insITe - Constructing Excellence

insITe - Constructing Excellence

AVANTIThe advanceof AvantiA number of developments are about to change the Avanti method of collaborativeworking for the better and introduce it to businesses across the industry supply chain.onstruction projects in the UK oftenCface budget and time overruns thatcould be eliminated if project partnerskept the lines of communication openand took the time to agree standard processesat the start of the project. This is the view ofRichard McWilliams, spokesperson for theAvanti collaborative working team atConstructing Excellence.“One of the key problems the constructionindustry faces is the perception that we try todo things on the cheap,” he says. However, it isexactly this perception that McWilliams and theAvanti team are trying to change.Taken under the wing of ConstructingExcellence in July, Avanti is an approach tocollaborative working that enables constructionproject partners to work together effectivelyusing information and communicationtechnology (ICT). It is not an IT system or anIT tool, but rather an approach to how otherIT tools and systems can be best used tosupport collaborative working.To help strengthen its approach tocollaborative working, Avanti is now to joinforces with another common constructionindustry collaborative working process,Building Down Barriers.The two processes are considered to becomplementary. While Avanti concentrates onworking collaboratively to get the best from theavailable tools and technology, Building DownBarriers provides best practice guidance on howto manage people and processes.“Because Building Down Barriers examinesthe way people work, how they collaborate andthe processes they use, combined with Avantiit will help to provide further insight into howtechnology can help the construction industrywork smarter, rather than seeing newtechnologies and ways of working as ahindrance,” explains McWilliams.For many in the construction industry,however, this approach to collaborativeworking is still a major step change from howprojects are currently run, and continuing toget industry buy-in is one of the challengesthe Avanti team faces.By offering consultancy on the softer sideof a construction project – risk management,leadership, value planning, ensuring teamBuilding Down Barriers, combinedwith Avanti, can help the industrywork smarter.Richard McWilliams, Avantimembers understand how they can use IT ina way that suits their way of working –McWilliams believes the new Avanti can helpto overcome these barriers.Constructing Excellence’s Avanti will continueto utilise either 2D CAD or 3D intelligentmodelling tools and it aims to improve projectand business performance by reducing risk andwaste, and ensuring designs are delivered in aconsistent format.“We try to get teams to understand thebenefits of collaboration so the project doesn’tbecome a competition or involve the team in ablame game if something goes wrong. It’sabout making the process less confrontational,”he says.Avanti as standardAnother coup for the Avanti team is its potentialfor adoption as a British Standard for theconstruction industry. Although the project is inthe early stage of research, a spokespersonfrom British Standards says that when moreexperience is gained of the methodology it maylead to the development of British Standards.“This simply serves to underline the factthat we have some of the best people in theindustry helping to develop a way of workingthat both the industry and the government seeas essential,” believes McWilliams.“The existing structure of Avanti is a goodcore, but by adding to it and providing similartools that address people and processes, it willbecome a more compelling offering in thelong run.”8

IT CONSTRUCTION FORUMNOVEMBER 2006History of AvantiThe 2002 release of the FaircloughReport provided the catalyst for a groupof construction industry experts, led byConstructing Excellence in the BuiltEnvironment, to rethink collaborativeworking in the sector.While challenging the constructionindustry to look at ways to increasereliability and reduce budget and timeoverruns, the Report also sought toencourage the industry to adoptcollaborative working practices, and aimfor more and better focused researchand development.One of the key findings of the industryforum was the need to find a better wayto share design information. In addition,says Richard McWilliams, spokespersonfor the Avanti team, it was agreed thatthe overall aim of the methodologyshould be to reduce the risk of takingSignificant returnsThe delivery of a high quality endproduct with less waste in the designprocess was a key aim of constructioncompany Costain during its recent £30million PalaceXchange developmentproject in Enfield, North London. Thecompany was also keen to explore itsbelief that ICT collaboration provided abetter way of working.Since much of the design phase of theproject had already been completedwhen the project team decided toemploy the Avanti methodology, it wasagreed that a full review of existingon current ideas of ‘best practice’ thathad not yet made significant inroadsinto the market.With funding from the DTI to explorethe idea further, the forum collatedcurrently-accepted industry best practiceand shaped it to provide a structuredway of using available tools andtechnology – particularly 2D and 3DCAD programmes – to generate, shareand reuse design information. TheAvanti method was developed on theback of this.