Just like the rest of our society, the construction industry is continuously moving forward into emerging digital approaches to how we execute our work. As the industry progresses, the 2-D drawings that have served as the backbone of construction planning and building for centuries are quickly being replaced by the immersive and data rich world of 3-D modelling and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC). The VDC process encompasses more than Building Information Models (BIM), which have become increasingly standard for modern construction projects. VDC integrates the BIM model across construction workflows from design visualization, engineering analysis and multi-disciplinary performance modelling to construction simulation, progress tracking, data collection and turnover. The resultant as-built digital twin of the construction project becomes a tool the facility owner/operator can leverage throughout the life cycle of their asset.
As a leader in the construction industry, PCL helps transform skylines and communities. Our diverse operations across the civil infrastructure, heavy industrial and buildings markets have resulted in local presences across Canada, the United States, Australia and the Caribbean. We look beyond immediate construction needs to develop comprehensive solutions for each project and we constantly seek new opportunities to innovate. We are committed to shaping the future of construction through exceptional relationships and a deep commitment to the success of our clients, colleagues and communities. PCL’s network of construction professionals rises to the challenges associated with a diverse project portfolio, bringing added value to every educational, institutional, civil, industrial, residential, and commercial construction project.
As a construction company that leverages the latest technology, PCL has integrated virtual design and construction workflows into the everyday work of our project teams, giving them the best tools for success. Our diligent planning combined with solid operation processes and carefully selected technology tools lead to safer execution, high productivity and better quality work for our clients. When evaluating new technologies for implementation on our projects we make sure that we choose them for reasons greater than merely their “cool” factor. These technologies must provide value to our clients and improve the cost, safety and quality of construction. Coordinated with our other construction services, virtual construction technologies allow us to improve planning, coordination, and communication within our project teams, with our clients and with our trade partners.
The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the importance of virtual design and construction processes to allow project stakeholders to remotely and virtually access construction information vital to their role on the project. To limit the number of visitors to our jobsites we have increased the use of 360 degree photo and video documentation geotagged to the precise location on the jobsite, on the construction drawings, and within the BIM model, allowing teams to walk the job and observe any issues remotely. Construction teams have also been using augmented reality and HoloLens for field coordination walks to allow stakeholders to see everything they would see on a site walk in real time. This technology allows client and project teams to see issues in the field to determine which systems are located correctly, or where they will need to be located, even though they are not physically part of the field coordination walk.
PCL has also created Job Site InsightsTM (JSITM) using Microsoft Azure and Azure IoT technologies to create an agnostic sensor environment that provides a single-pane view into all aspects of construction. JSI™ is accessible through a desktop PC, tablet, or mobile device. It uses Microsoft Power BI dashboards and data visualizations that show everything from variety of key project environmental conditions to costs, quality metrics, schedules, and inspections. It connects the productivity tools in Microsoft Office 365 and uses a wide variety of Azure services, including Azure Digital Twins, to uncover deep insights into the data.
PCL’s integrated approach begins during the design phase. We work collaboratively with design partners and subcontractors to identify and resolve conflicts and constructability issues that help drive down costs and ensure that the client’s vision is maintained. Prior to construction, we create 4-D schedule animations to allow stakeholders to visualize the proposed construction sequence. The schedule animations often ignite discussions and identify potential issues within our project teams and with our clients that would rarely occur during a review of a traditional Gantt chart schedule.
PCL has also developed a software suite called HeviLift that has made huge strides in optimizing the module supply chain and heavy lift schedule for modularized construction projects. This has long been an area of great opportunity in the industrial construction industry, and our team has worked hard to nearly double productivity over the traditional heavy lift planning methods to set a new industry standard in the field. Our software allows owners to not only see their entire project before it begins, but also to follow the project’s execution day-to-day as modules are delivered and set into place. This not only makes us better builders, but better communicators and collaborators with our clients and other stakeholders.
