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Richard Kuppusamy, Head of Digital Engineering, Asia, Lendlease[ASX: LLC]
The construction sector is one of the largest worldwide and also one of the least efficient – productivity has only averaged a paltry one per cent over the past two decades. The introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM)and Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) is making a difference for our industry, and has been credited for enabling landmark projects like Lè Architecture in Taiwan, Istanbul New Airport and the world’s largest building by footprint, the Tesla Gigafactory, on top of shortening completion times and reducing material costs.
It comes as no surprise that the use of BIM is increasingly mandated by regulators around the world from Singapore to the European Union. At Lendlease’s S$3.7 billion landmark urban regeneration project Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ) in Singapore, we pioneered the usage of BIM and VDC and other emerging digital tools to provide insights in construction planning and streamline operations even before breaking ground.
BIM has enabled us to visualise the design, evaluate construction methods and allowed the adoption of a just-in-time approach where materials and manpower are allocated efficiently and cost-effectively. To fully realize the potential of BIM, we must integrate other technologies from 3D printing, virtual reality (VR), the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D laser scans and drones to maximize value.
BIM and VDC allow for a digital planning process during which a synchronised database is created that connects every process and partial aspect of a project and is accessible to all parties involved. It inherently is a collaborative way of working.
If the past decade is anything to go by, the industry must continue to work with both governments, stakeholders and surrounding communities to evaluate both emerging and evolving technologies to sustain the momentum of progress thus far.
With the increasingly ubiquitous use of BIM, it is important to recognise that it is just one part of the larger construction equation under the Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD) approach – the key to unlocking true transformative productivity that has eluded us for so long. This methodology gives rise to a digital-first approach, applicable across all projects from design and construction to commissioning and 9 operations. While BIM remains the central platform where everything comes together, Lendlease is going beyond to fully realise what BIM is able to provide. At Paya Lebar Quarter, this was implemented through a variety of innovative solutions throughout the lifecycle of the project to leverage relevant technology that allowed stakeholders to realise their vision, while still having quality and safety top of mind.
The use of “flying cameras” has been extensively embraced in the construction industry but it was only until recently that there was widespread awareness of the benefits of their use. Drones have been a game changer for us at our PLQ project, providing unique viewpoints of information over the entire site and being able to integrate the captured imagery into BIM and VDC processes through techniques such as photogrammetry. Through photogrammetry, we were able to construct 3D mesh models of the actual construction and compare these against design models.
Unique insights such as these allow us to better manage all phases of construction from pre-construction and design phases to active engineering and construction work, when we can track and compare project progress with designs. Once construction is finished, drone scanning can be used to capture a building’s envelope for inspection and maintenance purposes. This has enabled us to increase efficiency levels possibly beyond the construction phase, and for a building’s entire lifecycle.
IoT works differently as a technology as it depends on BIM as a natural way to give context and meaning to sensors and sensor values, and to also relate such values to each other. IoT needs to be considered as a way of capturing real-time data which helps provide a better understanding of 1) what such project components are, and 2) a view of what is happening to that component, linked to the data captured.
Heavy construction equipment is increasingly being outfitted with sensors, which can be remotely monitored for key indicators and patterns of potential maintenance issues like temperature fluctuations, excessive vibrations among other metrics. When abnormal patterns are detected, alerts will trigger maintenance workers to intervene early, before the critical equipment fails. Such systems save critical time and money, as well as prevent unnecessary delays in construction projects.
In the near future, 3D printing will enable the design and production of innovative structures and materials that have unique and interesting properties, especially when paired with an augmented- and mixed-reality system – the ability to overlay a virtual model on top of elements in the real world – to take 3D printing’s capabilities to the next level via BIM and its place in the IDD process.
What BIM represents is how we approach construction – as a collaborative process and not just for the sake of it. BIM is the foundation on which we bring all datapoints together, and on which we can fully bring the IDD approach to life. For example, we created a co-located coordination room on site to carry out integrated concurrent engineering. All trades are brought together under one roof to improve the speed and effectiveness of coordination and thus allowing us to improve construction quality at PLQ. BIM was a crucial bridge to enable everyone to work effectively together.
Especially for an industry like ours, we need to be even more grounded in how we expand the overall construction equation to include technology at every step. While our industry will be built on BIM, it doesn’t automatically mean it is a BIM-only future but the integration of technology at every touchpoint from construction to commissioning.