“In practice,” explains McWilliams,“project teams decide in advance to workto the Avanti standard method andprotocol (SMP) and share key projectdesigns in a consistent way. This includesusing the same drawing orientation, originand scale throughout the project, using thesame file-naming system and putting indocumentation would be undertaken todetermine whether a consistent approachto design had been taken to date.The review recommended a numberof process improvements includingagreement of a series of commonprinciples such as the specification ofthe use of building grids, the acceptanceof a single drawing template and theintroduction of a project extranet.While the implementation of this newapproach did take time (it took 24man-weeks to restructure the drawings),there were significant pay-offs, includingplace a project extranet.”The methodology was implemented onmore than 30 projects during an initialtesting phase and the results wereoutstanding. From an industry average ofa 15% budget overrun, says McWilliams,most were breaking even and of thosethat weren’t, many were very close. Thetesting found tangible benefits for bothcontractors and design team members,including time and cost savings.“The Avanti collaborative workingmethodology shows constructionbusinesses how wasteful some of theirprocesses are and how they can changethese to become more efficient,”explains McWilliams. “Overall, it hasa positive impact on a project,particularly as the risk of getting thingswrong and having to repeat certaintasks is eliminated.”the saving of almost 800 man-hours in theformatting and preparation of drawings forissue, just one area of the project. Inaddition, the project saved £100,000 inremedial design work, saw a 50% savingin effort in issuing and receivinginformation and a 50% quicker turnaroundin subcontractor design packages.With the benefits it saw from using theAvanti collaborative working methodologypart of the way through a project, Costainand other members of the PalaceXchangeproject team have committed to using theapproach on future projects.9

COLLABORATIONExtranetexpertiseProject extranets areincreasingly being usedto deliver constructionprojects in the UK, butwhat are the intrinsicbenefits of using thismethod of collaboration?Collaboration is one of the corebuzzwords currently circulatingthrough the UK’s constructionindustry. It can take on manydefinitions, from adopting new technologiesto working cooperatively with other projectteam members.One of the more common ways thatconstruction businesses are engaging incollaboration with project partners is throughthe use of web or secure server-basedproject extranets.These systems provide a secure repositoryfor project documentation and drawings. Theyallow members of the project team to checkexisting files, upload new documents, evenmark-up project documents and drawingsonline, reducing both the amount ofpaperwork and the potential for confusion.Because the secure system is passwordprotected, it is possible to track who madewhat changes to which documents and when.In addition, project teams can secure certainsections of the extranet to only allow seniorteam members access.Although they are a relatively newphenomenon in the construction industry,recent research conducted by the Networkfor Construction Collaboration TechnologyProviders (NCCTP) shows that project teamsare increasingly demanding contractors withexperience of using project extranets.The Proving Collaboration Pays study foundthat project teams also welcomed the greatercontrol that collaboration technologies, suchas project extranets, gave them and morethan 95% of those surveyed felt they hadexperienced significant benefits usingcollaboration technologies.Research into the use of project extranetsand other forms of collaborative technologyhave been conducted relatively piecemeal inthe past, comments Paul Wilkinson, Chairmanof the NCCTP market research steering group.“Independent market research has either beenconducted by academics, who only have accessto a small sample of companies, or it has beenanecdotal. It is difficult to draw sustainedconclusions from such small samples, so theindustry needed a comprehensive study on theeffects and benefits of project extranets onconstruction projects.”10

