Construction Tech Report Highlights Innovations

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2022


Late last month, the Associated Builders and Contractors released its second annual construction technology report, highlighting case studies on specific technologies and innovative practices.

The various technologies and practices noted in the report have been reportedly used by ABC member contractors to strengthen their value proposition. The document also includes data from a safety technology survey taken by ABC contractors.

“ABC’s 2022 Tech Report showcases how our members’ commitment to exploring technology and innovation has led to more profit, higher productivity, safer jobsites and more work,” said Matt Abeles, ABC Vice President of Construction Technology and Innovation. “The case studies in this report highlight how our members deliver the most robust value proposition to their clients by telling the stories of a select few of our members and how they chose and implemented technology and innovation.

“ABC creates the conditions for construction companies to innovate, differentiate, attract and educate their top talent, ultimately to win and deliver their work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which they work.”

The Association notes that the 2022 Tech Report is developed by the ABC Tech Alliance, a consortium of firms that create construction technology and innovative solutions for ABC contractor members, the majority of which primarily perform work in the industrial and commercial sectors.

This year, the alliance members include Arcoro, Autodesk Inc., BuildOps, Field Control Analytics, KPA, OpenSpace, Procore, Safesite, Safety Evolution, Sage, Smartapp.com, SmartBuild, SubHQ and Tenna.

“Throughout the 2022 Tech Report, you will read case studies about various innovations within our industry and how the construction industry is evolving,” said Jack Hineman, chair of ABC’s Construction Technology and Innovation Committee and vice president of business intelligence at Gaylor Electric, headquartered in Indianapolis. “It is inspiring to see in these case studies how ABC member companies are innovating in various ways, and my hope is that these will provide inspiration for your next innovation.”

Some technologies and innovative practices by ABC contractors found in the 2022 Tech Report include:

  • Robotics: Thanks to a suite of robotic solutions, HITT Contracting, Falls Church, Virginia, and its subcontractor drilled 262 anchors in four hours, ultimately resulting in a pace that allowed a 10-day task to be completed in just four days with no safety incidents.
  • Drones: Harkins Builders, Columbia, Maryland, enhanced its drone program to be an all-encompassing application of hardware, software and processes to help the project teams deliver the project safely, easily, rapidly and cost-effectively.
  • Analytics Software: Using data software to drive decisions, Gaylor Electric developed a “hindsight report” analyzing data to create the recipe for a successful project by measuring metrics like travel time, purchasing and work breakdown structure.
  • Project Bidding Software: Nexen Construction, Julian, Pennsylvania, went from 378 bids in 2020 to 921 bids in 2021 when bidding software was fully implemented.
  • Total Human Health App: Working with mental health professionals, The Cianbro Cos., Pittsfield, Maine, have created a construction industry-specific set of virtual tools to enhance mindfulness and mental well-being.
  • Safety QR Codes and Data Sheets: Embracing safety and health as a core value, T.W. Frierson, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, provided hard-hat stickers to every employee-owner so they could access specific guidance for chemical products they are working with by accessing safety data sheets on environment, health, safety and sustainability, operational risk management and product stewardship.

The report also includes insights regarding reality capture, glass and window systems, safety monitoring, payroll and timesheet software, as well as building information modeling and project management tools, among others.

A full copy of the report and case studies can be viewed here.

Recent Tech Innovations

Late last month, AkzoNobel announced plans to launch a new virtual reality training for painting aircraft at the National Business Aviation Association, which will take place from Oct. 18-20 in Orlando, Florida. At the event, AkzoNobel will exhibit the technology and invite customers to test the system for themselves on stand 3557.

According to the company’s release, the technology can mimic a customer’s production environment and multiple coating systems to train teams virtually and in a more sustainable and efficient way.

The VR-based system was developed by technology specialists Virtual Paint Products. It has also been successfully trialed at the company’s training center in Troy, Michigan.

Several portable units have since reportedly been designed for use at a customer’s own premises.

AkzoNobel reports that the VR headset immerses the trainee in a virtual paint booth, with access to aircraft parts or larger-scale assemblies to the production floor itself. The system can then be programed with various paint specifications, such as the thickness of the coating required.

As the operator uses the virtual spray gun, they can reportedly see whether too much or too little paint is used and look for inconsistencies in the way the coating is being applied.

Through the training, the operator’s core skills, such as setting up the spraying session to the distance, angle, and speed at which the gun is used, are being measured. The feedback is reportedly immediate, allowing training to react quickly and change their technique.

