Private 5G network first for BAM Nuttall project in Shetland

BAM Nuttall’s site in Shetland where the private 5G network is being tested

A BAM Nuttall-led consortium has started the first live trial of a private 5G network on a construction site in the UK.

Located on a remote site in Shetland, BAM Nuttall’s project team (with Attocore and Building Research Establishment) is designing and constructing the civils infrastructure at Kergord for SSEN Transmission’s HVDC convertor station and substation, part of the Shetland HVDC link.

When completed, this major link between Shetland and the Scottish mainland will feed renewable energy to the electricity grid and connect Shetland to the GB grid for the first time, supporting its future security of supply.

According to BAM Nuttall, the project site provides the ideal conditions to measure the benefits of 5G for the construction industry.

Challenges typically faced on building sites are magnified in Shetland and will stretch the use of 5G technology. The site area spans 55,176 sq m of challenging terrain; weather conditions are cold, wet and harsh; winter’s daylight hours are short. Clients and management teams cannot easily visit the site and rely on reports, data, images and insights to track progress and make decisions, based in offices, hundreds of miles from the site.

BAM’s team is deploying numerous 5G-supported solutions, including: digital live cameras and drones; mixed-reality and virtual visualisation; AI and Internet of Things sensors to monitor construction processes and measure progress.

The potential benefits include:

  • Safety: the use of AI to carry out site surveys and send back live data means fewer people surveying remote locations and tracking progress, and hard hats with location sensors are worn to track people’s whereabouts and alert safety advisers.
  • Quality job design, due to more data analytics, operating technology and using augmented reality and digital models to detect clashes, more collaboration, and less time out on site in bad weather.
  • Accurate, live data driving decisions and collaboration due to access to live drone footage and cameras on site, and the use of time-lapse photography and footage to visualise project progress.

The consortium is a partner of the 5pring accelerator programme and will work with start-ups to trial and improve manufacturing technology, adapting it for future use in the construction sector. The 5G network is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

Colin Evison, head of innovation at BAM Nuttall, said: “5G is unlocking increased use of digital tools and models as we explore safer, more modern and efficient ways to work in construction. We’re excited for the next steps as we trial new solutions which, without the 5G network, wouldn’t be possible.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the results and ultimately sharing the benefits across wider industry. We’re proud to be working in collaboration with SSEN Transmission and thank them for supporting this trial as we help deliver the decarbonisation of Scotland – helping to achieve net-zero carbon, and increase diversity, by modernising construction.”

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