IT CONSTRUCTION FORUMNOVEMBER 2006Project extranets provide an audit trail ofwho did what and when, so it reduces thepotential for disputes.Paul Wilkinson, NCCTP market research steering groupThe key benefits the research picked upstemmed, not so much from the cost savingthat could be made by introducing this typeof repository, but from the improvement ofprocesses. All information about a particularproject is available in one central locationand is easily accessible.Previously, says Wilkinson, firms had to relyon the postal service or on people operatingwithin the project to ensure that the rightdocuments were received at the right time.“A project extranet, however, eliminates anyproblems associated with this by ensuring allthe documentation and drawings are kepttogether. It provides an audit trail of who didwhat and when, so it reduces the potentialfor disputes.”One of the more tangible benefits theresearch team discovered was the reductionin time taken to approve drawings. Overall,construction projects saved almost 26% ofthe time usually taken to approve projectdrawings, down from an average of 9.3 daysto just 6.9 days.Improved accountability, better projectmanagement, improved document controland ease of completed project hand-overwere also cited as core benefits of usingproject extranets.Converting the uncommittedWhile a vast majority of those surveyed hadseen success with project extranets and werecommitted to using the technology in future,the study found a significant proportion ofrespondents were satisfied but uncommittedto using the technology. Many of thesetended to be sub-contractors.Often bought on board when the projectand the extranet is already up and running,many sub-contractors receive littleknowledge and training on how to use thetechnology, believes Wilkinson. Therefore,one of the key challenges the industry nowfaces is encouraging these project teammembers that extranets are the way forward.“The industry needs to take an 80-20approach to the introduction of collaborativeworking technologies, where 80% is anemphasis on the people and processes and20% is the technology,” believes Wilkinson.“The industry as a whole needs to addressthe people and processes issue by thinkingabout the demands on sub-contractors earlyin the programme and allowing for someproper training. We need to consider theneeds of the sub-contractor as part of theimplementation of the technology.”For some however, an innate suspicionof modern technology is likely to prove asticking point. In most cases however, simplyproviding project team members with moreinformation on the technology, particularlythe security issue and how it works, can helpto eliminate their fear of the technology.“Some do think of project extranets as amajor departure from the way they are usedto working and believe it is not a secure wayof sharing project information. However, thesame people are often quite happy to shoponline or use Internet banking. We have toconvince them that this is much the samething,” enthuses Wilkinson.Paul Wilkinson is Head of CorporateCommunications at BIW Technologies,an IT Partner of The IT ConstructionForum.11

RFIDThe next generationA smarter system than the traditional barcode, radio frequency identification isalready being used to great effect in two construction industry projects byConstructing Excellence members.Even as a relatively new technology,radio frequency identification –commonly known as RFID – isalready providing real benefits for anumber of construction industry businesses.The Building Research Establishment(BRE), a member of Constructing Excellence,for example, is currently adapting andtransferring electronic tagging, wirelesscommunications and web technologies –more common in the retail industry – to themanufacture of high value constructionproducts including concrete bearers, piles,cladding systems and fire doors.Its ‘Tag and Track’ electronic tagging andtracking system uses read and write electronictags which are either embedded into theproduct or mechanically attached to it.The tags have been programmed to storeinformation about the product, includingdetails of its manufacturer and the clientorder number.The attached RFID tag is used to track thevarious stages of manufacture of the product,including recording quality control checks, itslocation within the factory and its delivery tosite. The system can be checked in real time,and the tags are being used as part of theaudit trail to ensure that proper maintenancechecks have been undertaken.Although this project is still in its earlystages, BRE has seen a number of benefitsincluding the introduction of a paperlessordering, invoicing and delivery system, alongwith enhanced quality, stock, manufacturingand control systems.However, there is a belief that the potentialfor this RFID tagging system extends beyondits current application. In the future it couldbe used in an audit trail for maintenance orhealth and safety checks, or in serviceperformance monitoring to further automatethe manufacturing process.The benefits already seen in the BREproject, combined with its potential to simplifybusiness processes and systems, are likely tomake RFID an increasingly significanttechnology for the construction industry overthe coming years, according to Jonathan deSouza, development project spokesman atConstructing Excellence.Transforming businessAs the next generation technology from thebarcode, RFID uses radio waves, rather thanthe light waves required by barcodes, totransmit a range of information about aproduct. It enables much simpler andspeedier tracking of items on a constructionsite, particularly as the scanner does not needto be in direct line of sight, and a number oftags can be read at the same time,eliminating a common problem with barcodes– that of having to present each tag to thescanner separately.