ukraine conflict, the confidence to invest in new technology will grow and we will soon see a new digital-first approach to building emerge as the standard.
It’s an exciting time for the sector and what we are seeing today is only the beginning. Those who keep a sharp eye on changes coming down the track will be set to lead in years to come. Those blind to innovation will surely fall behind.
David Mitchell, Founder & CEO, XYZ Reality
About the author
David Mitchell is the Founder & CEO of construction technology company, XYZ Reality, the company behind the Atom – the world’s most accurate Engineering Grade Augmented Reality (AR) headset. Before founding XYZ Reality, David worked as a digital construction manager on some of Europe’s largest projects including: The Shard, Battersea power station and hyper-scale data centres. David is a leading expert in digital construction and has been recognised for his innovation in this space.