Digital Spine

The FIS Digital Spine is a simple introduction to the tools and language behind digital transformation that is supporting the FIS community and shaping the future of our sector.

You may have seen the expression ‘Industry 4.0’ this refers for the fourth industrial revolution, the “Digital Revolution”, the Construction Playbook isolates the need to “develop new solutions including improved digital capabilities.” But what does the digitalisation of the finishes and interiors sector actually mean.  Behind all of these digital solutions is whole new lexicon.

Surveying

Laser / Point Scanning Lidar

What is it

Laser or Point Scanning Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) is a method of fast high-definition surveying (HDS).  It works by firing rapid laser pulses (sonic alternatives exist) off structures and objects to capture accurate measurements and layouts of 3D areas.

Where it is used

Laser scanning is used for surveying landscapes, structures, facades and interiors – the technology supports the rapid capture of dimensionally accurate lay-outs to aid the design process producing a model (that can be used for BIM purposes).

The scan produces geometric data and is then used to create a point cloud that provides a 3D digital or CAD (Computer Aided Design) model of a space.  

Surveying in this way can support damage identification, capture the location of critical services during the construction phase and even be applied to inspect and monitor as built progress on a project.

Total Stations

What is it

An optical/electronic instrument commonly used in surveying that allows a surveyor to quickly and precisely measure both horizontal or vertical angles, slope distances and triangulate the location of a reference point.  Total stations can incorporate robotic elements to allow one person to operate and even GPS.

Where it is used

Used for surveying and in setting out wall frames and ceiling grids. Total stations can provide high dimensional accuracy (to around 1.5mm deviation over 1500 m) and support digital exchange with e.g. a BIM model.

Drones

What is it

Drones are Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), effectively remote-controlled mini helicopters that can be equipped with camera’s for recording high-definition photography and video footage.

Where it is used

Drones are widely used for marketing videos to help promote space and create compelling case studies and increasingly used for surveying difficult to access places (e.g. Roofs or facades), reducing H&S risk and cost.  This is not just exterior works; Drones are used in interiors too.  Drones can be the ideal option to capture time lapse videos, and certain images and measurements (drones are accurate to around 2mm for every 7 metres of distance) to help monitor developments of a project and overlay progress on plans.   Consideration is also being given to how drones could support the movement of materials on site, but this is more one for the future.

Specification

Authoring Software

What is it

Software used to create 3D models that are embedded with performance and volumetric data used to build parametric models (dynamic models that automatically adjust and recalculate when a parameter is changed) of a building. They are a critical tool for BIM and also commonly referred to as modelling platforms.

Where it is used

Authoring software is used to create information-rich models, effectively allowing the designer to embed performance parameters of products selected within a 3D model, supporting digital design and clash detection aspects of BIM.

Building Information Modelling (BIM)

What is it

BIM is a standardised process that supports the virtual design, construction and operation of a building by developing and testing a digital prototype in advance of its physical realisation.

Where it is used

BIM can support the construction process of any building project.  The aim is to support the consistent flow of information and in so doing deliver greater cost certainty, eliminating error, improving programme duration and reducing risk.

Examples

For more information on BIM visit the FIS BIM Toolkit

Digital Twin

What is it

Digital twin is digital counterpart to a real-world object, connected through a two-way link. 

Where it is used

In construction terms a Digital Twin replica can range from a small product to entire buildings. Data feeds are sourced from sensors, platforms and databases which are used autonomously update the digital twin This direct link to the real-world asset separate digital twin from that of the standard 3D model.  The twin replaces traditional design methods, replicating every detail of the real-world object and simulating the next steps, matching granular level detail with incoming data from the construction site to to predict, simulate and adjust the building model.  Optimise scheduling, resource allocation, cost reduction, energy usage, etc

Potential advantages from use of a digital twin can support clash detection, construction/deconstruction simulations and improved cost forecasting.  It can support improved BIM modelling and live adjustment of project documents, schedules, procurement, etc to help improve the construction process.  

Digital Twins can support handover and maintenance of the finished product where the continuous feed of data allows the digital twin to monitor maintenance schedules and identify and predict issues before they arise.

Digital twins can be expanded to replicate processes (factoring in changes to cost forecasts and potential disruption around traffic congestion, weather forecast, etc).  Digital Twins and also are being looked at to support workforce management through professional passports (capturing critical information about the competence and work of individuals). 

