Expanding Possibilities: Technologies that Span the Design-through-Construction Lifecycle

There’s been considerable excitement and energy around machine control and autonomous operations in the construction space in recent years. And rightfully so – big machines that can grade a site to centimeter tolerances on the first go without operator assistance are worthy of celebration.

But what about the tools and techniques that go into winning and preparing for those machines to move? Sometimes forgotten in the thrill of the dig is the value of some of those familiar technology-enabled solutions to win jobs and set the stage for productivity, efficiency, and quality delivery.

In the following, we look at a few familiar technologies that are helping facilitate projects well before machines and materials arrive on a site.

A View from Above

By now, almost every contractor has likely heard of or applied data captured by drones. In the last few years, these flying robots have become almost commonplace on earthwork projects around the world as a foundation for volume calculations and progress tracking.

For many, the speedy, accurate survey data also provides a tremendous preconstruction advantage.

Australian infrastructure contractor McConnell Dowell has built some of the most challenging roads, rails, dams, pipelines, marine assets and other infrastructure in Australia, New Zealand and Southern Asia. The company’s latest endeavor is the Level Crossing Removal Program (LXRP), a multi-year program to oversee one of the largest rail infrastructure projects in the Australia’s history. As part of the Western Program Alliance (WPA), which also includes Arup, Mott MacDonald and Metro Trains Melbourne, McConnell Dowell is charged with removing and renovating a set number of the crossings. To-date, the alliance has completed six of the crossing projects, and is currently working on another four.

“Just surveying the individual project sites was a challenge,” said John Dyer, Engineering Manager with WPA. “Even the best surveyor in the world might only survey on five- or 10-meter grids, so we would only get a snapshot of that particular point or area, which then had to be interpolated on a 2D drawing. We needed a way to survey the whole site quickly to provide a timely resource for optimal collaboration and project management.”

McConnell Dowell put Trimble Stratus, powered by Propeller, to work for them. For Alex Wong, Senior Digital Engineer at McConnell Dowell, the Trimble Stratus platform has become an essential tool in the pre-planning phases of the project. “Quite often during the tender period, we have people with different ideas of how things work,” he said. “With the 3D aerial data, that discussion becomes much more focused and everyone is better prepared for the next phase.”

Wong says another advantage of Stratus is coordinating people, equipment and materials for a job. “Material delivery planning can be a challenge on these sites. Recently, a subcontractor from Tasmania needed to deliver some very large steel piles for a bridge structure. Due to the pandemic, we were not able to get to the site,” he said. “Trimble Stratus enabled our subcontractors to plan the safe delivery of these very large elements in a laydown area. Further, we provided the piling contractor access to the topo data of the site in question, and that team is able to pre-plan activities from material laydown to equipment locations, with full awareness of site restrictions.”

Satellite Connections

Integral to everything from watches to automated wheel loaders, GNSS is certainly a familiar technology. But even the application of this now-common navigation solution continues to expand, especially for pre-construction applications.

The capability came in particularly handy for the multi-year $3.7 million Wanaka Lakefront Development Plan, initiated by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Wanaka Community Board. Key objectives of the plan are to restore and develop native vegetation to maintain the lakefront’s rugged, wild landscape, improve and expand a shared pathway for pedestrians and cyclists, and the construction of a lakeside boardwalk.

The modernisation includes the restoration of 300m long native revegetation of lake edge as well as vegetation along a steep bank, the construction of a 3m wide shared path alongside Lakeside Road and a 2m wide boardwalk along the  lake edge with connections to the existing pathway network as well as an 80m of timber and concrete retaining wall.

For Blakely Construction, a Rolleston, New Zealand-based civil contractor, the project was an exciting opportunity to demonstrate technology enabled benefits both before and after construction start.

The project is about a five hour drive from Blakely’s headquarters, which could create some logistical and communication challenges.

Mathew Havill, General Manager for Blakely Construction, and his team took advantage of Trimble SiteVision, a new, outdoor augmented reality (AR) system purchased from SITECH New Zealand, originally purchased to support project progress. SiteVision is purpose-built to help project teams communicate design adjustments to field crews, conduct inspections, track progress and make quick survey measurements.

“Initially, I wanted SiteVision mostly because I thought it would help bring our clients on the journey with us as we built projects,” Havill explained. “We found it could do so much more.”

