Our first Community Day of 2019 was hosted by SCISYS at their offices in Chippenham. Despite travel disruption which delayed the arrival of some, we had a good turnout at this excellent venue. The catering was particularly good, so many thanks to SCISYS!
Thoughts from the Chairs
Our chair for construction, Steve Slater, was unable to attend so Max Mallia-Parfitt, our chair for technology (and recent new dad - congratulations Max) filled in for him.
Max presented a Gartner Hype Cycle diagram applied to BIM in the UK and suggested we are currently in the Trough of Disillusionment - something which seemed to resonate with the audience. He also presented a couple of interesting videos on technological innovations - TopMix Permeable and TUDelf self-healing concrete.
Ian Tansey, Managing Director of ProDroneWorx, delivered a presentation on the various drone-based technologies currently in use in construction with examples of their application - including inspection, surveying, 3D terrain modelling and progress monitoring.
Various drone-mounted sensors are currently being used. As well as still and video cameras, drones are being flown with LiDAR and thermal imaging sensors and can provide a variety of ground mapping and 3D modelling solutions. Positional accuracy can be less than 5cm.
ProDroneWorx are Associate Members of the COMIT Drone Community.
COMIT Conference 2019
Iain Miskimin described the plans for this years COMIT Conference, which will be held at Bentley's Offices in London on the 4th and 5th July and will be combined with the summer Community Day.
The conference will be live-streamed around the world and is free for COMIT members to attend. Members can also invite up to 2 free guests. However, physical places are limited (120 in UK) so are likely to fill up fast. Details of how to book will be on the website in a week or two. There may also be a number of non-members places - prices to be confirmed.
The theme of the conference is back-to-basics and we are looking for showcases of what COMIT members have done in construction/technology innovation. Presentations will be include a 1 page case study or paper which will be published as part of the proceedings.
University of Cambridge
Daniel Summerbell described his work in first-principle environmental analysis of cement production - which is one of the largest sources of human CO2 emissions. Daniel showed how a very basic analysis identified a 16% variation in the fuel use at different cement works. A large proportion of this variation was tracked down to stack flow. Better control could save 190MT of CO2 world-wide.
Daniel's take-home message was that a very simple analysis technique - Zero Loss Yield Analysis - can be used in various industries to help eliminate waste. The approach derives from the Aircraft Industry "buy to fly" ratio and Daniel gave examples of how it has been applied to plastic and metal products processes. With an increasing focus on sustainability and the environmental impact of construction operations, this simple approach can reveal surprisingly large scopes for improvement.
After coffee, Tim Bestwich, Head of Commercial Systems at Tarmac IT, described how Tarmac is engaging with its customers to digitise the supply chain.
The way that customers order materials from Tarmac has evolved over the years from a paper-based system, to an electronic system supported by fax and email and now to a self-service system via an online portal.
Tim looked at how this might evolve further in the future, with support for direct ordering via inter-operation of companies ERP systems. The problem in this scenario is the standardisation of information exchange. Tim suggested an architecture that used a trade hub or digital exchange platform to provide a common interface might be a way to overcome this.
SCISYS - Showcase
After lunch Steve Harper, Head of Business Development at SCISYS, gave an overview of the company and the breadth of its activities. SCISYS services include software development & integration, consultancy, electronics integration, bespoke mobile and web development as well as general innovation and R&D. They have a presence in a number of market sectors as well as construction, such as energy and utilities, nuclear, transport, telecoms and retail. Included among their larger customers are COMIT members Crossrail and Transport for London.
Steve described some of the innovation work they have been involved in and the cross-fertilisation of technology across sectors. Recent growth areas include statistical analysis, geospatial data modelling and the Internet of Things.
UWE - Smart EIR (Employers Information Requirements)
Dr. Shadon Dwairi from the University of the West of England described her research into BIM and the development of a "smart" EIR system. Employers Information Requirements are at the heart of a BIM/Construction project. It defines the information needed to plan the project from inception to handover.
Dr.Dwairi argued that the EIR should be incorportated into tender documentation to enable suppliers so produce an initial BIM Execution Plan (BEP). However, producing an accurate and comprehensive EIR is problematic - existing tools and processes are not suitable for every project and client. A "smart" tool that adapts to the project specifics is required.
Existing systems often fail to adequately differentiate between "needs" and "requirements". Dr Dwairi showed that it is possible to define many more requirements than current practices allow by using an ontological analysis of the needs. This formed the basis of a Smart EIR tool which has been evaluate by a number of potential users. One of the positive responses was
"I would pick a generaten EIRd by this tool over most of the EIR's developed by BIM consultants in London any day."
Dr. Dwairi hopes this smart framework, known as OntEIR, will help with the digitisation and automation of the construction industry.
UWE - Blockchain & Smarter Contracts
Dr Jim Mason, Associate Head of Built Environment Programmes, showed how blockchain technology might help construction contracts evolve - eventually into fully coded systems. The first step in this process would be smarter contracts, with improved transparency, trace-ability and better collaboration.
As an example, Dr Mason showed how blockchain could be used to trace the provenance of construction components, such as a steel beam. Dr Mason argued that in time, this and other technologies could help evolve the contract from a paper-based natural language contract into a contract entirely defined in code. He discussed some of the issues that would need to be overcome to enable this to happen, such as how to represent judgement (or ambiguity) in an electronic contract - common concepts in the current legal agreements.
UWE regularly big for funding for construction research and Dr Mason extended an invitation to anyone who would like to get involved to get in touch. To do so, contact COMIT via our website and we will pass the message on.
Ten Minute Soap Box
As usual we had a number of shorter presentations at the end of the day to give updates or raise specific topics of interest. On this occasion:
170 Infrastructure Support Royal Engineers
Colonel Babs Vinden-Cantrell and her son described the similar issues they face as the rest of the construction industry in supporting and developing infrastructure in remote locations. Using the Falkland Islands as an example they discussed the increasing use of tools such as augmented reality and the scope f