Menno De Jonge, Director Digital Construction, Royal Bam Group
Digital is our normal
The world of construction is changing fast and there is no stopping digitalization. Royal BAM Group is embracing Digital Construction and we have earned ourselves a reputation in the market as a leading player in the construction world’s digital revolution. Our slogan, ‘We build it before we build it’, is testament to the numerous innovative digital initiatives, ranging from 3D printing to virtual and augmented reality and from BIM to the use of smart algorithms to collect data. We create the present built environment (physical) while we are creating the future built environment (digital).
Digital Construction enables us to manage our clients’ expectations more effectively. We also need Digital Construction to manage our projects more safely and efficiently and to realize better project outcomes. It’s absolutely necessary to guarantee our company’s future. Digital is our normal! Digital Construction focusses on our primary processes across the whole lifecycle of projects, from tendering till delivery of projects.
The Digital Construction lifecycle
This image visualizes BAM’s project lifecycle and is used to explain how we apply Digital Construction technologies with the ultimate goal to digitize and digitalize our building practice throughout the project lifecycle. Digitization is the process of converting information from a physical format to a digital one, whereas digitalization is the process of leveraging that digitization to improve business processes.
Of course we are not on our own, we need to involve our stakeholders and supply chain partners, which are mentioned in the circle as well. It is certainly not only about applying digital technologies, it is also about clarifying our processes and results and upskill our workforce to reach our end-goals.
Digital and Physical
The image also shows the Digital and the Physical side of our project lifecycle. In BAM we use the credo ‘we make it (digital) before we make it (physical)’, or ‘we build it before we build it’. In other words; we prepare our projects in a digital way and create a Digital Master that is used as input to build our projects in a physical way,A Digital Master is an accurate digital representation of a building/facility and it serves two purposes.
One, it helps both the end user and the builder to visualize and understand what to expect as an end product. And two, it can be used to assist a project team in planning the building methods, and associated techniques and processes. A visual representation helps in identifying constructability issues well before the project is realized. This helps in saving time and money and avoiding expensive mistakes that in some cases cannot be reversed or altered.
The six lifecycle steps
A project lifecycle is comprised of six major process steps . We start with Scanning the existing situation, this can go from green field situation where we will realize a new project or to an existing situation that needs to be renovated. One of the methods we use is 3D laser scanning on a tri-pod or attached to a drone, to create 3D point clouds that will be used as a basis for the design. Other examples for scanning are taking in the information provided by a client and sketching the existing situation. This we then use in the Design step, where we use 3D modelling technologies to develop the design of a project. We coordinate the designs of different disciplines (i.e. concrete, steel, façade, installations) and check for potential clashes between the disciplines. The final step in the Digital side of the lifecycle is the Simulate step, in which we use different simulation technologies to optimize the Digital Master of our project. Here we simulate the schedule (4D planning), the logistics, extract quantities and costs (5D estimating) and look into subjects like structural analysis, constructability, lifecycle assessment (LCA), health & safety, people flow and way finding, acoustics, fire safety, lighting, waste management, and many other aspects. By exploring the usage of advanced technologies, like Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality, we continuously strive to improve our methods to be able to get to the most efficient and qualitatively best end result for our clients and end-users.
Once we have finalized the Digital Master we are ready to move into the physical side of the lifecycle. We start Producing the objects that at a later stage will be assembled into the final building. During production, we aim to produce as many objects as possible in an industrialized factory environment (Offsite) using CAD-CAM machines, robots, 3D printers and more. Some of these facilities are owned by BAM, others are owned by our supply chain partners. These objects are then transported (by air, water, rail or road) to the construction site where they together with the onsite produced items are Assembled into their final configuration. This is like an IKEA or LEGO type of approach often referred to as Industrialized Construction.
During the production and assembly process steps we actively monitor our lean processes, perform quality monitoring, stakeholder management and monitor all kind of aspects like safety, people, site access, weather and more. We can link this information to the 3D model that we carry with us on tablet devices on the construction site. Before we hand-over to the client, we produce our as-built model with all the relevant information that is needed to operate the project (Digital Twin).
The final process step mentioned in the circle is Live (or Operate) where the project is handed over to the end-user. This phase is often referred to as the Operation & Maintenance or Facility Management phase of the lifecycle. When BAM is still involved we also apply digital technologies to operate our projects in this process step. We use sensors and IoT devices to monitor our projects and support predictive maintenance processes. All this Live information again forms the base for the Scan step.
During all the process steps described above a lot of data is being produced and managed in on-premise and cloud based environments. We are using Common Data Environments (CDE) and platforms like Microsoft SharePoint and Autodesk BIM 360 to manage this data. This data is a rich source of information that we use to Learn and Scale by applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning algorithms to provide our project teams with predictive information and dashboards.