Shift in Construction Technology for a ‘post-Covid, pre-vaccine’ era

by Amy Butler, JB Associates

In 2017, McKinsey Global Institute slated construction for evolving at a ‘glacial pace’ due to its ranking as the least-digitised industry in Europe. While plenty of technological advances were pitted as ‘on the horizon’, many companies were reluctant to take the necessary steps to push forward with digitisation. Critics warned that a lack of innovation would lead to companies folding, although it took a global pandemic before this prophecy materialised and those without suitable digital infrastructure in place were shaken.

The pandemic is now considered a catalyst for industry improvement, propelling construction out of its ‘glacial’ evolution and deep into the digitised era. A recent study undertaken by Procore found that two thirds of the surveyed construction companies had rolled out new technology during the lockdown, with 94% of these seeing an improvement to productivity and teamwork. However, what exactly are these technologies and where do we go from here?

Smart Buildings

While we are all now experts in the world of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the challenge lies in returning safely to offices and various other workspaces. With many UK companies pushing for their teams to be back in work physically, how do we ensure that commercial buildings remain safe? Smart Building technology is reshaping the workplace and ensuring safety as well as energy optimisation. Buildings with integrated BMS systems and IoT sensors were already an option before the pandemic. Now, they are a wise choice for business owners.

Essential for a post-Pandemic and pre-Vaccine era, IoT systems can control air quality and ventilation. High-performance air filters and moisture controls will now be key due to Covid-19’s airborne nature. OKTO Technologies (Smart Buildings specialists) have even launched an Artificial Intelligence-led air filtration solution that is reportedly so advanced it can eliminate 99.98% of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) from the air in 10 minutes.

Similarly, density control counters and heat detection cameras can be incorporated into BMS systems to ensure that viruses are less likely to spread or enter into a facility. Airports have been trialling infrared cameras to measure body temperatures for a fever and several companies offer leases or installations for these cameras. While they are not a definitive medical diagnosis, they add a level of reassurance. This may be the aim of much of this technology; a form of due diligence in protecting staff.

BIM & VR

Technological advances are also prominent on site. Construction News reported that contractors employed for the Nightingale Hospital projects found huge value in Autodesk programs. A vital tool for tracking constant streams of updates in rapid working conditions, construction management software proved its worth in recognisably challenging projects across the UK.

As social distancing measures remain in place, it is imperative that technology is prioritised; virtual communication is still far safer than face-to-face. Software like BIM is also providing insights and tools to manage projects during a more challenging time. Even more impressively, companies are merging BIM models with the cloud, GPS and Virtual Reality software. This development means a ‘digital twin’ of a facility can be created and it opens a world of opportunities for Project Management and Design efficiency.

Remote working could even be a trend that stays long past pandemic precautions. Drones have been used previously to reduce safety hazards for technicians and now may be utilised in future remote inspections. Similarly, researchers at the University of Strathclyde have been given £35,000 in funding to create a remote inspection system. The 3D immersive building environment program aims to reduce risks by eradicating the need for Quantity Surveyors or Health and Safety Inspectors to be physically present on site.

Whether enabling remote working, improving the health and safety of commercial buildings or aiding on-site processes, technology has become a necessary tool for construction in the last 6 months. The companies that had embraced digitisation long before 2020 were undoubtedly the ones able to continue thriving in the tough lockdown period. The next step is for many companies is to streamline their management processes or workplace systems to ensure technology works for them as efficiently as possible. Breaking out of its inertia, construction’s ‘glacial evolution’ is firmly in the past and technological advances are here to stay.

This post was authored by Amy Butler of JB Associates – building consultancy specialists. The views expressed are those of the author.

BSRIA Members wishing to make a guest contribution to the BSRIA Blog should please contact marketing@bsria.co.uk

Thermal Imaging Camera Applications in Business Focused Maintenance

Today the modern built environment faces many challenges with organisations expecting the reliability of services to continuously improve with cost savings being made due to reducing maintenance regimes. Down-time can be extremely costly to a business in lost income, therefore mission critical services must not be disrupted by failure. Historically businesses have used generic planned preventative maintenance schedules, maintaining plant in the same way regardless of its level of use and value to the business.