“RFID is a more ‘proactive’ technology.Barcoding requires busy people to dosomething to collect information – a stepthat is not required with RFID,” explains deSouza. In addition, barcodes lack durabilityand have the potential to go missing if notcorrectly attached.RFID technology has the potential toenable changes to businesses processes andsystems – from simpler management of thesupply chain, to enhanced tracking of assetsand materials.“It is likely to have a huge impact ontracking vehicles, tools and materials onconstruction projects,” says de Souza.“It could also lead to improvements inordering materials, management of site waste,site security and just-in-time delivery, leadingto more effective and efficient deliveryof projects.”BT, another member of ConstructingExcellence, has recently successfullycompleted a project that applied RFIDtechnology directly to a construction project.The project used RFID to monitor the12

IT CONSTRUCTION FORUMNOVEMBER 2006condition and location of assets as they weretransported around the site.“In the past it has proven difficult to trackassets around large construction sites. Theever-changing environment is hinderedfurther by limited or no access to power orwired communications,” notes Ross Hall, CEOBT Auto-ID Services. “By combining advancedwireless technologies with long battery life,we are able to increase asset visibility andand is capable of supporting a range ofsensors to monitor asset condition.Constructing Excellence is currently workingon Transport for London’s ConsolidationCentre in south east London, where RFIDtechnology is seen as a potential ‘next step’,says de Souza.Even though the technology is still in itsinfancy in the construction industry, RFID isexpected to garner increasing interest from allI can foresee RFID being central to logisticswork on construction projects.Jonathan de Souza, Constructing Excellencereduce installation, integration, andreconfiguration times, leading to fasterdeployment and redeployment, resulting inreduced operational costs for our customer.”Utilising global positioning system (GPS)locator technology, data communications andultra long-range active RFID for assetidentification and monitoring, the resultingsystem had a self-contained battery source,which could be installed within 15 minutescorners of the sector over the coming years.“I can foresee RFID being central to logisticswork on construction projects, enablingsimpler process flow and greater uptake oflean techniques,” predicts de Souza.“Ultimately, I would like to see whole life datacontained within RFID components asstandard, allowing a simple handover ofmaintenance information to facilitiesmanagers,” he says.13

MOBILE TECHNOLOGYAnytime,anysite…The construction industrywas slow to adopt mobiletechnology – but is itmaking up for its late start?When the Mobile Data Associationcarried out a survey into the use ofmobile messaging technology inindustry earlier this year, there was asurprising finding: “Of all the sectorsinterviewed, construction came out as beingone of the heaviest users of mobile messagingand the highest users of picture messaging”.This survey, it has to be said, focused onsmall to medium-sized companies, and itwas mostly interested in simple solutions –such as the use of text and picture messagesusing a mobile phone – it did not cover thebig construction companies and how theymight use more sophisticated mobilecomputing applications.Even so, it is a sign that, in the past twoto three years, there has been afundamental shift in the way theconstruction industry is embracing mobiletechnology. The smaller companies arefollowing the example of the larger firms,and whereas once construction was alaggard, it is now moving into the vanguard.Examples aboundThere are many impressive examples of mobiletechnology in action, ranging from the use ofpicture messaging by surveyors, through to theexchange of plans and specifications from officedatabases to handheld computers.In the massive Terminal 5 (T5)construction project, a flagship for the UKconstruction industry, mobile messaging anddata exchange is being extensively used forseveral applications.One outstanding example is the use ofmobile technology to help with inspections.The T5 building team must inspect over5,000 locations within the two huge buildingscontaining over 150,000 services and assets.Mobile Computing Systems (MCS), a projectpartner, installed barcodes in each room toidentify the inspection location. The inspectorscan now scan the barcodes, and the detailedinformation required for inspection appearson the screen of handheld computerssupplied by Symbol