Historically, the construction industry has been slow to adapt new technologies; however, PCL Construction is at the forefront of implementing cutting-edge technology on project sites and finding value in existing technology to drive good, safe construction practices. Through robotics, the Internet of Things, and leveraging Building Information Modeling (BIM) to incorporate augmented reality, PCL provides innovative solutions for clients and stakeholders.
Years ago, PCL discovered many inefficiencies around the lack of real-time job site information and monitoring, so the company developed Job Site Insights (JSI) internally and most recently partnered with Latium Technologies to advance the capabilities of the platform further.
JSI is a centralized Internet of Things platform that collects and analyzes data from any connected sensor or connected asset on a job site providing real-time monitoring, threshold alerting and insights to make more data-driven decisions. Users can monitor job site conditions, allowing for customizable threshold alerting to help mitigate rework, advance project schedule, optimize energy consumption, bolster safety and reduce costs for clients. Think of JSI as the Microsoft Office of construction. It synthesizes multiple applications into a single pane of glass, a cloud-based interface accessible from any computer or mobile device.
“PCL is an industry leader in Internet of Things technology,” says Andrew Ahrendt, PCL’s director of integrated construction services. “We are experts at leveraging this technology to monitor job sites more efficiently and reduce risk.”
JSI uses embedded sensors which are strategically located throughout buildings under construction. These sensors collect actionable data such as moisture levels, temperature, concrete curing time, localized job-site weather, sound, vibration, volatile organic compounds and frost levels in the ground.
These sensors can also identify water leaks. Water damage accounts for 70% of insurance claims in buildings and exacerbates rising premiums. JSI, in partnership with Eddy Solutions (a provider of smart water monitoring and leak mitigation technologies), delivers water leak detection and water shut-off capabilities to protect buildings from water damage. This technology can monitor, control and conserve water use, protecting the building and critical systems against the risk of water damage during construction.
Sensors are just one part of the JSI ecosystem. PCL can also monitor access on a project site with Job Site Access. This badge and near-field communication recognition platform identifies and admits authorized personnel to the site. Job Site Resourcing is another helpful tool; it enables construction sites to effectively manage deliveries, storage and movement of site materials.
The construction industry has come a long way from using 2D drawings to a digital twin environment today. PCL develops a BIM or digital twin on every project. A BIM model is a rich ecosystem of data not only helpful during the construction process but for operations and maintenance following project completion. BIM allows the team to model quantities, spatial dimensions and more, while also allowing the team to input issues from quality inspections and RFIs, serving as a repository for the project.
With sophisticated technology, PCL can harness the power of BIM to build it right and build it once. For projects like Denver’s 16th Street Mall renovations, the team has leveraged the BIM model to visualize verified existing conditions and utility locations using an augmented reality software. This software incorporates pothole and as-built data into a digital file allowing the PCL team to know where identified utilities are, simply by opening their iPad camera while in the field.
“This software not only improves safety – reducing the risk of utility strikes – but improves culture and communication between PCL teams in the office and the field as well,” says Chris Armstrong, 16th Street Mall construction project manager. While project teams don’t solely rely on this software, it certainly gives them a leg up, adding another layer of protection for operators in the field.
PCL is heavily looking into procurement of robots for its project sites after pilot testing HP SitePrint, Dusty Robotics and Spot the Dog.
HP SitePrint is a layout printing robot that acts as a surveyor in the field. This robot prints the most complex construction site layouts on a variety of surfaces with pinpoint accuracy. Think of it like a Roomba vacuum – only this robot can print ink on any floor in different color, from letters, numbers, lines, and even curved shapes, and the ink can remain in place for more than four weeks. PCL was one of the first construction companies to explore the use of HP SitePrint and the company did so on George Brown College’s Limberlost Place in Toronto before it was officially announced. The company is exploring the use of this robot on projects in Orlando and Vancouver regions.
“With the labor shortages companies are facing across North America, tools like HP SitePrint and Dusty Robotics are extremely beneficial considering they are often more efficient, productive, consistent and much more accurate than traditional manual methods,” says John Boktor, PCL senior manager, digital construction. HP SitePrint can complete up to 5,000 square feet of line layout per hour, which is five times more than what a human is capable of completing.
PCL collaborated with Intel and Boston Dynamics to test Spot the Dog on a large commercial tower in the Greater Toronto Area. While Spot the Dog is not a layout robot, it can offer a diverse set of skills which PCL put to the test. PCL mounted and fused together different technologies to the robot including laser scanning, movable 360-degree cameras and video to see if the robot could perform the functions simultaneously. In the end, the robot passed the test and proved to be a value to the PCL team especially considering the time and cost savings.
Spot the Dog also has the capability to go through a rugged site, confined spaces and areas that may not be safe for a human to go such as close to an edge. Spot can withstand heat, so it can get close to welding operations and can withstand dust and loud noise. Spot also acts as a guard dog, monitoring for issues on a site such as fires, theft, or other major safety concerns.
PCL continues to explore how to leverage advanced technology in construction to reduce costs, and increase safety, quality and efficiencies. This starts during the estimating process when teams evaluate scheduling, cost drivers and site conditions.
“As experienced builders with more than 116 years of construction knowledge coupled with our technology developers, PCL transfers that institutional knowledge to our clients, guiding them in making the best decisions when it comes to implementing technology on projects across North America and Australia,” says Ahrendt.