 

Identifying that there was clearly a smarter risk-based approach to maintenance BSRIA published its Business Focused Maintenance (BFM) methodology back in 2004, this was updated in 2016 with the BFM Guide (BG53/2016) which is available from the BSRIA bookshop. BFM provides engineers with a methodology for utilising maintenance budgets more effectively. Assets critical to the business are maintained, while other less critical assets are managed as well as possible within the available budget. By assessing and prioritising plant maintenance needs for risks and criticality to the business, engineers and managers can ensure their maintenance effort is focused, cost-effective and increase their resilience to engineering risk.

 

Typical thermal images of engineering plant used to identify and monitor potential failures

 

BFM plant maintenance requirements will require instrumentational monitoring and one of the most widely used monitoring methods is thermal imaging. This has many applications including showing faults in thermal insulation, electrical installations and mechanical plant. Thermal imaging cameras are indispensable tools for engineers, they provide a non-invasive, user-friendly and cost-effective solution to maintenance testing.

“with the user-friendliness and wealth of applications for modern thermal imaging cameras, you don’t need to be an expert, employ a consultant or have large budgets to get the instant images you need. We work closely but independently with a wide range of equipment suppliers which means we can provide solutions to meet our customer’s specific needs. We can supply a wide range of thermal imagers from entry level units up to state-of-the-art professional cameras and all at an affordable price.

We recognise our client’s needs are time critical and we have equipment available for hire and sale direct from stock or with short lead times. In processes where plant failure can cause down-time that can potentially cost millions of pounds in lost income it is imperative that critical building services must never be disrupted by failure. We pride ourselves on providing fit-for-purpose, user friendly and cost-effective equipment”.

BSRIA Instrument Solutions is a leading supplier of specialist test and measurement instruments since 1990 and can assist engineers from all industries in selecting instruments that meet and exceed their expectations. It has built its reputation by providing the most reliable and advanced test equipment from leading manufacturers supporting it with a high level of customer service they can offer a choice of thermal imaging solutions with products from the leading instrument manufacturers.

For further details of the Instrument Solutions equipment hire, sales and calibration capabilities visit www.bsria.co.uk/instruments or call our team on Freephone 0800 254 5566 (UK) or +44 (0) 1344 459314.

How hard can opening a new office be?

As some of you may or may not be aware, the new BSRIA North site is now open for business.

For organisations opening a new office or site, it should be a time of great anticipation and excitement as the company sets out a new path, but for many they approach this process with fear and trepidation and for those tasked with the job of making it happen, it can potentially be an extremely stressful period of time.  As Project Manager for the setting up of BSRIA North, I thought I would share with you my experiences – the very good, the sometimes bad and the occasional ugly!

This blog was written by June Davis, Business manager of BSRIA North

I will be sharing my experiences and tips on:

  • Identifying and interpreting the business requirements
  • How to determine the must have’s versus the nice to haves
  • The importance of establishing an internal project team – you can’t do this alone!

BUSINESS NEEDS

When establishing the business needs, spend time with colleagues from across the organisation to listen and understand what they would like to see from a new base – what is it about the current environment that works, what doesn’t work so well and what would improve their working environment if only it were possible!

Everyone one I spoke to was really keen to give me their wish lists and as I started to jot their ideas down, some similarities started to emerge, but for some their thoughts varied significantly.    Prioritise the must haves and rationalise the nice to haves and a vision of your new building will start to emerge.

TIP don’t lose those more obscure requests. Whilst on this occasion I couldn’t deliver a building that had an on-site wind turbine, I was able to deliver on the overhead gantry crane!

TIP:  to fulfil everyone’s requirements you would most likely need to commission a bespoke building, so make sure to manage expectations!

Internal Project Team

You can’t succeed on your own so it is imperative that you establish an internal project team.  Working with business managers from across the organisation proved a valuable source of knowledge and support.  Individual managers were allocated areas of responsibility spanning right across the project and each were tasked with identifying what needed to be done , this formed the basis of a project plan.