Technologies.The system enables the inspectors todetermine the completion state of eachlocation precisely, says Geoff Sykes, theQuality Leader for T5, reducing errors andovercoming complexity. Cameras in thehandheld devices are used to provide an audittrail of the inspection process. The applicationhas worked so well that Jon Milford, T5’s Headof Building, described it as “breakthroughinitiative” with impressive results.Another impressive example of mobiletechnology can be seen at Stent, a specialistpiling contractor, which employed the help ofCisco, the data communications giant, andLoughborough University, to solve a trickyproblem: how to feed important data from itspiling equipment back into its centraldatabase – quickly and accurately. Stent hadfound that disks got dirty or damaged on site,that most data wasn’t entered into thedatabase for a week, and up to 40% of thedata never made it there at all.Stent’s simple solution earned it anInformation Age Effective IT Award. The rigoperators send pre-formatted text messages14

IT CONSTRUCTION FORUMNOVEMBER 2006back to the database using their mobilephones. Now, 95% of the data is in thecentral database the next morning. The systemhas also been extended to gather moreextensive information using rugged handhelddevices, linked to a local wireless network.Construction firms are learning that furtherbenefits from mobile IT can be achieved whenmultiple project partners on constructionprojects share information or use a commonapproach. “Integrating software solutions andsharing resources to cover costs is one way toincrease the uptake of information technologyon site,” says Alan Newbold of engineeringspecialists Arup.Two companies that have already gonesome way to making that step are OpcoConstruction and Westbury. Some years back,Opco was appointed by Westbury to buildphase 1 of the prestigious waterfrontapartment development at Century Wharf,Cardiff Bay. The two companies use MobileComputing System’s Priority1 to share dataabout building defects.“We were very keen to work closely withWestbury to introduce technology to improvecustomer service. The overall aim of using anew method of recording and managingbuilding defects was to reduce the numberof customer complaints after handover,ideally to zero, and to ensure that reportedproblems were dealt with as promptly aspossible,” says James Coombes, IT ProjectCoordinator at Opco.During the project, mobile devices wereused to record defects in the finishedapartments. Back at the site office, thedevice was docked in its cradle and the datasent over a phone line to the site PC,synchronised to a central computer. But it isnot just Opco that can see the data:Westbury managers also have directcomputer access to the database from itsown site office by means of a dial-in link.“They were able to find out the status ofsnag rectification at any time, confident thatthe information was far more accurate andup-to-date than was previously possible,”says Coombes.The problem, the solutionExamples such as these are no longerexceptional, says Richard Scott, ManagingDirector of mobile application developer MobileComputing Systems (MCS), who has witnesseda major shift in attitudes in the past two years.His company first launched a new productfor the construction industry six years ago, butfor the first four years, interest was low. “Thefeedback was that it was an interestingproduct, but they were busy with other ITprojects – in particular, putting in place toolsto help them manage drawings and plansback at headquarters,” says Scott.But that has changed. “Mobile computing isnow a major point of focus and investment forthe industry,” he comments. MCS’s product,Priority1, is now being used by, among others,Laing O’Rourke, Mace, HGB and Pearce Group.Other mobile computing specialists testifyto a surge of interest. “It’s true that,historically, construction companies have beenslow to adopt mobile technologies – but thatsituation is changing really quickly now,” saysTony Scriven, Corporate Marketing Manager atO2. “Pretty much every company I talk tonow relies heavily on their employees havingmobile phones to communicate with eachother and are now exploring ways that thosephones can be used not just for voice calls,but also to exchange data.”The sudden rise in the take up of mobiletechnologies should not be surprising. Formost of the past twenty years, bigger siteshave relied on fax machines running ontemporary lease lines – or just on telephonesand messengers. Even in cases where mobiletrailers and portacabins have broadband links,project managers and site engineers must stillventure on site with printouts or faxeddocuments in hand. Accuracy and swift accessto data is a major problem.Mobile technologies help builders set upfaster, provide instant information to data heldcentrally, and provide more accurate and fastercapture of on-site data. This provides bettercontrol, insight, and productivity efficiencies forthe organisation, and eliminates the lostpieces of paper and inefficiencies associatedwith most manual