Digitalisation of Building Construction - Q&A with Bernd Moeller

At Leica Geosystems we drive ourselves and the industry to never settle and always move forward digitising processes of as-build, layout and verification into one solution.

Bernd Moeller, Business Director for Field Software Solutions at Leica Geosystems, explains how we have digitalised building construction by connecting all elements in the construction chain and harmonising workflows.

How is the building construction industry moving towards digitalisation?

Digitalisation means the use of digital information and sharing it with the relevant persons at the right time. So next to capturing, creating and managing the digital information, it is very important to connect the different involved parties in order to transport the information.

The transport itself today is a matter of how digitally connected all parties are and how digital collaboration is implemented. Including the aspect of time, digitalisation also means working with up-to-date data between all stakeholders.

The trend towards digitalisation in the building construction industry is enormous. This can’t be neglected and will accelerate even more. Initiatives increase in various countries, often driven by governments, in order to boost productivity and avoid sunk costs.

Keywords such as Industry 4.0, Building Information Modelling (BIM), Internet of Things, and Cloud Computing accelerate digitalisation also in construction.

Digitalisation in the building construction industry has many facets. Not only are many different personas involved with varying objectives and expectations, but the drivers to implement digitalisation are also manifold.

For instance, data management departments in building construction companies consider efficiency increase and cost savings in double-digit growth rates. This happens simply by better coordination of data from all involved stakeholders in the construction process at an early point in the design phase to identify critical issues and be able to mitigate the risks – catchword BIM process.

Against that, foremen and site managers often still work from 2D paper plans and are confronted with bringing this 2D design into a 3D reality on site. Tools being used vary from tapes and plumb bobs to full robotic total stations and laser scanners.

Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) firms in the USA sit in the middle of architectural design teams and trades-people. They ensure detailed drawings, such as ventilation systems and ductwork, are not clashing with structural design and still are constructible on site.

And even though all elements of the construction chain - from design to validation, construction and as-builting - could collaborate digitally connected, interestingly often this isn’t yet considered as a pain point. There is huge potential for improvements.

How is Leica Geosystems adapting and being part of this change?

Leica Geosystems listens closely to the problems of our customers and finds solutions that fit the various user groups. By understanding the work flow and data flow in building construction, Leica Geosystems helps connecting all elements of the construction chain. These include those which are already perceived as pain points and the ones that are not yet discovered, but contain tremendous amount of gain for our customers. Leica Geosystems helps visualising the barriers of full digitalisation and how to tear down these hurdles.

What are the challenges that building construction companies will face as digitalisation keeps moving to construction sites?

Once building construction companies have decided to move ahead with digitalisation, questions come up such as:

  • What data is relevant
  • How do we collaborate with this data?
  • How do we ensure we all have the same understanding?

Tools and processes need to be in place, hence we see a massive change in building construction induced by virtual design and construction (VDC) and BIM designed processes. This change offers excellent possibilities for increased efficiency to those construction companies that manage to adapt their processes to the new standards in time.

First, we recognised widespread coordination issues between design teams in the office and construction teams on site. Still working from different data sets, in most cases they couldn’t decide on common standards.

Secondly, the intelligence in the model object information could not be used in the field. That slowed down construction teams as design data often does not contain critical constructible information.

Finally, until now, data enriched design models were a complete overkill for layout crews. These models were far too complex to construct from. We discovered a big demand for tools, which facilitate working with 3D design models out on construction sites.

Which Leica Geosystems iCON solutions are taking the lead in digitalising building construction and how are they doing it? What are the benefits and values of adopting these solutions?

Since its market introduction five years ago, the iCON build solution has rapidly established as a perfectly tailored tool to leverage digitalisation across the various user groups in building construction.

Starting from patented sketching routines, where foremen can intuitively sketch 2D paper plans in a site tablet and then digitally stake out footings and formwork or create offsets for excavation pits possible.

Combined with the Leica iCON robotic total stations, which make construction layout a one-person operation, the digital plan is transported to reality and physically marked on site. Supporting dominant file formats such as ASCII, XML and DXF, not only reduces errors of