The McAvoy Group looks at the latest techniques for digitising construction and how the new technology is taking offsite construction to the next level. BIM has been the subject of much debate in recent years but the aim of driving greater collaboration across the disciplines of architecture, engineering, manufacturing and construction has to be the right approach.
Digital transformation is happening all around us and the developing technologies, such as global connectivity, and new advances such as drones, satellite images, robotics and electric cars are set to accelerate and will continue to change the way we live. The construction industry, however, has been much slower to adopt and benefit from the digital transformation. McAvoy’s view is that there is tremendous synergy between offsite construction and the latest digital techniques, which give us the opportunity to radically improve the way we design and produce buildings for our clients.
Building Information Modelling (BIM)
BIM is much more than the creation of 3D models of buildings. It is about the process of how we deliver projects to our clients in the most efficient way possible. It has allowed us to streamline processes at the earliest stages of a project, to deliver shorter design periods and buildings that exceed our clients’ expectations. It allows us to collaborate more effectively internally, with our supply chain and with the client.
Shorter design periods are critical for offsite construction. We need to start manufacturing buildings as soon as the ground is broken on site. To achieve that, detailed design information has to be released to our manufacturing teams at a much earlier stage than with site-based construction – and that necessitates earlier decision making on the part of the client. BIM allows a building design to be co-ordinated in a more efficient way and facilitates better quality decisions earlier in a project. If we use data rich, fully detailed 3D BIM models and walkthroughs, we can communicate a building design much more effectively, and present design options for discussion in a far better way.
Virtual Reality in Construction
Advances in virtual reality (VR) have allowed us to actually put our clients and end users into their virtual building as part of the design process. They can feel and experience their working environments and are now able to validate instantly whether the layouts work for them. VR takes client engagement to another level. It allows clients to engage and review the design as it develops. It removes the potential for misinterpretation of drawings and data loss. Using a headset, you can be in the space in a building. We used it for a recent project at Dublin Airport where the client wanted to assess ceiling heights. It provides instant and more informed decision making.
Mobile VR can now easily be set up and remote multi-user sessions can be created. Permanent VR can be installed on site for our major projects, hosted at our head office. This really enhances the way our clients and users visualise a building. Its design and functionality can be assessed with a view to producing better building designs, more quickly.
Augmented Reality – The Next Development
Augmented reality (AR) allows us to project CAD data onto the world around us. For example, we could take AR onto a site and superimpose the building. This would be an excellent planning tool and offer a new level of client engagement. It could also allow us to deliver 3D data to manufacturing, potentially cutting out 2D drawings, which we are exploring and believe has huge potential for offsite manufacture.
Our aim is to cut out the resource-intensive processes of 2D information. By removing the reliance on manual processes, there is less data loss and more informed decision making, all driven by BIM. As advances in digital technology continue to improve, we can only see even greater benefits to our customers, users and stakeholders in the facilities we design and construct offsite.