Prefabrication Productivity for AEC

By Akio

PREFABRICATION-PRODUCTIVITY

By Vicki Speed

From a residential high-rise in New York City to low-cost hotels in Europe, the application of prefabricated and modular objects and systems continues to capture the interest of owners, architects, contractors, fabricators and product manufacturers in the building industry.

Around the world, prefabrication proponents are finding ways to apply offsite construction techniques that go way beyond repeatable systems such as bathroom pods or mechanical pipe rack to more volumetric, pioneering, semi-customized solutions that address a wide range of common construction challenges.

In some parts of the world, like Japan and the United Kingdom, owners and project teams have necessarily moved to offsite construction methods because of land prices and the cost of labor,” said Ryan Smith, associate professor and director in the College of Architecture + Planning at the University of Utah (USA), and chairman of the National Institute of Building Sciences’ Off-Site Construction Council (OSCC). “Amortizing land is prohibitive in these countries, so owners favor methods that facilitate faster construction schedules. Labor is more expensive, also necessitating quick turnaround on construction duration.”

However, he added, the greater interest and application of offsite construction methods in recent years is largely driven by two ongoing challenges in the global construction industry: the need to improve construction productivity and skilled-labor shortages in some parts of the world.

North American Methods Shifting

Concerns about labor shortages are one of the primary reasons for increased interest in offsite construction in North America.

In its 2014 US Markets Construction Overview, FMI, a global provider of management consulting, investment banking and research to the engineering and construction industry, predicts that modularization and prefabrication will play an increasingly vital role in the US construction value chain because emerging demand is outrunning the availability of skilled tradespeople.

Meanwhile, many international contractors are looking to their European or Asian counterparts for ideas.

In our experience, prefabrication and modularization are primarily driven by our need to be more competitive and deliver a project at the lowest cost and schedule certainty – and the Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) subcontractors have taken the lead in delivering effective solutions for good reason,” said Don Goodrich, director of preconstruction services at Sundt, a construction company based in Phoenix, Arizona (USA). “The MEP trades are facing a considerable labor shortage. The increasing use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) helps bring the prefabrication conversation to the forefront as well.”

Deciding when to use a prefab approach is based on the challenges of a specific project, Goodrich said. “We’re translating prefab and modular techniques that we learn from one job to other jobs as much as possible,” he said.

In one case, Sundt transferred the modular technology approach from a private prison construction project to a much larger state prison project.

PrefabricationProductivity2

Modular construction at the Corrections Corporation of America’s detention facility in Otay Mesa, California (Image © Sundt Construction, Incorporated)

Global Multi-Trade Opportunities

Similarly, UK-based Balfour Beatty, an international infrastructure lifecycle services company, relies on prefabrication and modular methods to construct a number of different structures to achieve considerable value.

Some phases of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, for example, were completed a year early. Likewise, Belgium-based Inter IKEA Group, parent company of the IKEA furniture brand, teamed with Marriott International, a hospitality company headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland (USA), to create low-cost prefabricated hotels in Europe.

FMI Senior Consultant Ethan Cowles expects the use of prefab and modularization to grow quickly in health care, lodging and education, as it already has done in the fast food market.

OSCC’s Smith agrees. “We see full volumetric prefabricated construction mostly with owners of smaller structures, some housing and some industrial markets,” he said. “Owners of fast-food franchises, automotive service centers, daycare, data centers, hospitals, multi-family and mid-rise structures, and others with repeatable structural requirements, are becoming more engaged in design-build and integrated delivery and are not so dependent on open bid requirements.”

Looking ahead, Cowles and Smith point to growing interest and demand for multi-trade prefabrication and modularization.

“The success of a multi-trade scenario will depend on the owner seeing value and capable contractors coming together contractually to maximize the benefits,” Cowles said.

Rethinking Conventional Practices

Despite the promise that prefabrication and modularization holds for the building industry, the approach is not without wrinkles – as witnessed by the lawsuits related to New York’s B2 Tower project.

Cowles and Smith noted that offsite approaches inherently require early coordination and decision-making to maximize the value.

Offsite construction also requires that owners, architects and contractors rethink the conventional processes that have been industry standards for decades.

“The building technology and methodology for offsite construction is not mysterious,” Smith said. “There’s very little technical challenge or complexity to the process, very little intellectual property, relatively speaking, in comparison to other manufacturing industries. The challenge has more to do with tacit knowledge related to the social, political, regulation and economic context in which offsite construction unfolds.”

Integrating prefabrication and modularization into the construction build cycle adds value, but it’s not a panacea, Smith said. “I don’t see these methods adopted on every project; but, most certainly, as components of an overall project build to minimize labor, increase productivity and improve schedules – in short, to add value.”

PREFABRICATION PRODUCTIVITY by Vicki Speed originally appeared in Compass: The 3DEXPERIENCE Magazine

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Never Blind in VR

By David

In this video, we share our findings in building real-time 3D experiences with consumer headsets so as to go beyond the FPS gaming usage for which they are designed. The issue is that such experiences tend to isolate the user from his own body, have him lose contact with other people in the room and with the real world.

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Analyzing the usage of large cubic immersive rooms (CAVEs) in industries such as Automotive or Aerospace, we propose an experience that brings some elements of reality to the eyes of the user of an Oculus Rift, allowing him to see his own body, perceive the real surrounding world and interact with it, as well as have social interactions with other people in the room.