Key to Havill’s decision to use the augmented reality system was access to a 3D model of the boardwalk.

“As contractors, we’re very good at envisioning how projects come together, but that’s sometimes difficult to portray to clients and the community in a visual way,” said Havill. “With SiteVision’s AR capabilities, we were able to draw them more into the process by providing clear visuals about how each piece of the project would come together, including, in this case, the interaction between hardscape and vegetation.”

It also allowed the Blakely project team to highlight areas of potential concern so that decisions could be made in advance. In one instance, the technology was used to assess potential concerns during early site assessments. The Lake Wanaka boardwalk runs along the shoreline with a vertical bank in some areas with a lot of existing vegetation.

He continued, “We knew there were concerns about the local ecology, but we were able to show the client and community how that vegetation interacted with the boardwalk—and more importantly, get clarification about removal. SiteVision allows us to communicate those areas that need more detail with clarity.”

Robotic Rewards

One of the challenges in the estimating, bidding and pre-construction phases of a project is often the limited ground-based infrastructure like base stations, radio or internet connectivity necessary to survey and develop estimates for materials, labor and machines. The most common survey approach would be to use RTK, but that requires a fixed base station to acquire correction data.

But what if ground access is not readily available? That’s where a GNSS solution such as Trimble RTX comes into play. RTX is a family of real-time GNSS positioning services available via IP/cellular or satellite delivery worldwide. The services utilize real-time satellite measurements from a global network of tracking stations, along with highly accurate atmospheric models and algorithms to generate Trimble RTX corrections. These corrections are then broadcast to the receiver via a set of geostationary satellites or over the Internet, which the receiver uses to improve the accuracy of its GNSS positions.

While stand-alone GNSS positioning without corrections provides horizontal accuracies that are typically more than one meter, Trimble RTX correction services can provide horizontal accuracies better than two centimeters—ideal for pre-construction activities.

Imagine the possibilities of an RTX-enabled ground-based survey solution such as Boston Dynamics’ Spot the robot dog as a pre-construction tool for gathering as-built conditions inside or out?

As contractors continue to expand their high-tech toolboxes, keep in mind that many of the systems and solutions used to drive project productivity can also better prepare your crews for success before ever putting blade to dirt.

SITECH and BuildingPoint Software Solutions Just Got Bigger

 

BuildingPoint Australia and SITECH Constructions Systems recently announced the addition of Trimble Tilos, Quest, and Quantm to their software portfolio. This civil suite of software solutions is to complement their vertical build solutions like Tekla, IDEA StatiCa, and SketchUp. This commitment by BuildingPoint is to continue to expand its strategy of a connected digital environment to support the full construction life cycle. 

Trimble Tilos was acquired by Trimble in March 2015 to expand its heavy civil engineering capabilities and to integrate with Trimble’s geospatial technologies to track and record in real-time Jobsite progress automatically. 

Trimble Tilos is a world-class linear infrastructure project management software tool, specifically created to make linear project planning easy.  This robust scheduling software combines time and distance into one graphical view, successfully planning large, multi-layered, and spread-out civil construction projects.  Tilos provides the confidence to know the exact status of a project without the guesswork, and outputs are highly visual and easily deciphered by owners and constructions workers alike. 

“Tilos isn’t just for planners,” explains Andrew Farley, AEC Software Manager BuildingPoint, “it’s designed for engineers, project managers, project schedulers, and project owners too”.  

Trimble Quest estimating software is designed for civil engineering contractors who need detailed cost estimates to effectively bid and manage budgets for civil construction projects.  A cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) estimating and budget management software for civil construction professionals, the software allows contractors to develop a bid quickly, track and control budgets and ensure profitability. This is done by creating a pricing database, which can be reused from project to project, improving the speed and accuracy of the preconstruction and bidding process. 

“Quest is more than just a cost estimating solution, it provides forecasting and business intelligence for construction projects, as well as being best suited to linear infrastructure projects,” said Andrew.  “It will help company growth by predicting revenue and unify on-site execution with construction project planning.” 

