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Construction costs are expected to rise by 2% to 3% this year, lead by labour cost increases that are forecast to be 3% to 4%, according to data from CRH Americas. At the same time, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) space is expanding from its traditional base to include building control and fire protection systems; data and voice communications; and process piping. These changes represent opportunities for contractors to develop more business.
Evolution within the construction industry has prompted more and more firms to turn to technology to improve productivity, maximise labour spend and reduce rework. Innovation is transforming crucial back-office and field-based tasks, making it faster, easier and more efficient to do business.
“The construction industry will continue to innovate given the technologies interspersed throughout our daily lives, including apps, smartphones, tablets, and other devices,” wrote the authors of JBKnowledge’s 2017 Construction Technology Report.
For MEP contractors, survey layout with 3D laser scanning technology is a difference-maker. The solution empowers users to gather, track, evaluate and analyse accurate physical data in a virtual environment.
The old-school way of capturing location data within the building relies on legacy tools like distance meters and notepads. The process is slow and ripe for human error.
Plus, things move as the building goes up. Concrete grows and shrinks. Structures settle. Users can’t rely on outside points, because as the building shifts, those do too. That means each floor needs a fresh scan to account for differences.
By contrast, 3D laser survey and layout technology is faster, easier and more precise — and doesn’t require multiple trips to the job site. The system enables users to get exact MEP placement on each floor, and to easily maintain control on each subsequent floor.
The technology streamlines workflows with a unified one-person rig, called a total station or multi-station. Consisting of a total station on a tripod, story pole or range pole with a prism, and a mounted computer, the station is highly portable and easily deployed on different floors and at varying job sites. Laser scanning is used to collect large amounts of data in the field and used as a timestamp or as-built scenario.
Frequently used for surveying outside the building, the technology has benefits for trades working inside, too:
A crewmember places the unit in the corner that offers the best perspective of the survey area. Then the total station locates each control point and uses light and radar to measure and chart distances, inclines and angles. The procedure is repeated for at least two control points on the deck.
The unit triangulates the points and notifies the user if it’s intolerance or not, so the crew knows whether to reshoot or proceed to identifying and locating hangers, sleeves and penetrations on the deck. The total station allows the user to layout or collect one point at a time. The 3D scanner collects millions of points and produces a high definition project point cloud that can be used to reference at a later date.
Technology investments can be capital-intensive, so it’s critical to select a solution that provides the most upside. When evaluating options, look for a package that:
Now is the time to adopt this technology.
Data from the JBKnowledge report shows that only 38% of companies aren’t experimenting with new technology at all, although that number is down 20% from the previous year. Of those considering new technology, drones are the most popular followed by prefabrication, 360-degree imaging and 3D scanning. And as BIM grows, JBKnowledge expects layout with laser scanning implementation to continue.
That means much of the competition is already in the technology game and reaping the benefits.
The sooner MEP firms implement these solutions, the faster they’ll start benefiting from reduced rework, higher productivity and other operational wins that ultimately make them more competitive.
Simply put, failing to embrace technology risks the entire business.
FARO develops portable 3D imaging devices designed to capture and deliver real world information into the digital world for building, infrastructure and industrial facility documentation during the project lifecycle.
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