Consortium to build new reality for construction industry

A consortium of organisations, including the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), has secured £1 million of funding from Innovate UK to develop the use of virtual and augmented reality in the construction industry.

The group will create an Augmented Worker System (AWE system), which will help companies in the sector with the intelligent design, construction, maintenance and whole-life value of buildings. AWE will also realise significant value from Building Information Modelling (BIM) by targeting a 25% cost reduction, 25% decrease in waste, and 30% increase in productivity on projects. 

The consortium is led by construction visualisation company, Soluis Group, which piloted an augmented reality asset management tool, In-Site, at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street station. The group also includes Pinnacle Business Solutions, an information systems consultancy; Carbon Dynamic, a modular timber building construction company; and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

The cohort will be supported by a steering group of industry organisations, including AECOM, Doosan Babcock, Laing O’Rourke, Autodesk and Microsoft.

Danny McMahon, senior manufacturing engineer and digital manufacturing team lead at the AFRC, said:

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are huge opportunities for the construction industry – they can make it markedly more efficient, cut waste, and make it a safer place to work. Each of the partners involved in this consortium brings something unique to the table, and it’s through our collaborative approach that we hope to help shape the industry’s future for the better.”

The AWE system will be designed to drive greater certainty, safety, efficiency and sustainability through five key areas – co-design, digital job guidance, progress monitoring, safety guidance, and asset management. 

This will allow jobs to be delivered on time, and within budget, while also giving a greater level of collaboration and communication between teams and partners on projects. Reducing the need for paper or mobile-based handheld devices gives workers a hands-free, heads-up solution for a greater level of safety and provides real-time visualisation on-site.  

Martin McDonnell, Chairman of Soluis Group, said:

The proof of concept project with Crossrail showed how this technology could be applied and added incredible value to the industry. Our vision was to develop this concept much further and create a set of tools that would form the augmented worker of the future. For a business like us, we could only drive this innovation a certain amount and working with the consortium and receiving funding from Innovate UK will help us achieve this much faster and more effectively.” 

The funding was awarded by Innovate UK as part of Infrastructure Systems competition which aims to stimulate innovation that creates UK business growth in infrastructure systems. The project will launch on September 1st.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

Research and innovation are at the heart of the Government’s vision for a modern Industrial Strategy. The adoption of cutting-edge virtual and augmented reality technology in industries like construction will be vital in helping us identify new, smarter ways of working.

This Government-backed initiative will help build the UK’s reputation and expertise in the pioneering use of this technology, while helping make construction projects of the future more efficient, cost effective and productive.”