The construction industry accounts for more than 8% of Australia’s GDP. Like all businesses, the construction industry is working towards improved processes and business efficiencies. Construction projects are complex and have many stakeholders – it is important for project management to follow proper processes and be ready for all kinds of challenges.
A good construction project management plan will always have thoroughly identified risks and a risk management plan. Risk management is the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks. The objective of risk management is to assure uncertainty does not deflect the endeavor from the business goals.
The “Mitigation of Risk in Construction: Strategies for Reducing Risk and Maximizing Profitability SmartMarket Report” published by McGraw_Hill Construction has identified the following factors as the most significant risks facing the industry:
- Changes in schedule/ scope creep
- Budget/cost overruns
- Project process approvals
- Site Conditions
Risk Management Strategies for Construction
On closely observing the risks listed above, we notice that many of these factors are under the direct control of the project firm. This reinforces the fact “that mitigation strategies can directly have a positive impact.”
The recommendations that emerge from the McGraw_Hill report offers practical solutions:
- Address risk early in the project to reap its full benefits.
- Communicate with other team members throughout the project.
- Implement a rigorous risk assessment and mitigation process.
- Embed risk management into your firm’s culture.
- Engage in activities that reduce the likelihood of litigation.
- Build a strong project team and assess the value of more formal collaboration, such as integrated design.
Ultimately, the report states “good project management must include good risk management”.
In this post, we discuss the top technology tools that can help you in managing and mitigating risks on construction projects. Risk management tools and techniques can be used at various stages of construction – from concept design to final site execution and even in the operation stages to determine whether business goals are being met.
Building Information Modelling
Building information modelling (BIM) is a process involving the generation and management of digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of places. While a simple 3D model only gives us a sense of design and space. BIM can add two more dimensions – time (how long will it take to construct the structure) and cost (how much it is cost). BIM is one of the most critical tools of construction project management.
The information can include cost, schedule, fabrication, maintenance, energy, and 3D models which are used for design decision-making, production of high quality construction documents, predicting performance, cost estimation, and construction planning, and eventually, for managing and operating the facility based on these functionalities of BIM.
BIM can be used in the following ways to mitigate construction risk:
- BIM applications utilize parametric modeling. This involves the use of a relational database containing information regarding the elements of a structure and their relationships. The model can be used to generate space calculations, energy efficiency, structural analysis details and traditional design document. This data analysis minimises the risk of wrong measurement or inaccurate cost estimation.
- BIM has the ability to decrease errors made by design and construction teams by employing the mechanism of conflict detection through visualisation techniques. The program is able to refer to relevant parts of the drawings in relations to the whole building model. As BIM becomes more capable of handling more building information, this can help to save cost through reduction of risk and errors in time.
- BIM can also be re-visualised in the construction phase. In this way, implications made by changes can be re-assessed through modelling.
- Integrating design process with construction and engineering: This can be achieved when a builder simulates a building before and during the actual construction process. 4D or 5D models which integrate time and cost in addition to the 3D geometry models. In this way, changes cannot only be controlled in the design and engineering stages but can also be controlled to some extent in the built environment lifecycle. It is ideally suited for projects with high cost and high risk and which can lead to high rewards for mitigating those cost and risk.
Big data has become a buzzword in the world of technology, but innovative project teams and construction businesses have already recognised the potential of big data in building. Here are few potential areas it can be useful:
- Design: When big data is combined with BIM, environmental data and other inputs like stakeholder opinions and social media discussions, it can determine both what and where to build. Brown University in the USA used big data analysis to decide where to build its new engineering facility for optimal student and university benefit. Big data can also be used to analyse for patterns and probability of construction risks to steer away from pitfalls.
- Build: When considering buying or leasing of heavy equipment, sensor input on sites can determine active and idle time, this is an important factor in costing and overall project investment. Geolocation of equipment also allows logistics to be improved, spare parts to be made available when needed, and downtime to be avoided.
- Operate: Performance and energy of a building or bridge can be measured with sensors. Energy conservation in malls, office blocks and other buildings can be tracked to ensure it conforms to design goals. This data can also be fed back into building information modeling (BIM) systems to schedule maintenance activities as required.
The organisation Prevention thru Design (PtD) has worked tirelessly to ensure safety through design stage. They have developed a new software that allows contractors and architects to use advanced modelling to identify and engineer safety issues before the construction starts.
The software considers the safety of workers in the design of a project and allows builders take worker safety into consideration when executing the design. PtD has also led to increase in prefabricated goods delivered to the site. This reduces costs and time and increases worker safety on site.
Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have become popular in the industrial and retail world. Drones can be used in dangerous or hard-to-reach situations to avoid sending workers.
Drones perform digital photography, this can help oversee entire construction sites and save a lot of money in the process, especially when compared to the cost of typical aerial photography.
In addition, UAVs can document existing and as-built conditions of sites and inspect hard-to-reach structures, like bridges and high vertical structures. Additionally, drones also can take care of environmental and industrial hygiene sampling in high-risk areas.
Tower Crane Cameras
Blind spots on tower cranes, excavators, and other heavy machinery pose a significant risk to the operator and other workers in the area.
Using tower crane cameras can solve the problem of poor visibility in bad lighting or weather conditions and minimize injury potential to the crane operator.
Having visibility on all parts of the job site proves extremely valuable when working in construction. These cameras can be used on tower cranes, luffing boom cranes, excavators, telescopic boom cranes, truck cranes and crawler cranes.