The PCL drone program is an important pillar of our Reality Capture initiative, another facet of our focus on leveraging emerging technologies to improve the efficiency of our services. By incorporating PCL’s Reality Capture drone program, our teams are empowered with timely and detailed production data to make prudent decisions related to construction methodology and design to ensure the project stays on budget and finishes ahead of schedule. In construction, the need for faster turnarounds on accurate information is ever present. Whether it is an update for a client or quantities for a trade partner, information, and access to it, is part of what defines a successful project.
When starting a project pursuit, we gather the existing conditions of the building site using drone technology to assist in the project’s design and modelling. These aerial systems provide much more value to construction projects than that provided by traditional photography. Drone footage provides designers with an accurate 3-D photo-real model of both the site and its surroundings for the design engineer to layout the project, starting with foundations. The value of these deliverables grows exponentially on projects with larger footprints or civil scopes.
Once construction begins, PCL leverages virtual construction methods to communicate with field staff, empowering them to apply virtual construction tools to increase field productivity, quality, safety, and eliminate unforeseen changes.
Safety is paramount during construction and PCL is modernizing HSE hazard inspections with a new mobile app that takes live photos during inspections and uses machine learning to help inspectors classify risks and categorize them quickly and accurately. This Lean initiative cuts down on paperwork and streamlines safety inspections, while storing information in a data hub that allows for safety trends to be analyzed and preventative measures taken before incidents occur.
Many of our projects include large concrete floors that must meet stringent flatness requirements. By using 3-D laser scanning we can accurately measure the surface elevation of the concrete immediately after it is poured and correct areas that fall outside the specified tolerance before the concrete has set, thus preventing costly rework after the concrete has hardened. By performing 3-D laser scans before and after every pour, our teams can also capture full 3-D point-cloud as-builts to within a few millimeters, allowing us to ensure excellent quality control and to document site conditions to ensure that tolerances and specifications are met.
As many of our projects become increasingly complex, live data integrations allow PCL to take information from numerous internal and external sources and visualize them within the 3-D model, thus enabling live representations of completed, ongoing, and upcoming activities.
Material availability is critical to a construction project, and quite often an activity cannot be started until all material has been received for that activity. Material availability information, then, can be used to update the schedule, identify all available work scopes and ensure the field is working on packages that can be completed with minimal material problems, leading to better productivity. Material availability information can also help identify shortages that are holding up the completion of work scopes currently underway or identify potential work fronts that are only missing a few key components.
Similar to material availability, tracking and updating field construction progress can be visualized in real time within the 3-D model through integration with progress tracking software to provide a live look at work being completed in the field. Tracking this information visually alongside the schedule can identify work that is struggling to maintain progress and meet schedule.
Combining the material data, forecasted delivery dates, schedule, and progress data into the model, our project teams now have the most complete data available to assist in our look-ahead planning. This information is always available, but each element is typically independent on the others. Integration with the model allows the planning team to tie everything together and create simple model views that all team members understand. These visualizations also help reassure clients that PCL is taking every measure reasonable to look out for the owner’s best interests in the decisions being made.
Extending the use of these technologies beyond construction helps clients transition to sustainable occupancy. Delivering intelligent models assists in the operation and maintenance of facilities over their life cycle. These data-rich models quickly identify problems and enable facility management to resolve it. Previously clients received operations manuals for their facilities made up of hundreds of binders. For a service technician, finding the right size filter to change on a piece of equipment could take hours, almost like looking for a needle in a haystack inside a room full of binders. With an intelligent model, the service technician is able to type in and search for the piece of equipment inside the model and quickly pull up all of the information specific to the equipment that requires service.
PCL understands the challenges clients face from the inception of a project, through construction, to long-term occupancy. PCL is a construction company that has the experience to implement the technology to ease this process every step of the way. As the construction industry changes, we understand the importance of staying on the leading edge and understanding digital advancements. From 3-D modelling and augmented reality, to drone surveying and 4-D scheduling, we use technology for more than the “cool” factor, it is about fundamentally changing the way we work to provide increased value to our clients and our partners with Virtual Design and Construction.