Visualisation

3D Modelling

What is it

The process of creating a digital representation of an object or shape in 3-dimensional space using computers.  Can be used to create and visualise the finished product, modify designs in response to change, and document information about specific components within the finished construction product, such as materials, dimensions, among others. Essentially makes designing and communicating product information more efficient

Where it is used

Design: Simulate and visualise potential designs, estimate cost and identify flaws. Assisting with client understanding of the finished product, increasing cost effective ay avoiding flawed design decisions and avoiding rework.

Construction: Used to assess project progression against performance targets in terms of timescale, cost in comparison to level of project completion. If the construction does not match the model, it allows review of the changes and modifications to be implemented. Accurate 3D representations of current completed work can assist with reporting back to project boards or stakeholders to assuring progress of works is within performance tolerances.

Handover/Maintenance: Act as plans for future building proposals such as a refit, extension, or any general modifications.

Virtual reality (VR)

What is it
3D representation of a projects that can be visualised fully in a virtual space. In terms of construction, it is a detailed 3D model that allows complete immersion by placing the user directly within the model.
Where it is used

Desing and planning: Used to visualise the design of upcoming project to assist in discussing solutions to complex problems. Also, can be used to assist the client in visualising the finished product avoid confusion and disagreement during handover.

Construction: Can assist those responsible in managing the project away from site by having a visualised up to date model of the site.

 Training: Allows deeper and more detailed training in a risk-free environment, while being more cost effective.

Augmented Reality (AR) / Wearables / Mixed Reality

What is it

Augmented Reality allows virtual elements to overlay real world surroundings.  Often this is delivered using wearable technology (e.g. Google Glasses), but the virtual overlay can be through a mobile phone or tablet.

Where it is used

The ability to combine virtual architectural designs with the physical reality helps to build a deeper understanding of the building as it is or could be.  It can be used throughout the build process.

Design and planning: AR enable the user to showcase the end-products (e.g., completed building) on an extremely detailed level and provide the means to show how a design or design element will benefit or impact its surroundings.

 

Measurement: AR can help measure a space’s physical elements, including depth, height, and width. Companies can use models to accurately determine the dimensions and comprehensively view how the project will appear and support the setting out of a job, saving time, materials and money.

 

Setting-out: AR gives project managers and surveyors the visibility to see how everything should fits on-site to scale before materials are ordered.  Workers will be able to automatically measure built pieces and compare them to the specified measurements from a model when wearing wearables on-site.  It can also help spot inconsistencies in design and potential clashes earlier.

 

Safety – AR technology can also use the designs to let users see hidden services.

 

Inspection and Snagging: An inspector can accurately align and compare the as-built structures against design.  To support snagging an inspector can capture photos on demand, or retrieve notes from location sites. On-site, complicated areas, and serious concerns become easier to recognize, identify, and can be shared instantly.

 

Training: An augmented reality headset that allows workers to receive direct instructions and can support training, particularly where machinery is involved.  The augmented reality headset can allow the trainer to interact with the user and reduce costs and downtime utilized because the instructions are more intuitive.  Additionally, augmented reality can provide a safer training environment because staff can work with reduced risk of injury.

Examples
Mobile Application:  Morpholio Trace
Wearables:  Google Glasses, Microsoft Hololens

Analysis

Artificial Intelligence

What is it

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the process of machine mimicking the human cognitive processes, effectively enabling the computer to learn and adapt to conditions to problem solve, recognise patterns, and learn without specific human programming for certain tasks.

Where it is used

In construction the AI can be applied to assist project managers in sifting through incoming information, scrutinising and prioritising critical information to be flagged for attention of the project manage Although AI is not currently used to its full potential on site, the future application of AI for construction is endless. AI is predicted to be used for: 

Clash Detection: Applying previous data from similar projects to improve the ability for clash detection.

Generative Design: Use improved AI to generate better design with limited design input from architects.

Risk Mitigation: AI monitors the risk of the project prioritising risk factors for assessment.

Off-site Construction: Reduce labour cost by autonomous construction of off-site products. 

Handover/Maintenance: AI can use information to study and monitor the building, flagging potential issues before they occur.

Machine learning is predicted to be used in multiple processes and procedure in which AI is relied upon such as clash detection, generative design and could ultimately support enhanced mechanisation of traditional manual trades.

