John Paul Construction is no stranger to innovation and technology, having long made a point of harnessing new ways of working. The upshot? Efficiency and quality is up, costs and risk management are better managed, as Managing Director Liam Kenny tells Irish building magazine.
Having first embraced cloud-based Common Data Environments (CDEs) in 2004, John Paul Construction has absorbed them to the point where they are now an essential component of its design and construction management and a feature on all of its projects.
Just one of these projects was the 16,500 sq.m. commercial development in Windmill Lane, for which Hibernia REIT engaged John Paul Construction back in 2015 – one of the first large-scale Building Information Modelling (BIM) projects in Ireland. It was the perfect opportunity for the contractor to immerse itself in BIM values, and led to its development of robust company systems for the wider use of BIM on its projects. It was ahead of the curve on this, as Liam explains.
“We became one of the first contractors in Ireland to achieve the British Standards Institute (BSI) BIM Level 2 accreditation, PAS 1192-2:2013, and in 2018 we became the first main contractor here to receive the international standard BS EN ISO 19650-2.”
They have since gone on to deliver over 30 projects through the Level 2 BIM process, with nearly 70% of current projects delivered this way. Even the remainder, however, are subject to minimum BIM requirements, thereby capitalising on improved design co-ordination, clash-detection, logistics management, project visualisation, risk mitigation and programme certainty. Of course, BIM doesn’t happen without the right support from other technology.
“Our Site Managers and Engineers are equipped with tablets, facilitating the use of our Viewpoint and Field View applications in the field and allowing staff to proactively manage the works,” says Liam. “Viewpoint provides access to the latest information, drawings, and specifications, whilst Field View is facilitating the safety, quality, programme tracking, BC(a)R and environmental inspection process, using electronic forms and task management processes.”
Crucially, all of John Paul Construction’s key supply chain partners have been fully on board throughout, recognising the multiple efficiencies to be gained by adopting this technology. And these cannot be underestimated, says Liam.
“The use of the tablet-based applications has transformed the way we manage our works, streamlining our management systems, recording all aspects of the works and completely replacing traditional paper systems. The additional benefit is the volume of data captured throughout the project cycle. We recognise the value of this data and the insight it gives, not only in terms of the tracking and management of the project management cycle, but for future insights that lead to more accurate predictive assessment of projects.”
The analysis of the data collected has now become integral to the performance management of the company, notes Liam. Weekly extraction of the data harvested through day-to-day management processes are now used to evaluate the performance of all John Paul Construction projects.
“The information is collated and presented in several reports, including both tabular and graphical formats, to provide management with an up-to-date high-level health check across the various aspects of our projects.”
These “open and transparent” reports, he says, provide focus to the key aspects of the project as well as early warnings, allowing management to evaluate projects and respond with targeted actions as necessary.
But it gets better. It is the company’s goal over the next 12 months to enhance its business analytics capabilities using the Power BI platform, providing wider access to all of the data collected throughout the business, and improvements to the way the information is filtered and presented.
“The wider sharing of the rich level of all data across all aspects of the business will greatly enhance the efficiency of the business in many ways,” says Liam. “More importantly, the project specific information collected and shared will allow us to better evaluate projects at tender stage, allowing departments to better predict construction programme, resource levels, management requirements and preliminary costs.”
This should mean more accurate tender costs as well as reduced risk and a boost to its competitiveness in the marketplace.
As Liam outlines, the use of BIM has laid the foundations for the wider use of technology on all of the company’s projects. For example, at preconstruction phase, drones conduct ‘point-cloud’ surveys, which allow the firm to develop detailed ‘Revit’ models of the surrounding buildings and infrastructure.
“When federated with the design models, these allow us to better evaluate site constraints and associated risk. The site logistics arrangements, including tower cranes, site hoardings and entrances, scaffolding arrangements, hoists, offices, and welfare accommodation, are all modelled in 3D to provide an accurate understanding of the project restrictions and arrangements.”
The developed models are integrated with the construction programme using Asta Powerproject software to create a 4D timeline for the project. The benefit of this visualisation in terms of communicating the initial programme sequence “cannot be understated” says Liam. The simple dashboard reports and animated visuals have been very well received by both the project team and clients and are proving their worth on recent projects such as the Sandyford Central Residential Development, and the new Garda Security and Crime Operations Centre.
Meanwhile, the use of drone technology has been widely used for the monitoring of progress through weekly video and photographic recording on many John Paul Construction projects for the last three years.
“However, on many of our civil engineering and large-scale projects, the use of drones to complete regular topographic surveys has become widespread.”
This has had a huge impact on its bigger projects. For example, it was used in 2019 on the Lidl Distribution Centre; the daily surveys of the cut-and-fill process on the 32-acre site – which would normally take two or three engineers to complete – would take just 20-25 minutes.
The monitoring of projects has taken a leap forward through the recent implementation of ‘Openspace’ on a large industrial beverage manufacturing facility for an American client.
“The 360o video capture for advanced project AI and data visualisation has given everyone involved a full 360o review of the project on a weekly basis,” says Liam. “The software integrates seamlessly with Revit to provide an invaluable comparison of the design versus as-built information.”
Their implementation of similar systems such as ‘Buildots’ over the next few months should see further advancement in this area, by providing automated progress tracking and installation compliance, for example.
“The use of such systems as Openspace, Dalux and Buildots on our projects highlights the importance of project visualisation and augmented reality in the construction industry today,” says Liam. “The wider use of the 3D information through tablet applications has now become second nature to all our management staff and engineers. We see this going further with the use of ‘Hololens’ applications on our projects over the next 12-18 months.”
Laser surveys have also become a feature of the company’s projects since it first started using them two years ago. 3D laser surveys of elements such as precast concrete or steel frames are compared against the design model information using the ‘Verity’ software, providing confidence that the installed works are in accordance with the design and agreed tolerance. This has become an essential part of its quality control procedures and digital delivery.
The way of the future
As Liam notes, the unique challenges that every construction project presents makes it no easy task to streamline processes and increase productivity in this sector.
“However, we have seen that by embracing the BIM process and the information technology solutions available, we can make significant improvements in cost and programme efficiencies, whilst improving the quality and safety of our construction projects. We also see technology adoption as central to attracting new graduates into the industry.
He says the value of these systems will only continue to increase, particularly as the industry relies more and more on offsite production.
“The construction industry is in transition. Rising costs and labour shortages will encourage it to pursue synergies with the manufacturing sector and the greater use of offsite construction methods.”
The company already uses numerous offsite solutions such as precast concrete frames, bathroom pods, racked services assemblies and package plant rooms. The challenge is in reviewing every element of a building to consider how it can be manufactured offsite in advance which, says Liam, will in the long term “lead to greater efficiencies and reduced risk.”