Images Improve Project Handovers

26 May 2016

Costain is playing an instrumental role in creating a new system designed to communicate digital data on new assets that can later be used to manage the structures.

The new approach, known as ‘the soft-landing process’, is part of the latest regulations for Building Information Management (BIM).

The soft landing system aims to involve the end user of the building in the design process before the first brick is laid to make the process smoother and to capture specific needs.

The main principle of the approach is collaboration between designers, engineers, operators and maintainers.

To ensure that everyone involved in a project is up to speed, all information pertaining to it is uploaded into a common electronic area. This method, similar to a chat-room and to which everyone involved in the project has access, is known as OnSoLa.

Unlike other systems that rely largely on e-mails, OnSoLa enables participants to upload images – anything from a simple diagram to 360-degree camera shots – to the chat-room and ‘stick’ comments to them, to give a clearer idea to other participants of what they are talking about.

Each of the electronic ‘rooms’ will revolve around a posed question and the room will only close when a collective decision is reached.

The person in Costain helping bring the system to fruition is Jonathan Wales, Section Lead in Digital Geomatics, who heads the digital visualisation capture technology function. This technology is used to aid the collaborative sharing of information.

A major plank of the new collaborative concept, explained Jonathan, is keeping the needs of the end-user, or maintainer, of an asset in mind even before the first earth is turned on-site, rather than a construction company taking the cheapest, easiest route to get that job done. Increasingly, asset owners expect information about their new assets to be handed over in an easy-to-use digital format.

An initial trial in March saw a typical client, Network Rail, inviting 10 ‘guests’ to participate in the room.

“Since then we have opened the trial to two stations, capturing both in High Definition 360 imagery in both video and photo, for upload to the stickyworld site. The participant is then able to log on, and from any office or home location, access the railway in a safe environment. Aside from the trial, this plays into Costain’s railway safety goals by keeping people off track, thus reducing risk.

“As we’re providing the media for the trial our role is aimed at providing content data for architects etc.,” said Jonathan. “What I’ve been focusing on is ensuring we capture the necessary data for the trial to be both beneficial and useful for site teams and clients. If the media are not useful, we will have a difficult time generating interest or input.”

Jonathan has secured development funding for the system from Innovate UK, the government organisation that seeks new technologies or innovations that can drive forward the economy.

Mark Wray, Lead Technologist – Built Environment at Innovate UK said: “This is an important project for us to support as part of our £1.5 million investment in the Supply Chain Integration in Construction programme, which is funding 17 feasibility studies to improve methods of communication and drive up levels of collaboration across the supply chain.

“Collaborative approaches and good communication are essential at project handover so that the customer or recipient of the build project can optimise long-term performance and asset management.”


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