systems. Managers, inparticular, find their productivity improves,particularly as they can have an ‘always-on’point of data communications, whether theyare on the site, working from an officelocation, or travelling between the two.Scriven of O2 believes there are manynew applications and possibilities that haveThe real value is being able to send andreceive data quicker and more accurately.Tony Scriven, Corporate Marketing Manager, O2yet to be developed. “The real value is beingable to send and receive data quicker andmore accurately – it’s a matter ofconstruction companies working togetherto get a better understanding of ‘the art ofthe possible’.”The message is also making its way up toexecutive levels. They are not just seeing theresults of the mobile investments they havemade, but are now themselves able to sendand receive email via personal digitalassistants, BlackBerry devices and smartphones. This is opening up the possibility ofdeploying more sophisticated applicationsthat can help co-ordinate projects, trackassets and monitor health and safety.MCS and O2 are IT Partners of The ITConstruction Forum.15

HIGHWAY AGENCYManagingcontractchangesA new £7.5 million development for theHighways Agency and a geographicallyspread project team highlighted thebenefits of an online contract changemanagement system.Changes to construction contractshave traditionally posed anadministrative burden, according toDavid Wilson, Project Manager atWSP Group. “In the past there would be aresident engineer on site with a number oflever arch files that showed how the contractwas progressing at each stage. If you wantedany details on the contract then you had toeither go to the site or get the engineer to faxthe information to you,” he says.“In this day and age it seemed like anarchaic way of working and we wanted tofind a system where everyone involved in theproject could log on to a secure site and seewhat was happening and what changes hadbeen made to the contract.”So when WSP Group won the contract towork on a new state-of-the-art regionalcontrol centre for the Highways Agency in2004, Wilson felt it would be the perfectopportunity to trial an online contract changemanagement (CCM) system developed byManagement Process Systems.The CCM system has been developedspecifically to manage the administrationprocesses and procedures set out in theNEC/ECC form of construction contract via asecure web-based portal. This type ofcontract itself provided a challenge as manyof the core contractors on the project weremore familiar with the JCT standard form ofbuilding contract.However, says Wilson, it was felt that theECC form of contract was more open, honestand would give a clearer picture of where thisparticular contract was headed. Combinedwith the CCM system, it was flexible enoughto meet the specific requirements of theproject such as its phased implementationand minor changes that were made tocontract clauses.It was the need to ensure that keystakeholders, who were based in places asdiverse as Newcastle, Bristol and Bedford,had a clear idea of how the contract wasprogressing on site in terms of change andvariation without the need to attend sitemeetings or review large paper files,that drove the decision to use theweb-based system.However, it wasn’t easy to bring all corecontractors on board initially. “In the earlystages the site staff and key contractorscouldn’t see its benefits, so we had topresent the system to them in order to gettheir buy-in,” explains Wilson. Subsequently,WSP Group has used the CCM system onother projects and other key contractors,including May Gurney, have bought thesystem for use on up-coming projects.The regional control centre project usedthe CCM system to manage key contractdocuments including early warnings andcompensation events, as well as a variety ofcontract communications such as programmesubmission and acceptance.All notifications were created and issued bykey users from the main contract team in acollaborative environment over the web and,because the generation of agreed accountswas a more efficient and speedier process,16

IT CONSTRUCTION FORUMNOVEMBER 2006much of the final account was agreed soonafter completion of the main works.“The system provided real-time access toall facets of the contract,” says HighwaysAgency Project Manager David Elwyn. “As weused it primarily to flag compensation events,it was clear what progress was being madeand it allowed for more constructive meetingswhen everyone did get together on site.”WSP Group’s Wilson agrees. “At the end ofthe day, running a contract like this is downto discipline and attention to detail and thereis always a tendency that, when things needto be sorted urgently, the paperwork is left.As a result early warning and compensationevents come as a shock towards the end ofthe contract. Using an open and honestsystem like this gives fair warning andencourages businesses to deal withpaperwork as the project progresses,”he says.Keep on movingThe Highways Agency is responsible formonitoring traffic and ensuring themillions of vehicles that use the UK’shighways each day do so safely. As oneof seven new control centres across theUK, the Eastern Regional Control Centreat South Mimms is responsible for thenorthern section of the M25 and arterialroutes including the M1 and M4. It dealswith calls from emergency telephones,deploys the new Traffic Officer service tohelp reduce congestion and assists thepolice in dealing with incidents on thesemain highways.