Generative Design

What is it

An AI based design tool that develops architectural designs from a huge database of building designs. It uses input design goals and performance parameters (Cost, time, parameters, etc) as a basis for its final design choices. The AI learns over time which items are suitable becoming a stronger and more useful tool with each use. Generative design is beginning to see implementation within the construction industry and is expected to be adopted widely within the construction industry

Where it is used

To assist architects in the design phase of construction ensuring the building fits the client’s parameters and expectations.

Clash Detection

What is it

During a simulation of a 3D design, clash detection flags potential issues and discrepancies between the designs. Conflicts can range from structural conflicts or conflicts in workflow or resources. Clash detection is often a component of BIM, 3D modelling, Digital Twin among other digital mapping techniques. Clash detection improves cost effective of the project reducing the chance of rework and redesign.

Where it is used

Clash detection is often a component of BIM, 3D Modelling, Digital Twin among other digital mapping techniques used in the planning and design phases of a project.

Typical examples of where it can support the construction process is by ensuring that structural elements and service openings are planned and design liability is not assumed through the construction process inadvertently through site decisions to “work around” problems encountered.

Quantum/Contract Management

Estimating Software

What is it

Computer software designed to assist with estimation of cost, materials, labour and time of a construction project.

Where it is used

During tender of project to estimate materials and cost for quotation, by enabling accurate prediction of quantum and rapidly matching and calculating requirements for complimentary products and fixings

Examples

Tradeline Drywall Solutions – this integrated tool supports system selection, estimation and inspection of drylining systems

Real Time Reporting

What is it

The process of gathering up-to-date data and relaying it to the user for monitoring, creating reliable and accurate date to assist in decision making. During construction this avoids unnecessary time delays created when transferring information from site to the main office. The concept is utilised through use of cloud software, BIM, mobile project documentation apps. In general, most if not all software that allows access to shared information will utilise real time reporting if used effectively.

Where is it used

During construction Real Time Reporting helps to avoid unnecessary time delays created when transferring information from site to the main office and ensure that everybody is working off the latest information. The concept is utilised through use of cloud software, BIM and mobile project documentation apps. In general, most if not all software that allows access to shared information will utilise real time reporting if used effectively.

Real Time Reporting is vital to supporting the adoption of Digital Twins.

Supply Chain Planning Tools

What is it

The process of streamlining the procurement process – automating supplier POs, capturing delivery tickets electronically as evidence, cross checking invoices against delivered goods/progress, and seamlessly approving invoices. A more joined up approach, giving more control – e.g. ensuring you only order what’s needed at the right rate, and don’t over pay suppliers and subcontractors. Enables contractors to work more collaboratively across various departments – e.g. buying, site, surveyors and accounts etc – giving 360 degree visibility at all times.

Where is it used

During the construction phase of projects to support procurement, financial planning and manage variations and applications for payment.

Application for Payment Software

What is it

Application for Payment software efficiently manages the application for payment and valuation process of a construction project within a single, centralised platform.  Approval workflows allow a digitised and streamlined process of what is a notoriously labour-intensive and inaccurate element of a project that traditionally relies on piecing together disparate information across emails, paperwork and spreadsheets to determine payments due.  Ensuring contract and Construction Act compliance and helping to prevent disputes between contractors and their supply chain is invaluable and demonstrates that back-office efficiencies can really be key to a successful project.

Where is it used

Application for payment software plays a key role in the commercial and financial process of construction projects.  It is used to enhance collaboration and transparency amongst contractors and their supply chain during the assessment of applications for payment and sometime contract variations, the certification of payment notices and the management of retention.  This type of software can often be used stand-alone or integrated with an ERP or accounting system to offer a single source of truth.  Application for payment software provides financial teams with visibility of cash flow, projected final account, payments and liabilities which otherwise can be tricky to access and report in real-time.

 Construction and Project Management

Construction Management Platform

What is it

Project management tools designed for use within the construction industry and helps to improve construction processes through automation. Supports material, process, quality and manpower management through the breadth of a construction project.

Where is it used

Used from a start of a construction project to handover, the software helps to break down the stages of construction (through pre-construction planning, project management, resource management and financial planning) helping to improve planning and measurement, break down silos and support communication by providing ultimate transparency of information to all involved in the project (even the client).

Examples
https://www.teknobuilt.com/

Electronic Document Management Systems

What is it

Software for the management of both digital and scanned documents that are created within an organisation. Assist in the organisation and distribution of relevant documents, ensuring everything has a paper trail. In construction electronic document management systems often incorporate BIM capability.

