VR virtual reality and AR augmented reality

Construction project management in the digital (or modern) age

Construction Project Management in the Digital (or Modern) Age

 

The tools ushering in a new era of PM for the AEC industry

Surprising and delighting your clients can be a great thing. Whether it's a handwritten thank you note, an innovative solution to their problem, or a design project completed under budget. But for anyone who works in the AEC industry knows, you don’t want surprises in a construction project. However, they happen, and too often. Whether it’s the rising cost of building materials, errors or omissions in design documents, or differing site conditions, surprises on a construction site mean costly delays. Fortunately, today’s tools and processes help us eliminate construction project surprises like never before.

Construction Project Management Tools Changing the Game

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Technical industries are changing rapidly, and the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is no exception. The most impactful change as of late is the widespread adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) workflows. BIM is a 3D model-based process that gives AEC professionals the visibility and best practices to expertly manage construction projects from start to finish. Architects have been using BIM since the 90s, but in recent years contractors and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing consultants have adopted the workflow as well.

The clear snapshot enabled by BIM gives architects, engineers, and contractors the insight and tools to prevent setbacks and strategize building methods before the job site opens. For instance, complete BIM models can run “clash detection” to automatically flag any conflicting trades like plumbing lines overlapping mechanical ducts.  Additionally, the common lexicon of BIM means all of the trades speak the same language, decreasing the miscommunication that can quickly derail construction projects. With all the relevant players in construction on the same page with BIM, we’re getting complete digital models of projects that were previously inaccessible.

3D Scanning

3D scanning is another technology quickly securing its place in construction project management. Originally used for existing space surveys, 3D scanners are now producing highly accurate as-built dimensions. These scans avoid the potential errors of analog measurements like marked up drawings.  Those errors would mean expensive change orders during the construction phase. Another benefit of 3D scanning is the technology’s ability to record the changes of a building that were not previously incorporated into complete, up-to-date drawing sets.

Less expensive and easier to use than ever, 3D scanning devices tie directly to BIM models for a fluid transfer of accurate data to create precise digital models. Time is saved by skipping the step of translating analog measurements to a digital format, and 3D scanning produces a complete picture of the environment that is exact enough to build from.

Augmented Reality (AR)

If you’ve used a Snapchat filter, you know how fun AR can be. But the same digital canvas overlay is quickly becoming the go-to tool for bringing designs to life. Virtual reality (VR) and time-tested renderings are good for a representation of a project, but AR is the clear winner when it comes to visualizing future-built conditions and projecting a tangible sense of space for clients.

The benefit of augmented reality is having that tangible sense of space.

And with iOS and Android heavily investing in smartphones with AR capabilities, AEC professionals can view and export richly detailed AR models with ease. The use of AR for “x-ray” vision capabilities is also rising. Using tablets or smartphones, facilities teams can understand what plumbing lines, conduits, or columns lurk behind walls and ceilings by holding the device to a specific area.

Data

One of the most valuable technologies available today also happens to be one of the least tangible—data. Data is streaming in from all aspects of our lives, including the spaces we inhabit. Sensors can now provide insight as to how spaces are being used by tracking individuals as they move through a space. Data show teams what areas could better perform with HVAC, identify zones that are underutilized, and forecast better methods for conserving energy.

This information together with temperature, location, and acoustics tells a story that can be used to shape spaces and functions, much like having a suit tailored to fit perfectly.

Facing Forward with Construction Project Management

It’s an exciting time to work in construction project management. The tools and processes available today are changing the dynamic AEC industry. Highly collaborative processes like BIM are encouraging fluency amongst trades like never before, while 3D scanning and big data are giving us access to huge pools of information. What remains to be seen is what we will do with it all.

Whether you’re a seasoned architect, facility manager, or industry newbie, we want to hear from you. Comment below and let us know what tools and processes you’re most excited about today and in the future.