“The control centre had to be up andrunning in a short timescale,” saysHighways Agency Project Manager DavidElwyn. “We couldn’t find an existingbuilding near the motorways that fittedour needs and met our requirements,therefore, a purpose building enabled usto build in the services and facilities thatwe needed.”These facilities include a state-of–theartcontrol room, a major incident roomand a dedicated equipment room. Thebuilding serves as an out station fortraffic officers and provides the backoffice function for the whole region. Inaddition, says Elwyn, the Vehicle andOperator Services Agency (VOSA) has itsregional base there and further incidentmanagement teams are soon to belocated in the building.MPS is an IT Partner of The ITConstruction Forum.17

IT SOLUTIONSIT CONSTRUCTION FORUMNOVEMBER 2006IT SolutionsThis column highlights a selection of ITsolutions for construction companies andtheir clients offered by IT Partners of The ITConstruction Forum. The items in thissection are based purely on informationsupplied by our Partners and The ITConstruction Forum accepts noresponsibility for its accuracy. Please contactthe IT Partners direct formore information.If you would like to become an IT Partnerof The IT Construction Forum or find outmore details, visit our websiteat orcontact efficiencyand performancebptw partnership, a leading UKarchitecture practice, has successfullyrolled out an IT solution from UnionSquare Software, integrating four keyareas of its business: architecture, costconsultancy, project managementand visualisation.The firm of architects firstconsidered a new IT solution when itbecame apparent that its currentdatabase could not cope with thefirm’s expanding size and breadth ofservices. In an effort to improveefficiency and performance, bptwchose Union Square’s Workspace, theknowledge management softwareportal solution. The choice was duein part to Workspace’s compatibilitywith Microsoft Office software, and itsuser-friendly features.Workspace has given bptwpartnership greater control over itsinformation sharing capabilities,enabling consultants and clients aliketo access and share certain documents.Mark Waite, a Partner at bptw said:“Union Square has provided us withexcellent support services and adviceand we are looking forward to workingwith its team over the coming monthsas we fully integrate this system intoour business processes.”For more information pleasecontact Union Square on tel:01159 501 020, or visitwww.unionsquaresoftware.comReal-time process indicatorBNP Paribas is employing heatmap-basedproject management system, developed bydocument management and collaborationspecialist BuildOnline, to refurbish 2,200 ofits retail branches.The heatmap-based system is designedto give project managers a real-timeindicator, to help them assess howprocesses are progressing. The technologyshould help avoid delays and trackbudgets by flagging issues using a codedContract processingA contract change management system frommanagement services company, ManagementProcess Systems Limited (MPS), has beenselected to manage the processes involved incontracting companies for the Ebbw ValleyRailway (EVR) project in Wales. The projectinvolves restoring the railway line in order tooperate its first passenger services since 1962.MPS’s contract change managementsystem is net-based, and the benefits ofimplementation include instant access andconstant availability of risk-spend data andConstant collaborationCanary Wharf Contractors Ltd (CWCL)have agreed to a three-year corporatedeal to use web-based collaborationsystems from BIW Technologies todeliver all its projects through to 2009.BIW Information Channel is alreadybeing deployed on projects that haverecently started, including commercialdevelopments situated within theCanary Wharf area in London’sDocklands and the nearby 1 Millharbourtraffic light system.The two main goals of thecollaborative project between BNPParibas and BuildOnline, is to provide allparties with current and instant access torelevant documentation, and enablerapid communication between the BNPParibas project teams and externalproject managers.For more information please contactBuildOnline on tel: 01628 597 800, orvisit www.buildonline.comExcel reports over the Web.The system was selected by bosses at theproject’s manager, design engineer andquantity surveyor company, Capita Symonds,in conjunction with project partner AmeyInfrastructure Services. Chris Harris, ProjectDeveloper at Capita Symonds commented: “Ibelieve CCM will help Capita, in partnershipwith Amey, to maintain excellent NEC contractmanagement, to the benefit of all concerned.”For further information please contactMPS on tel: 01763 248 579, or visitwww.mpsprocess.comdevelopment to construct what will bethe tallest residential towers in Europe.An option to extend the BIW deal by afurther two years – covering all projectsthrough to 2011 has been negotiated.“A web-based system is the best wayforward for information management onprojects of Canary Wharf size,” says PatrickQuinlan, CWCL Senior Project Manager.For further infomation please contactBIW Technologies on tel: 0845 130 0800,or visit www.biwtech.com18

