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Steel construction the smart choice

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The steel construction sector was well placed to respond to the government’s objectives to make the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) widespread across the construction industry, as it had already been making strong use of digital methods of construction for many years. Players in some other parts of the construction sector are reportedly struggling to keep up with the introduction of digital methods of construction like BIM; and the signs are that they will have to run a lot faster to keep up in future.

As we see in this month’s Headline Sponsor article by Trimble, digital methods of construction are being taken to a new level with the introduction of mixed reality and holographic technology. The pace of change in the technologies available to the sector is dramatic.

Mixed reality creates a collaborative work environment, giving designers and construction teams the ability to blend real world objects with digital content in real time, and interactively. Physical and digital information is shared, allowing users to interpret and use physical and digital information about real world objects – or what are to become real world objects once designed and constructed. The technology spans the virtual and physical environments.

The promise being held out by this technology is reduction in poor quality, cost overruns and disrupted construction programmes – all holy grails of the construction industry. Steelwork contractors can use this technology in the workshop, improving quality even further and enhancing the already extensive offsite benefits of steel construction.

Mixed reality and other new technologies are  being adopted across industries, in a drive towards smart factories and machines that has been called the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0.

There has always been a lot of advanced thinking in evidence in steel construction design and on site, but that isn’t to say things won’t be improved further. Even the highest quality steel-framed buildings like Bloomberg’s new European HQ in the City which has just opened, and which achieved a BREEAM 98.5% score at the design stage (a record for a major office development), will be more easily and efficiently designed and built using advanced mixed reality technologies.

Many say that these technologies will change our working world in ways that we can’t foresee. The evidence so far suggests however that steel will remain the smart choice in the new world of smart factories and ever smarter buildings.

Nick Barrett

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