Where it is used

Throughout the life of a construction project to record, organise and archive all relevant information to the project.

An effective document management system is critical to supporting the FIS Product Process People Quality Management Framework.

Digital Tracking Technology

What is it

The use of RFI or QR codes to carry information about products that can be easily accessed through a mobile phone.

Where it is used

To carry information about the certificating and testing of products, to support traceability if there was ever an issue reported with the product and to carry clear and easily accessible information on the installation and maintenance of a product. 

Examples

Workforce Management/Productivity

Advanced human-machine interfaces

What is it

A component of a device that allows the operator to interact with the machine.

Where it is used

Found wherever a machine needs external human inputs to function

Smart sensors

What is it

Sensors that receive information from the physical and act autonomously through predefined actions upon receipt of specific information.

Where is it used

Used to monitor site conditions, improve equipment and material management, improve safety management and enhance facility management throughout the life cycle of the project.

Monitor site Conditions: Provide information on weather, temperature and humidity. Can be used for the detection of gas leaks. 

Improve Equipment and Materials Management: Track materials in real time providing data on location and stock levels.  Provides data on status, location and productivity of the equipment, reducing machine maintenance costs by providing early indicators of degradation. 

Improve safety management: Monitors worksite condition and biometric sensors to monitor people on site. 

Enhance Facility Management: Integration into BIM to provide real time data to allow smoother and streamlined process management

Smart Cards

What is it

Electronic cards that store information about the cardholder that can be read digitally.

Where it is used

As a store or method to check cardholder’s identity, qualifications and training, authorisation for access, among others.

Biometric Time and Attendance Systems

What is it

Fingerprint or facial recognition based clock-in system to assess time and attendance on-site.

Where is it used

On the front of a construction site to safeguard and time entry and exit of staff

Examples

Employee Record Systems

What is it

Digital database to record all employees and sub-contractors working for you. 

Where it is used

A Digital record to support recruitment/workforce management is becoming more essential as employers are required to conduct right to work, assess modern slavery risk and maintain accurate records of competence and at the same time focus on security of data through the GDPR. Systems are now available that support payment through timesheets and link to mobile phone apps, site gate data and smart cards enabling users to update their own records and support interactive management of insurance, training and ultimately competence.

 Inspection/Supervision

Inspection / Snagging tools 

What is it

Software used to record the results of an inspection, often accompanied with a report, voice notes and pictures of the issue.

Where it is used

During the inspection snagging process.

Examples

Tradeline Drywall Solutions – this integrated tool supports system selection, estimation and inspection of drylining systems

Surveillance technology and facial recognition

What is it
In its simplest form CCTV, but advanced technology can now be used to monitor spaces and activity and even to identify people and record any suspicious activity.
Where is it used

Cameras used on site increase to security and also to virtually monitor progress and productivity

 Communication

Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM)

What is it

Gathers customer information and interactions into one place, centralising data in order to improve customer interaction.

Where it is used

Used daily for accessing and storing customer information to support account management and provide an index of communications.  

Content Management System (CMS)

What is it

A website management tool that allows modification of a website without specialised knowledge in website production and management

Where is it used

During the updating of company websites

Examples

WordPress, Wix, Godaddy

Voice Over Internet Protocol

What is it

Technologies used to deliver phone calls and communication over the internet

Where it is used

During communication with customers, staff members, suppliers, etc

Cloud based system

What is it

The on-demand availability of digital resources through shared access of centralised databases via the internet.

Internet Of Things (IOT)

What is it

Network of physical objects and devices interconnected that provide unique identifiers without needing human input

The FIS Digital Construction Working Group

A think tank that operates within the FIS to review the impact and help members to understand and implement new Digital Solutions

FIS looks at Digital Evolution in the Finishes and Interiors Sector – The last meeting of the FIS Digital Construction Working Group featured presentations introducing the new FIS Digital Spine, an update from the UK BIM Alliance, A Practical Look at how BIM is impacting the Finishes and Interiors Sector and a wider look at the technology that is shaping the Finishes and Interiors Sector.  We were joined by excellent speakers from ISG, the UK BIM Alliance and Trimble.  You can catch all of the presentations here.

Additional Reading and support:

CITB Digital Futures Construction Report

Imagining Construction’s Digital Future, McKinsey

Technology Impact on the Means and Methods of Wall and Ceiling Construction