Trimble Quantm Alignment Planning solution supports road and rail planners and engineers through the complex process of selecting and generating 3D corridors and alignments. Plan a new high-speed, freight, or passenger rail project, or a new highway project, more rapidly with lower construction costs.  Unique route optimisation technology generates millions of alternative alignments and returns a range of 10-50 of the best options for review by various stakeholders 

“Quantm integrates engineering, environmental, social, and economic factors into a real-time analysis of alignment alternatives, allowing designers and planners to identify how to best minimise environmental and social impacts to linear infrastructure projects while reducing construction costs.  Used at every stage of alignment planning, from initial scoping to feasibility, detailed planning, pre, and post-bid engineering studies, Quantm really does create a competitive edge over other players in the market” comments Andrew. 

BuildingPoint Australia is your authorised reseller, and we have our experts on hand to demo and chat with you and your team about these Trimble Solutions.  Call 1800 900 272 for more information or Click on the images below to see the products in detail:

                    

Training Leader Looks to Fill the Technology Gap on Heavy Equipment

As a company that prides itself on adapting to the needs of students and employers, Major Training Group, one of Australia’s oldest registered training organisations, is pushing the boundaries again.

Since its founding in 1998, Major Training has supported the construction industry by providing training and certification services to individuals and companies across Queensland, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Ipswich, and The Gold Coast. Heavy equipment ticketing is a large part of its services, with training on excavators, front-end loaders, dozers, graders, backhoes, skid steers, and compact track loaders.

In partnership with Trimble and SITECH, the Trimble authorised dealer, Major Training is expanding its comprehensive training and certification curriculum to include technology, specifically the GNSS-enabled navigation and control of heavy machinery.

Trimble Introduces the Next Generation of 3D Paving Control for Pavers

PAVING THE WAY WITH TECHNOLOGY

Trimble has recently introduced the Trimble® Roadworks 3D Paving Control Platform for Pavers, the next-generation platform for 3D paving control systems. Trimble Roadworks is a highly accurate, automatic 3D screed control system that can significantly improve paving productivity and rideability by directly referencing the design rather than a surface or stringline to minimise usage, reduce waste and overruns and finish projects on time and under budget.

When used with a traditional paving machine with a tractor and hydraulically controlled floating screed with a supported 2D system, Trimble Roadworks can be used to place any variety of materials, including hot asphalt, cold recycled asphalt, road base, gravel, concrete treated base, sand or any other paving material.


Intuitive Software, Flexible Hardware

The Android-based application runs on the 10-inch (25.7 centimetre) touch-screen Trimble TD520 Display. Trimble Roadworks software has a familiar interface for Trimble users, designed for operator efficiency. Colourful graphics, natural interactions and gestures, and self-discovery features make the software intuitive and easy to learn. Each operator can personalise the interface to match their workflow; configurable views make it easier to see the right perspective for maximum productivity. State-of-the-art software and hardware give operators of all skill levels the ability to work faster and more productively than ever before.

Trimble Roadworks leverages Trimble's proven system hardware, rugged and durable for tough paving conditions. By design, utilising components from Trimble Earthworks increases the portability of the hardware and increases return on investment. Using the Android operating system, users can also download other third-party applications that provide the operator with additional useful tools inside the cab.

"Trimble Roadworks is easy to learn and more accessible for many different types of contractors because it leverages the intuitive Trimble machine control interface and applies it to pavers," said Kevin Garcia, general manager for Trimble Civil Construction Specialty Solutions. "This platform also makes it possible to include Trimble's industry-leading paving technology as part of a connected site ecosystem of solutions, which is valuable for complex infrastructure projects."

 

Connectivity

Office-to-field connectivity reduces waste and overruns with efficient communication and data transferring across the project. Using a Trimble SNM941 Connected Site® Gateway, Trimble Roadworks allows the transfer of 3D designs from the office to the machine via the cloud so that the operator is always using the latest design. In addition, productivity data collected from the machine is automatically synced back to the office.

 

Availability

Trimble Roadworks 3D Paving Control Platform for Pavers is now available through your local SITECH Construction Systems. For more information, call 1800 SITECH (1800 748 324).

New Trimble® X7 plays its part in Scanning History

Ever since the Trimble® X7 was introduced into the market in Australia, MinStaff Survey has been eager to get hold of one, and that became a reality recently when SITECH Construction Systems’ Chris Reynolds and UPG's Kieran Dinuzzo took their demo unit out for MinStaff Survey to trial.  The results were so impressive they bought one.