To achieve these results we use a fixed Kinect for Windows that generate a 3D point cloud of the user’s body and of his surroundings. Although not very dense, the point cloud is surprisingly present to the user when seen from his eyes through the headset.

The three features presented in this video are known to bring the following benefits:

  1. Seeing one’s own body
    • Reinforces the presence of virtuality and eliminates the odd feeling of not actually being there
    • Enables to perceive virtuality at a proper scale
    • Gives visual feedback when interacting with real objects
  2. Perceiving the real world
    • Removes the feeling of blindness
    • Provides a safer experience: prevents from dangers like hitting something, or falling
    • Enables interaction with real objects in the world
  3. Having social interactions
    • Reduces the claustrophobic effect of wearing an occluding headset
    • Brings non-verbal communication
    • Maintains equity amongst people thanks to a symmetrical relation.

Never blind in VR - Findings

About the iV Lab: at the heart of the Passion for Innovation Institute, the iV Lab explores the usage of emerging UX technologies by building and sharing original prototypes; it connects Dassault Systèmes with scientific and technology players in the Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and other domains where the body is highly coupled with the virtual.

David Nahon David Nahon is iV Lab Director, Passion for Innovation Institute at Dassault Systèmes. You can connect with David on Twitter @iVEvangelist or through LinkedIn.

How Medicine Makes Sense of Big Data

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar*

Big data for Medical

Big data is a game-changer for medical research. The ability to analyze vast sets of information, thanks to bigger and faster computers, is helping researchers to understand diseases, tease out genetic factors and spot patterns.

More researchers are looking at big data and understanding how we can utilize [it] in a better manner,” says Ervin Sejdic, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, U.S., and founder of its Innovative Medical Engineering Developments lab.

In the past, clinicians would get data from patients and hold it up to metrics to try to see something by looking among different patient groups. “What they’re doing is flushing out the details. But the devil lies in the details,” Dr. Sejdic says. “The details are where we start understanding things. What’s really shifting in medicine is the fact that, yes, there is data, but let’s look at whole data sets.”

At the same time, better and smaller electronics, from smartphones to sensors you can wear, can compile more information at a detailed level and over bigger populations. “Researchers are looking at the interactions between different physiological systems. Sometimes these interactions break down in people with various diseases. Sometimes you have to look at the level of a minute, or an hour, or a day,” Dr. Sejdic says. “What big data is going to enable us to do is finally look at a human system as a system, rather than as individual components put together.”

Big data also is helping doctors and researchers to view diseases in shades of gray, rather than with a purely black-and-white outlook.

In the past, diseases were viewed in a simplistic way: a person is healthy or a person has disease. We would get specific information about the two states and compare the difference,” says Sergei Krivov, research fellow at the University of Leeds, U.K., who recently published research on the monitoring of kidney-transplant patients using big data techniques.

With transplants, he says, “There are two outcomes: perfect or problems. We are trying to find a single parameter to describe where you are between these two stages and what is the prognosis.” Based on the indicator, doctors can decide at an earlier stage whether to intervene into the process.

What I would like to see in the future is the following picture,” Dr. Krivov says. “A sizable part of the population frequently gives blood for analysis, for example during regular visits to their doctors. This would go to a data center. Based on this data for five or 10 years, we could determine indicators describing the degree of progression or the likelihood to occur for different diseases. We will give back this information as numbers, which is easy to interpret. This, in turn, will encourage patients to participate.”

One indicator patients might get with this approach is their biological age. “So you’re 30 years old, but your biological age is 20—or 40,” Dr. Krivov says. “Changes in your diet, exercise or lifestyle affect biological age. You might get younger, biologically. That would be reinforcement to the patient that he or she is doing well.”

DNA moleculeSome recent uses of big data include predicting the future of metabolic syndrome, advancing neuroscience, identifying dangerous pathogens, and conducting cancer research, among many others. DNA sequencing is getting cheaper thanks to big data, and genetic sequencing with big data is becoming a key part of epidemiology, because it helps trace chains of infection. Big data is helping researchers not only to understand the different genetic mutations in cancer, but also to personalize medicine: different mutations respond differently to treatments, and getting the right treatment straight away spares patients from side effects of treatments that aren’t effective for their particular kind of cancer.

However, challenges remain for big data to reach its full potential of analyzing many kinds of information from many patients. With computers, it’s “garbage in, garbage out,” so data needs to be structured to ensure consistency. Information often isn’t shared because organizations lack procedures or systems for communication. Advances in technology are helping to overcome some of those challenges, according to “The ‘Big Data’ Revolution in Healthcare,” a study by McKinsey & Co.

Big data is still a work in progress in medicine. “If a certain number of people have a disease, the task of searching for them will take minutes instead of days,” Dr. Sejdic says. “But for other things, it will still take days because you need to develop software first for analyzing the data.”

Too much data can be a problem, too. “When you know what you want to find out, it’s a much easier problem,” he says. “But if you’re looking for new patterns, it’s more of a fishing expedition. Whenever we do clinical trials, we are flushing out the details. There’s so much information that it’s hard to track it. Until we do that, we won’t have a good understanding. The major change will occur in the next 10 to 15 years.”

*For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.



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