Technology companies have developed hardware and software solutions to help manage every aspect of a construction project, no matter how complex or massive the project may be. Harsh Pareek, Regional Sales Director, India and SAARC, Trimble Solutions.
The business of construction worldwide is becoming more complex as project owners and construction companies increasingly prioritize sustainability, speed and efficiency of a project’s completion. Fortunately, many advancements that we now have in construction technology help us keep pace with the industry’s demands.
With the use of cutting-edge construction software, some of the most challenging and large construction or infrastructure projects in India and around the world have been completed on or before time, and with considerable savings in materials and work force usage. In India too, we have seen some truly iconic buildings and structures come up in recent years where the projects were delivered on time and within budgets, thanks to the use of modern construction software. A few such projects are highlighted here.
Importance of investing in modern digital collaboration tools
Historical data shows that a majority of construction projects are delayed worldwide, on account of several factors that are often common across projects. Recognizing this problem, technology providers have created solutions designed to control most of these factors; for example, real-time data sharing for seamless collaboration and error-free work, which facilitates an ongoing project’s execution.
Many digital technologies available today not only enable better collaboration among all stakeholders of a project, but also exercise greater value chain control, and finally, drive a shift towards data-driven and hence more accurate decision making. These tools are already changing how construction companies approach design, construction, and operations while engaging with various agencies and partners, as is seen in multiple projects in India.
Pune Metro’s Mangalwar Peth station is one such project. One of the seven elevated stations on Pune Metro’s Vanaaj to Ramvadi line, this station’s facade was envisioned to resemble the ‘Mavala Pagdi’, worn by the Mavalas (Maratha warriors). In addition to Mangalwar Peth station, several other station buildings on the Pune Metro line also bear unique looks and have been designed to pay homage to the cultural heritage of the city.
Designing and engineering the facade around the ‘Mavala Pagdi’ look was a very challenging task. Telge Projects, the company entrusted with the task, used Trimble’s Tekla Structures software for 3D visualization of the unique structure with the flexibility of automated change management. This automated change management was one of the most beneficial features of using an advanced modeling software like Tekla Structures. It enabled Telge Projects’ team to create the dummy elements of materials for referencing and visualization, which benefited the construction process hugely.
Apart from the technicalities, the most unique challenge faced was the execution of this assignment amidst an unprecedented, global pandemic lockdown. This was the first hands-on experience for the Telge Team to work in the ‘new normal’. With no prior preparedness, Telge Projects had to remotely deliver this project with limited resources available in the trying times. Working on a tight deadline, the construction company delivered the project in just 20 working days and with only two engineers working on it, by taking advantage of Tekla’s cloud-based collaboration tools, called Tekla Model Sharing.
The Pune Metro experience illustrates an important feature of most modern construction projects, particularly the large ones - they involve a massive volume of data and information that is constantly updating, and simultaneously must be communicated from one stakeholder or team member to others with as little delay as possible. In the absence of a standardized, foolproof communication process, there is a possibility of wrong or outdated information being communicated. These types of communication errors end up costing a lot of time and money to rectify. Therefore, it is critical for project owners to invest in modern digital collaboration tools that can allow for real-time data and information sharing among all stakeholders.
These benefits of digital technologies were clearly visible during the construction of another iconic project in recent years - The Statue of Unity in Gujarat. At 182 meters, this is the world’s tallest statue, dwarfing other tall statues around the world including the Statue of Liberty in New York, USA and Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Its construction required a whopping 210,000 cubic meters of cement, 18,500 tonnes of reinforced steel, 6,500 tonnes of structured steel and 1,850 tonnes of bronze cladding.
Eversendai Construction, the company behind the statue’s construction, used Trimble’s Tekla Structures for modeling and ended up completing the project a full two months ahead of schedule. As this ambitious project involved multiple teams working simultaneously, use of Tekla Structures made multi-nodal real-time teamwork possible, which not only eliminated the clashes at an early stage but also contributed to completing the project with a 25% overall efficiency gain.
Even before the onsite work for this giant structure began, the builders were able to resolve all issues much in advance. This was helped by the constructible 3D BIM model that allowed project engineers to clearly understand the structure and accurately evaluate the project parameters like estimation, scheduling and fabrication. Till date, the ‘Statue of Unity’ project holds the distinction of being among the fastest projects of its kind to be completed.
Higher efficiency comes home
The ability of technology to shrink project timelines and deliver productivity gains is not just limited to one-off structures, it is equally seen even in large scale residential or commercial building projects, and the BDA Affordable Housing Project in Bhubaneshwar is a perfect example.
Sanctioned by Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA), this affordable housing project involved the construction of 1,320 individual apartments spread over 33 Blocks of a 5-storied apartment complex. The massive project came with a multitude of challenges like a highly compact land space designated for the construction, tight project schedule and challenging design requirements.
Inventaa Industries, the developers for this project, used Trimble’s software for developing high-quality and low cost precast concrete structures. Inventaa realized that the size and scale of the project meant the risks of conflicts or clashes on-site and the resultant rework had to be mitigated. Unobstructed and truly real-time collaboration was the most critical requirement to avoid errors, clashes and ultimately rework.
The use of precast was instrumental in keeping the construction costs low. With the use of Trimble’s technology, flat owners received 10% more carpet area in their apartments than what was originally budgeted, a perfect example of how technology enables greater benefits.
Transformation is in the air
These three mega projects are just a few examples in a long list of projects where effective use of modern construction technology delivered immediate and quantifiable gains. Further, some of the largest construction companies in India, including Larsen & Toubro, Shapoorji Pallonji, and Afcons among others are pioneers in using technology across several of their large projects.
A few key reasons why industry leaders in India and around the world are heavily investing in digitalization of their operations and processes are: increased productivity and onsite efficiencies, seamless collaboration and a much safer environment for onsite workers. In fact, the increased productivity and efficiency enabled by technology is visible throughout the construction lifecycle: from planning and designing to actual construction and eventual handover and occupancy.
Employing modern construction techniques like prefabrication and pre-engineering, contractors are now ‘manufacturing’ building components in factories located far from the actual site, and then assembling these components and blocks on the site. This saves considerable time and money, and leads to better quality of construction as we saw with the BDA affordable housing project.
With AR and Drones, there is no need for contractors to visit sites and examine the progress as it can be monitored remotely. All of these advancements have come together to create the perfect storm for the rapid digital transformation of the construction industry, opening up new pathways to higher productivity and profitability.