Image: Preston Western Distributor

News

Costain road job trials plant productivity app

8 September 2020

A construction equipment productivity app, being developed by a BIM Academy-led consortium, is undergoing site trials on Costain's Preston Western Distributor link road project to the M55.

With funding from Innovate UK, BIM Academy and its consortium partners (BuildStream, Northumbria University and Costain) launched the project last summer with the aim of developing a solution – employing BIM and IoT technologies – to address the productivity challenges facing equipment on construction sites.

Originally, it was expected that the project could use off-the-shelf software for 4D visualisation, however the project team is creating its own platform, Siteview. The aim is to optimise plant and equipment operations, and produce more accurate and predictable earthwork schedules, while generating earthwork benchmark data for the construction sector.

"Our concept will enable projects to visualise live site operations and track performance of plant and equipment on site in real-time or any given time. The aim is to eliminate earthwork estimations, and automatically estimate the plant and equipment’s productivity output through machine learning using historical equipment operational data. Using predictive analysis, it will improve earthwork schedules’ cost and time, and generate earthwork benchmark for the construction sector," said Dr Graham Kelly, director at BIM Academy.

On-site trials underway

Siteview has recently undergone its first site trial with further trials planned on the Preston Western Distributor link road project to the M55 (on which Costain is the main contractor).

Walters Group, which is working on the link road project, has shared a current works programme schedule and 3D models. Project planning workshops with Walters have helped the Siteview team to define what is most important to Walters and allowed them to visualise the sequence of works and best understand their needs.

"In-depth scoping has allowed Northumbria University to develop key use cases for the platform," said Dr Kelly. "The use cases identified the key areas of interest: accurate reporting, traffic logistic management, and monitoring programme performance."

The use cases, works programme and models have allowed the Siteview team to determine the data sets requirements for the platform. Buildstream has developed the alpha mobile app, and conducted field tests on site on earthwork activities on the link road project. This test allowed the BIM Academy software development team to set up the back-end database for data collection and link to the front-end dashboard to incorporate 3D visualisation.

The early integration of data has enabled Northumbria University to gain a "thorough understanding of the data being collected. Through machine learning and AI, the university is looking at how improvements in productivity can be made," said Dr Kelly.

Buildstream has further developed the mobile application based on the lessons learnt from the first earthworks field tests. BIM Academy and Northumbria University have run further workshops and made alterations to the back-end database solution while maintaining a link to the front-end dashboard.

Buildstream is planning a second field test in collaboration with Walters on the link road project. The test will link live data to the programme of works on Siteview. Meanwhile, Northumbria University continues to develop the machine learning platform to analyse real-time data sets.

Image: Preston Western Distributor