Site remobilisation and social distancing are not the only challenges facing the construction sector in the post-pandemic world.
The ensuing economic downturn means there is even greater pressure to drive efficiency and reduce risks on projects being planned, in procurement, or already in delivery.
Solutions to these real-world problems can be found by working in a virtual one to rehearse and optimise construction activities.
The requirement for social distancing between workers to minimise the risk of infection is forcing the construction industry to rethink a multitude of tasks and develop new methods.
Contractors need to find safe new ways of working that can be as productive as normal practices, but avoid on-site trial-and-error which could result in further delays while impractical plans are rethought.
As the sector emerges from lockdown, delivery teams are also tasked with restarting and reprogramming projects, working round disruptions and shortages in the supply chain, and making up for lost time where possible.
This comes as budgets are being tightened as organisations move to conserve cash, requiring a redoubled focus on efficiency for all ongoing and planned construction activities.
Mott MacDonald has a solution to aid the industry’s recovery – Moata Rehearsive, a digital rehearsal tool combining real-time collaboration, communication and training. It enables work sequences to be planned, tested, revised and perfected in virtual reality before being put into practice.
Rehearsive brings together people involved in planning and performing a task in a simulated site environment, which is created from the building information model (BIM) of the project.
Different magnifications enable overview of macro-scale site logistics challenges, down to zoomed-in study of how to choreograph specific tasks. Those ‘on site’ can view the simulated environment using either a 3D headset or a standard PC or laptop.
Spatial planning for social distancing
In response to COVID-19, Rehearsive has been updated to incorporate a social distancing visual aid.
“This update will enable you to test, demonstrate and rehearse operational scenarios in real time amidst the new normal,” says Andrew Zhao, head of immersive technologies at Mott MacDonald. “Many contractors are looking for this kind of solution right now. They will be able to save time and money by optimising the socially distanced construction process in virtual reality.
“We have created a spatial ‘envelope’ around every user that displays a set boundary, allowing for site planning. Users talk to each other as they virtually perform tasks, collaboratively working out the most effective ways to get them done.
“They can rapidly plan and validate activities, run through sequences, weigh up options for off-site fabrication, consider temporary works and validate ergonomic assumptions.
“In these unprecedented times when so many people are working remotely, teams are also able to gain experience of working together without needing to physically meet.”
Cutting costs, reducing risks
Rehearsive can reduce design costs through more effective design reviews that can accelerate client buy-in as well as create more efficiently buildable designs. And being able to rehearse on-site activities at the design stage will realise the full potential of applying design for manufacture and assembly techniques.
A further benefit is a reduction in the number of journeys to and from site, reducing carbon and wider environmental impacts – an objective that will persist well beyond the current crisis.
The tool will mitigate health and safety risks by helping users to identify potential hazards and snags, and to train staff in safe routes, behaviours and operational precautions. It comes with an extensive library of ‘objects’ – digital representations of structures, materials, components, plant and equipment – that allows for the rapid setting-up of different site arrangements and conditions.
Used to assist with identifying and removing construction-related risks, Rehearsive can contribute to capital cost savings of up to 15% – the typical overspend arising from clashes, damage, rework and delay resulting from poor risk management.
“Rehearsive works in many ways to drive efficiency, reduce risk and improve quality,” says Richard Shennan, digital business development director. “It is the first product that merges deep domain experience with leading digital expertise to deliver these benefits.
“As the construction industry recovers from the pandemic, we believe it will prove its worth even more by boosting the productivity of those who have already recognised the advantages to be gained by using this technology.”
Taking virtual reality to a new level
Rehearsive forms part of the growing suite of Augmented Delivery and Smart Infrastructure tools supported on Mott MacDonald’s in-house technology platform, Moata.
“We cross-fertilised multiplayer computer gaming with BIM and visualisation technologies to develop Rehearsive,” says Andrew. “The graphics and strategic co-operation of multiplayer games like Fortnite have enormous potential for construction.
“Gaming has become a highly convincing multi-sensory experience. Once they’ve learned the interface, players have an incredible amount of dexterity and agility. And you’ve got this incredible social dimension with teams of up to 30 people working together in the same virtual environment.
“Virtual reality has come of age. And we’ve harnessed that to work through the practical challenges involved in construction.”
To date, Rehearsive has been trialled by client Transport for New South Wales and contractors Graham Construction, Sir Robert McAlpine and Typsa.
“Rehearsive is subscription-based – you purchase as many licences as needed for your number of users,” Andrew adds. “Replacing just one in-person meeting a month pays for it. You can unlock value very quickly.”
For more information about Moata Rehearsive, and to sign up for a free trial, visit www.rehearsive.io