MinStaff Survey was established in 1995 as a surveying solution to underground mine development projects throughout Central and Western NSW and for a decade specialised in the provision of surveying services to major mine development projects throughout the Eastern States of Australia.

2006 saw a relocation to Toowoomba in Queensland for the company, where they are still based today and with over 50 qualified surveyors has become a multi-discipline consulting surveying firm offering a full range of surveying services to both private companies (developers, designers, builders, miners, and contractors) and the public sector.

Recently they were tasked with a complete building scan on the Soldiers Memorial Hall building in Toowoomba.  The building has been subjected to numerous extensions over the years and suspected movement detected meant a thorough investigation before new renovations and structural modifications could be implemented.

“When we trialled the system, we completed in one hour a job we initially thought may take about four.  That was the real eye-opener for us,” said Jake Laing, General Manager.

“The X7 is just one of the pieces used on this latest project.  We combined the X7 and T10 with Trimble Perspective, the Trimble SX10 Total Station to geo-reference the scans on a known survey datum and a Trimble Dini for level control and baseline monitoring of the external structure, and of course Trimble Business Center played an integral part in bringing all the data together.”

“We did face some challenges – the building was multiple stories with minimal access and egress points, and we needed to tie the scan data together between floors, as well as capture the interior and exterior data.”  said Jake.  “The field works took us three days with 290 scans, and we completed the office works in one day.”

The Soldiers Memorial Hall was built in three stages.  From 1923 – 1924 the main structure was built, then additions in 1930 and 1957 saw the building completed as a tribute to those who had served in the First World War.  At the time of opening in 1924 the building comprised two stories with a single gable to each side of the roof, together with a small brick building at the rear, possibly used as additional storerooms and a public lavatory.

“When we trialled the system, we completed in one hour a job we initially thought may take about four. That was the real eye opener for us,” said Jake Laing, General Manager.

“Today the structure consists of multiple stories and many small rooms, which all have limited access,” explains Jake.  “In order to survey the vast amount of data required there was only the one option - to provide a point cloud survey using the Trimble X7.  This allowed seamless cloud-to-cloud registration with real-time viewing on the T10 tablet in the Trimble Perspective software.  With the fast scan speeds, we were able to complete +100 scan stations a day with minimal impact on staff who continued to work in the building.  The ability to export a panoramic image of each scan station was deemed extremely beneficial for the client because they now have great quality images of the whole building to add to their archives.”

The team was able to do a closed-loop traverse through multiple levels of the building with scan targets, adjusting the traverse in TBC then geo-referencing the point cloud to scan the targets.  This ensured confidence in the data, that there was no angular swing in the point cloud due to cloud-to-cloud registering misalignment, as well as ensuring no difference in data between levels.

Although fairly new to the team, the Trimble X7 has had plenty of use every week, whether it be from extensive point cloud scans for building design to tenancy lease surveys and as-constructed surveys.  “Final as-constructed surveys can be scanned with a high level of accuracy and detail in only a couple of minutes compared to using conventional survey equipment”, states Jake, “And the benefits we’ve found from the X7 is the ability to complete a full scan with imagery in under three minutes.  This allows for full data capture with minimal inconvenience to any workspace.”

“And the benefits we’ve found from the X7 is the ability to complete a full scan with imagery in under three minutes.  This allows for full data capture with minimal inconvenience to any workspace.”

“Most projects come with strict budgets and time-lines”, said Jake, “But the X7 has improved the amount and the quality of the data we can provide to our clients, all with a much faster turnaround, than had we used the SX10, which would have done the job but taken a lot longer to do.  Or with us undertaking hard measurements for floor plans, which wouldn’t have been feasible in terms of cost, time, and data storage constraints.”

Kieran Dinuzzo, Technical Consultant had no doubts when looking at the project that the Trimble X7 and Perspective Software was a perfect fit based on the ability to have a registered, refined, colourised point-cloud ready to bring straight into Trimble Business Centre, which would instill a lot of confidence in the client in achieving a high-end result.  And, given this project was mid-COVID and no face-to-face training was available SITECH and UPG were set up and ready to run the project remotely.  However, with the simplicity and performance of Perspective, this wasn’t necessary.  MinStaff picked it up easily and were away.