Digital collaboration streamlines construction projects

Published on 16/09/2021 in Innovate

Digitization in the construction industry is accelerating. The experiences of construction company Hooyberghs show how centralizing the management of information using a BIM (Building Information Management) platform opens the door to more efficiency.

Digital collaboration streamlines construction projects

The general construction company Hooyberghs is a subsidiary of B&R Bouwgroep. They execute all types of public buildings, commercial residential projects, social housing projects, care institutions and hospitals. “Digitization is gaining speed in the construction industry,” says Henk van Oosterhout, BIM manager at Hooyberghs. “Architects and engineers have not always been in sync in the past, whereas good preparation is essential for the success of a project. That preparation is much smoother and more efficient digitally.”

At the same time, the client is cranking up the pressure. Project execution times are only getting shorter. “Having a single digital source of information reduces the number of errors," says Jon Lundström, project manager at Hooyberghs. “Everyone has access to the same information at the same time.”

A single digital source of information reduces the number of errors. Everyone has access to the same information at the same time.

Jon Lundström, project manager at Hooyberghs

Platform for all stakeholders

A BIM system is central to this approach. This is the platform where all information about a project is located. “Site managers and project managers can access the entire file via a tablet or a laptop," Jon explained. “That’s really convenient, because a file like this - depending on the size of the project - easily includes several hundred to several thousand documents.” In a first phase of digitization, these documents replace the traditional paper ones. The parties involved exchange digital documents via e-mail and file transfer.

Giving external parties, and not only the construction company, access to the BIM platform, where digital workflows control the approval processes, makes it even more convenient. “That way you eliminate the endless e-mailing back and forth," said Henk. “All communication then goes via the platform and is also stored there. This also means that documents no longer get scattered across all kinds of mailboxes.” Furthermore, the advantage of digital documents is that it is easy to share them in virtual meetings. “In the past, all meetings were physical,” Henk explained. “Since corona, we've been working more with Microsoft Teams.”

Mixed reality

Project managers who consult digital execution plans on site must be able to rely on high-performance connectivity. Hooyberghs takes digitization one step further, which only makes it more important. In the future, more and more mixed reality applications will appear on the construction site. “We have since completed a first pilot project with a mixed reality solution for Microsoft HoloLens, carried out with our integration partner Mr. Watts”, Henk continued. The project operated during construction work on a hospital.

5G is a crucial when using a mixed reality application with a smartglass

Henk van Oosterhout, BIM-manager at Hooybergs

“This is a complex building, where we use the HoloLens application to visualize 3D models on the site itself,” said Jon. “The smartglass gives you a much better understanding of the plans because you're projecting them onto the site itself, with the site acting as a kind of 3D canvas.” The pilot project with Mr. Watts relied on a 5G connection from Proximus. “5G’s large capacity is crucial to these solutions," said Henk. “Each time you move, the application provides a new rendering of the 3D model. Thanks to 5G, that can be done in real time, without delay.”

Digital life cycle

In a next step, Hooyberghs will examine whether it is possible to use a HoloLens app to take measurements. Integration with the cloud is also on the agenda. For example, it must be possible to modify the 3D models in real time – and immediately show the result – while the architect, the project manager and the client are in a team meeting. “The examples indicate that the construction industry is digitizing at great speed," Jon concluded. “In addition, digitization continues throughout the building's lifecycle, also after the construction phase with a digital twin driving facility management.”

Hooyberghs is a general construction company and part of B&R Bouwgroep from Arendonk. The group's 25 subsidiaries are grouped by business area: production and finishing companies, construction companies and development companies. B&R Bouwgroep has over 850 employees. In addition to the headquarters and various branches around Arendonk, the group has regional branches in Antwerp, Charleroi, Oostkamp, Dessel, Ternat and Tessenderlo, through its various subsidiaries.

Read how Mr. Watts has developed applications for HoloLens, Microsoft's mixed reality headset.

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