The program will show where runs and sags occur, or where the wet film thickness is not sufficient or the coverage inadequate to deliver a smooth finish. Common paint problems such as paint overlap can also be seen.

Also in September, cleaning and inspection tool development led by Australian energy company Woodside announced the development of a safe and cost-effective remote inspection of equipment on offshore platforms.

Launched earlier in the year, the offshore caisson cleaning and inspection tool (CCAIT) system was a collaboration between Woodside and companies Nexxis, Monadelphous, WOMA and Fugro.

According to a release from Nexxis, the one-of-a-kind system utilizes a human-sized robot that is designed to inspect the inside of caissons. These caissons are vertical carbon steel pipes up to 70 meters (about 230 feet) long and up to 1.2 meters wide.

The CCAIT system was reportedly developed in response to possible COVID-related supply chain risks, and was designed, developed and deployed in less than 12 months.

Remotely controlled from a safe location on an offshore platform by skilled technicians, the tool is lowered inside the caisson via a tether and winch arrangement. Wheels are then extended to centralize the tool within the caisson, with probe arms stretched out to enable ultrasound inspection.

High-definition cameras are able to stream video back to the technicians. Then, the technicians use this data alongside the asset team to define a forward plan.

In August, civil engineers at the University of Dayton (UD) began utilizing a new virtual reality lab to “bring buildings to life.”

Dedicated on Aug. 19, the Greg and Annie Stevens Intelligent Infrastructure Engineering Lab, located within the School of Engineering's Kettering Labs, will allow students to better understand a building’s placement and operation before construction commences.

According to the university, students will be able to upload blueprints, sensor data and other computer-aided design drawings into the system, which then generates a virtual facility in which users can float up, down, side-to-side, through walls, onto the roof or into the basement similar to 360-degree theaters or amusement park rides.

The lab is also capable of allowing students to test how environmental conditions might affect a structure. Robert Liang, UD civil and environmental engineering and engineering mechanics department chair added that the lab could also be used to “change detection” or compare a structure to what it might have been, to its current existence—such as in the situation of a collapse or other experienced damages.

The new technology will also allow for a safer examination by inspectors who won't have to enter a dangerous building or stand on top of an unstable pile of rubble while rescuers are working.

However, the new lab won’t just be for civil engineers. UD notes in its press release that researchers in artificial intelligence will also work in the lab to help refine techniques to help automate the detection of building defects.

Other students studying human factors and psychology will also be utilizing the lab to examine how people interact with buildings and how to better define a structure’s “user-friendliness.”

UD reports that students are already using the lab to further immerse themselves in the University's Roger Glass Center for the Performing Arts, which is currently under construction. Arts center contractor Messer Construction is also reportedly using the technology.

In the future, Liang said he hopes that UD will open the lab to industry partners.

And in June, Pittsburgh-based Finish Robotics announced the release of its Finishbot Autonomous Coating System.

The Finishbot Autonomous Coating System works by using artificial intelligence (AI) models to produce high-resolution 3D surface representations. From here, the technology can automate the application of coatings for commercial buildings.

According to Finish Robotics’ press release, the autonomous technology allows professional painters to complete jobs up to 75% faster than traditional methods.

“We optimize our design and engineering around time to value,” remarked Ricky Houghton, Co-Founder and CTO of Pittsburgh-based Finish Robotics, at the time. “We arrive on-site and start producing within 30 minutes. There is no pre-programming of the job site required beforehand, and not much changes with the human process to integrate a Finishbot into the crew.”

Houghton went on to note in the release that the Finishbot Autonomous Coating System was developed after dozens of interviews and site visits with commercial painters and industry experts to define how job productivity could improve without changing existing human workflows.

Before the interviews and since after, Houghton has spent his career building and launching hardware and software robotics companies. With the recent uptick in uses of autonomous mobile robots and vehicle innovations, he quickly realized the opportunity for the construction, and more specifically, the coating industry.

Finishbot Autonomous Coating Systems have already completed over 125,000 square feet of painting with several early pilot customers in the Pittsburgh area. With the early success and potential of the technology on full display, Finish Robotics is planning to expand its pilot program and distribute Finishbots to additional construction sites in the upcoming quarter.

   

Tagged categories: Associated Builders and Contractors; Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC); Bidding; Construction; Contractors; Digital tools; Drones; Good Technical Practice; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; Online tools; Program/Project Management; Research; Research and development; Robotics; Safety; Software; Technology; Tools; Tools & Equipment

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