Transformation is happening all around us and while other industries have been quick to make the digital leap, the construction industry has been slower out of the starting blocks. Steve Thompson of EOS Facades shares his views on the positive impact technology will have on today’s construction industry
Steel framing system (SFS) designers and offsite manufacturers are leading the way in changing the face of construction – and the rate of advancements in our sector is accelerating at a relentless pace. The combination of offsite manufacturing and digital construction technology presents a compelling proposition.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is at the forefront of the latest digital revolution. There is now almost a universal recognition of BIM within the construction industry, but some are still slow to fully implement its use – even in the offsite sector.
The discipline and collaborative working that BIM facilitates are ideally suited to the needs of prefabrication in terms of early coordination and three-dimensional design information – particularly when using steel framing systems. The output of the BIM design process, the IFC model, can now be directly imported into the fabrication software, eliminating the time-consuming translation of engineer’s information into cut lists and assembly drawings.
In terms of procurement, BIM is a powerful tool that allows construction companies to quantify the requirements of their projects. This enables control of spending and time management, resulting in the reduction of wastage in these areas.
It is essential that BIM is used in the early design stages of a project to ensure that there is capacity to not only clearly identify the elements of the project but, through the use of BIM, we are also able to anticipate when to procure materials or structural elements – saving both time and money. It is extremely difficult to transport the appropriate knowledge across all construction partners at the same time without the use of BIM; this can lead to teams procuring the wrong materials at the wrong time, in different volumes.
Way back in 2011, the government committed to the use of BIM Level 2 on all centrally procured public sector projects. More recently, government announcements, underpinned by a number of industry reports and major investment declarations, are advancing the offsite sector.
Driven by the demand for more predictability throughout the construction process, the resurgence in offsite construction has resulted in increased levels of market activity and innovation. While the housebuilding industry appears to be grabbing many of the headlines, offsite construction is also rapidly expanding in other sectors.
The use of BIM is a key enabler for integrating offsite technology into construction practices. This is something crucial within government projects as there is an acute need for time-efficient construction, as well as a vital responsibility for our industry and government to reduce our carbon footprint through the application of low energy buildings – resulting in lower costs for the end user.
The digital age is evolving. We are constantly adapting technology in order to enhance all aspects of the modern world. Our own state-of-the-art manufacturing facility has changed beyond recognition, with further expansion planned for next year. EOS has extended our section capability with a significant investment in new advanced roll-forming machinery that has been specifically commissioned.
But BIM is only the start of this transition: the construction sector is changing fast – as we found out at the recent Explore Offsite Outlooks event.
Virtual reality (VR) – an artificial, computer-generated simulation of an environment – has transformed the way that architects present their vision. It immerses the user by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality first-hand – allowing clients to play an integral part of the design process and ‘virtually’ enter the building and validate the layout.
Augmented reality (AR), on the other hand, provides more freedom for the user because it does not need a head-mounted display. Augmented reality takes the real world and adds something to it – for example, a new extension could be digitally superimposed on to an existing building.
This has profound implications for the future design of buildings and those who build them. Tomorrow’s construction professionals will need to master the new software programming skills and learn to co-work with automated technology.
Tel: +44 (0)1325 303030