Example project areas:

·         Property

·         Fit out

·         Process/Systems

·         Health & Safety

·         Quality

·         Marketing

·         People

 

Ensuring the team communicated regularly weekly meetings were held and if on occasion some colleagues were unable to attend it ensured that we kept abreast of developments – or on occasion the lack of!

Select a property

It seems obvious, but finding the right property in the right location and that meets the detailed specification your colleagues have challenged you with can at times feel like finding a needle in a haystack. This is where the word compromise well and truly comes in to play!  Give yourself a sizeable geography in which to search for property – like you, everyone wants it all, so make sure you keep an open mind and research those properties that at first glance you would dismiss as not meeting your criteria.   What you think you need and what you finally agree is ‘the one’ may well prove to be completely different – it did for us!

TIP The more sites I visited the more ideas I collected as to what could work and might be achieved!

 TIP:  Draw up a short list of buildings and compare them to your must have list – is there a property that is starting to lead the way?

TIP:  Engage one of your project team to come with you to revisit your top properties – they will bring a new perspective to things.

TIPIf possible, establish a good relationship with the previous tenant, in our experience they were really helpful in providing information about the building, how it operated and its history!

The legal process can take quite some time, it was certainly longer than we had anticipated; but don’t underestimate this vital element of the journey. It is critically important that your future building has the correct legal foundations in place, so ensure you seek good advice.

With the legal aspects complete we gained possession of the building and we all got a much-needed motivation boost! The project team visited the site to design the layout and agree what renovations needed to be made.  The vision was taking shape!

Renovations and installations!

Be ready – This is an extremely busy period.  Obtaining quotes, liaising with contractors, arranging building services are just a handful of the tasks at hand. I found that having someone local to the site with good local knowledge is hugely helpful.  Access can be required at various times of the day and sometimes night but with the building not yet fully functional requires a lot of coming and goings to site.   Ensure the alarm systems are serviced and activated and site security implemented.

TIPTake your readings!  Ensure you capture the utility readings on day one and contact the associated providers to inform them you are the new tenants submitting the readings.  This should be a straightforward exercise I can assure you it isn’t, so be warned!

 

For those who may be undertaking a similar process either now or in the future, I wish you every success.  My recommendation is to ensure you appoint the right person to lead the project, a person who loves to do detail, enjoys multi-taking, doesn’t mind getting their hands (very) dirty, and has the patience of a saint and most importantly a good sense of humour!

BSRIA North is proud of what has been achieved and we forward to welcoming you through our doors – please visit us any time!

TRANSFORMATION OF THE OFFICE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Launching BSRIA Business

BSRIA open day, 1970

BSRIA membership open day, 1970

A resurgence of popular interest in the ’70s comes as no great surprise if you consider the ways in which the last double-dip recession resonates today. For example, deregulation and the boom in mortgage lending in the 1970s played no small part in the current volatile housing market.  

The BSRIA Statistics Bulletin has its roots in the 1970s, as we recognised at that time a need for better market intelligence to help businesses get the competitive edge. It’s still a tough market and members tell us that our data to inform future business strategy is valuable – but we’ve subsequently made many improvements to the publication. I’m pleased to say that this month we’re launching a new suite of business services for our members including the new Business Bulletin: 

Total consultants workload during last three months compared with the same period last year.

Total consultants workload during last three months compared with the same period last year.

New services:

  •  Business Bulletin (replacing the Statistics Bulletin) offering quarterly analysis and data on the economic outlook, construction market, M&E contracting and more. We also provide unique data from BSRIA’s Consultants’ Workload Survey. If you work for a consulting engineering  company and would like to contribute to our quarterly survey, please get in touch.
  • Business Network – register  for the launch of the first of a series of business networking opportunities on 11th September.
  • Monthly e-newsletter with the latest business information and technical resources – sign up here.
  • Online business resources on our members-only web pages www.bsria.co.uk/business.

The July issue of the Business Bulletin will be included in our quarterly members mailing (also look out for more information in the next issue of Delta T).

Do let me know if you have any further suggestions…and I’d like to hear a few stories about what it was like for your business in the ’70s…and some pictures please!

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