By Thomas Gröninger, Head-Digital Object Survey and UAV, STRABAG
The construction industry is experiencing a period of change, as digitisation pervades almost all areas of activity. Legislators, clients and contractors are equally challenged to rework or adapt the rules and regulations as well as business and construction processes. The STRABAG Group is committed to continuous process optimisation in order to achieve comprehensive and long-term digitisation. The focus here is particularly on the systematic, interdisciplinary introduction and application of digital methods, such as BIM 5D® (Building Information Modelling). An important building block is the supportive use of drones in land surveying, asset inventory, as-built documentation and model-based quantity surveys.
Change of Mindset
The digital method known as BIM is completely transforming existing work processes, creating new ways of working and revolutionising how the construction industry thinks and works. A “change of mindset” best describes this new way of working and thinking. This requires not only assigning new tools to existing processes, but also completely redefining, organising and digitising all previous processes. Digitalising not only means the creation of digital files, but also the targeted networking of digital information in a 3D model and linking the information with other process data such as time (4D) and costs (5D). This step,which STRABAG calls BIM 5D®,demands new standards as well as the use of appropriate hardware and software on our construction sites.
The importance of surveying for digitisationis often underestimated. surveying provides the necessary data for the entire construction cycle, from planning to design and all the way to maintenance. For most projects there already is an existing structure and therefore a digital twin must be created as basis for the data. The process of recording and modelling a digital twin is handled by STRABAG’s Digital Object Survey business unit in Regensburg, which is not only equipping the company with new disruptive technologies, but also helping to drive the pioneering change process..
Adopting Latest Tech Innovations
The integration of drone surveying into the construction process is a success story. STRABAG, recognised in early 2015 that surveying can be performed more effectively and started investigating the possibility of aerial surveying using drones. Our 3D mapping services team in Regensburg evaluated various hardware and software solutions and worked to create new processes. These new processes were then integrated into the construction process that increased the quality of the construction sites and raised the efficiency. Drone surveying yields a digital image of the construction site. The collected point clouds are utilised to create digital terrain models for BIM, 3D data of the construction site are hosted on web servers and made available to the project participants in a web viewer, and high-resolution aerial images are used to secure evidence. As-built services, digital twins, 5D controlling and a new way of inspecting buildings have created considerable added value for the construction site. Unlike previous times that took weeks to record and prepareof digital terrain models, it takes only few days for surveyors to do the same using UAV-based surveying.
Drone surveying was followed and complemented by mobile mapping. Using this technology, infrastructure projects can be scanned and survey data generated by a surveying vehicle traveling at speeds of up to 110 km/h. A new team of specialists then utilises these high-precision survey data to create impressive BIM data and performs a model-based quantity survey in various CAD software applications.
The combination of drone surveying and mobile mapping delivers highly accurate and precise digital data from the air and the ground, feeding the building information models with relevant basic information.
A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) for BIM
BIM lives from data. To ensure an efficient operation of BIM, the actual status of the construction site must be surveyed at the shortest possible intervals. Based on the comparison with design data, quantities are determined on a model basis and time and costs are subjected to 5D controlling. These actual states are recorded using innovative technologies such as drones or mobile mapping. For the analysis of these quantity data in the form of point clouds, millions of individual points must be analysed, classified and interpreted before they are fed into the building information model.
STRABAG developed its own AI that is capable of automatically classifying point clouds and thereby recognising and assigning objects in the quantity data. This achieves a new level of efficiency in evaluating the data for BIM.
- Advice to peers (i.e. entrepreneurs and startups) in the digital era.
Challenges of digitisation and BIM in transportation infrastructure construction
A sufficient budget for digitisation is one thing, the right team and expertise another. But the biggest challenge is the implementation of new digital procedures in the operating business. Anyone who believes that digitisationis no more than a trophy and that digital tools only serve as a way tomake acquisitions on the market will disqualify themselves from the competition in the medium term. Digitisation and the introduction of new technologies involve a fundamental change process reaching down to the roots of the construction process. The success of the change process depends not only on know-how and tools, but also on leaders who can show us the right path to follow and who accompany and support the employees along this way.
In order to ensure the standardised implementation of BIM and its interfaces beyond one’s own company, it is necessary to integrate these procedures into standards and to create norms. In surveying, for example, point clouds will become to the new standard, replacing single-point measurements. The existing deficits in the standards and the lack of norms must be overcome as quickly as possible. The development of CAD software must also be driven forward with regard tothe error-free processing of quantity data in order to ensure a stable process in the implementation of building information modelling.
Outlook into the future
Whether new technologies or new ways of working, the digital transformation will revolutionise the construction industry in many ways. At the same time, it is always important to advance developments with foresight while also keeping an eye on the big picture. Advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence are no longer science fiction – they will help shape the future of the construction industry. Nevertheless, the actual work of building must not be forgotten. We must keep aware of the operating situation – because digitisation doesn’t make the construction site, the construction site makes digitisation.