Ask the average person on the street to describe a construction site, and you’re likely to get a pretty boring answer. But as a job site manager, you know better. In reality, construction sites are dynamic places where the only constant is change. Individual construction sites see many subcontractors—sometimes dozens—come and go throughout a job’s life cycle. And when you look at construction jobs across the years, you see that the technology, terminology, and types of workers employed are nexuses of innovation.
So how do you harness this dynamic environment into a place where the work gets done on time, on budget, with the least possible amount of chaos? For an increasing number of large and small operators, the answer is real-time reporting empowered by augmented reality (AR) on the job site. Whether the job requires a single day for a small team or months of work for dozens of employees and contractors, the new generation of high-tech construction tools can help lessen the expected and unexpected issues that always arise.
Optimized for today’s dynamic job site—from bulk earthworks to finished final grade surfaces—cutting-edge AR technology empowers real-time communication and problem-solving. These solutions allow users to visualize complex construction, road, rail and site designs with a high degree of accuracy. Geolocated photos of problem areas showing the design in context with the actual site conditions can be captured and sent as a traced, actionable request for change.
The world of construction site technology is moving fast. What specific improvements can augmented reality bring to your organization?
More effective communication. The divide between the office and the field is real. When it comes to sharing data, these groups are frequently treated as separate entities rather than part of the same organization—resulting in redundancy and inefficiency. But finding the solution is harder than it should be. Early augmented reality adopter ONEC, a mid-sized engineering consulting firm, has integrated AR technology in a variety of ways to align expectations with clients and create better project outcomes. ONEC’s design team leverages the survey team’s expertise to implement the technology, thereby creating an inter-company culture of collaboration. By performing design and constructability reviews on site instead of in the office, ONEC facilitates engagement with a broader project team, including the construction team and operations staff. Using AR models at true life scale, they review how and where a plant will be constructed and how the plant operators will use and maintain the final facility or asset.
Minimized delays. Efficiency in construction projects is everything. From sharing plans to ensuring on-time deliveries at the right locations, using AR to visualize the desired outcome in 3D can help site managers anticipate potential bottlenecks. Field crews have the latest 3D models at their fingertips in an instant on familiar mobile devices, and updates and changes are communicated from the office to the field in a streamlined, near-real-time process. Austin-based Surveying and Mapping (SAM), LLC recently revealed how viewing civil design models in the field and discussing them with the construction contractor or superintendent can show critical details—including the relationship of existing or proposed grades, the locations of sidewalks and hydrants, and much more—before construction surveying even begins. Technology advisor Nathan Hunt says AR helps SAM save its clients time and money through more efficient planning. When designs from the office are brought to the field via convenient mobile devices and viewed with the simplicity and richness of AR, the result is fewer delays and conflicts.
Reduced costly mistakes. Because “you can’t find 3D mistakes in 2D,” augmented reality on the job site lets you visualize the final build-out on the actual premises where construction is taking place. When The Walsh Group investigated AR, they found it of particular value in the site inspection process. The ability to turn BIM layers on and off as necessary allows Walsh to use augmented reality everywhere at once—from inspecting rebar inside of a partially completed bridge footing to approving grading work before the earthmovers move on. For staging on Walsh’s usually complicated projects, AR allows site managers to identify conflicts ahead of time (usually before the subcontractors even arrive) and find solutions that save money. Because the data is viewed in a real-world context, Walsh can identify both what the design is supposed to be and what is NOT in the plans.
According to the Associated General Contractors of America, the construction industry puts over 7 million employees to work and creates nearly $1.3 trillion worth of structures each year. That’s a lot of moving parts. Augmented reality on the job site makes it easier to keep all of these parts working together with instant change order requests that everyone sees at the same time. Real-time reporting from the field to the office can help eliminate delays and more efficiently manage costs—outcomes that every site manager can look forward to.
Early adopters have been using Trimble’s high-accuracy SiteVision AR technology to maximize the value of their data, enhance communication, save money, improve safety and increase productivity. See what the buzz is about with #TrimbleSiteVision