IT CONSTRUCTION FORUMNOVEMBER 2006INPUTIT on the Agenda– is construction catching up?Peter Cunningham, Director of Constructing Excellenceand The IT Construction Forum, explains to insITe how theNational Platform for the Built Environment will addressthe use of IT.The construction industry issometimes criticised for its slowadoption of advanced informationtechnologies. However, even if thatcriticism is fair – and there are many whowill say it isn’t – it cannot be attributed to alack of interest or effort.There have been, and continue to be,many initiatives aimed at improving the useof IT, both at European and UK level. The UKNational Platform and its predecessors, theEuropean Construction Technology Platform,Avanti (to encourage collaborative working)and COMIT (Construction Opportunities forMobile IT) are among those that have,directly or indirectly, examined the role of IT.Both the European Commission and TheDepartment of Trade and Industry, too, haveactively supported initiatives to promote theeffective use of IT in construction.It is probably fair to say, however, that nocomprehensive, detailed national programmehas yet been undertaken in the UK that isdeeply based on industry needs, researchingclosely what needs to be done and setting outto produce a clear set of useful deliverables.The National Platform (NP) for the BuiltEnvironment’s IT programme fills this gap. Aspart of the European-wide Strategic ResearchAgenda, the NP is carrying forward the workof CRISP and nCRISP, a long-runninginitiative involving many leading constructionindustry figures.If all goes to plan, says Peter Cunningham,Director of Constructing Excellence and The ITConstruction Forum, over the next severalyears, the construction industry will get someconcrete help in its use of IT as a powerfulenabling technology.The ultimate goal is to help industry developfully interoperable and integrated ICT systemsthat support the free flow of knowledgethroughout all elements of the constructionindustry. The National Platform’s agenda setsout what it believes can be done: “Advances ininformation and communications technology(ICT) can produce ‘intelligent products’ capableof communicating location, orientation andcondition. The continued reduction in the costof communications and data processing enableconstruction processes to be fully monitored,incorporating all actors on the construction siteinto the same chain of information. ICT canprovide the means to enable the new era of aknowledge-based built environment sector.”Cunningham stresses, however, that thesewill not be abstract, uneconomic or impracticalsolutions. For the past year or so – ever sincethe National Platform was first launched inJune 2005 – he and his colleagues have beenconsulting with the industry on its needs.“We’ve consulted with industry on what ourpriorities should be for the agenda. We wantindustry to both drive and own it.” Overall,nearly 120 stakeholders in the constructionindustry were consulted.The strategic research agenda andresearch priorities were launched in June thisyear, and this Autumn several new workinggroups began working on the next stage –some on the overview and others at a moredetailed level. The individuals in these groupsare drawn from a representative spectrum ofthe construction industry and academicinstitutions. Their task is to scope out the workthat needs to be done, producing detailedbriefs for use at a national or European level.The briefings will be used to influence thefocus and allocation of both European andnational research funds. Potentially, annualresearch funding of £36 million is available.Cunningham stresses that the NPproduces outputs that are genuinely usefulto industry – this has not always been thecase in the past, he admits. The outputmight be a set of standards, a set ofautomated processes, or a set ofdocuments. “Ideally, it won’t be a researchreport, but will be something industry canreadily take up,” he says. Preferably theresearch will produce something that clientsand construction businesses can use overthe whole lifecycle of a project.But does this mean that the constructionindustry about to lose its reputation as alate-adopter of IT? “This is an indication thatindustry is starting to open its eyes to IT asan enabler. IT isn’t the solution, but peopleare starting to realise its importance inthe performance of a project and theimpact it could have on their customers,”comments Cunningham.19

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