Photography tools

The digital tools building Birmingham’s major new development

Nick Leach, Head of Digital Construction at Sir Robert McAlpine, and Mark Harrison, Senior Director of Digital Construction, examine the role of digital tools in the development of Hockley Mills in the heart of Birmingham

Located at 33 Pittsford Street in the heart of Birmingham’s Jewelery Quarter, Hockley Mills is a major let-to-build project funded by Legal & General and built by Sir Robert McAlpine. Known as the Goodsyard when completed next year, the mixed-use project will provide 395 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, a new entrance to the neighborhood train station, 116 parking spaces and 28,000 square feet square footage of commercial space that could be used for retail, leisure or office purposes.

This is a significant project for the territory, not only for its revitalization of the historic industrial space but also for the avant-garde digital tools deployed by its project teams. Backed by a business philosophy that every team member should have access to the right tools and data, Sir Robert McAlpine embraced digital construction methods to improve efficiency, productivity and project delivery. In the site office at Hockley Mills, for example, there are interactive screens where team members can access dashboards containing project data and visuals.

Here we focus on some of the particular digital tools used at Hockley Mills.

Digital tools: Surveys by droneconstruction worker using app on phone for project.  digital tool concept

Traditionally, if you are looking to survey project details at any altitude, expensive and time-consuming scaffolding is required, along with the human risk that a team member will have to scale that scaffolding.

Hockley Mills recently required an audit at the end of a roof rise and used the incomparably cheaper, faster and safer method of a drone survey. Site space is saved from most of the scaffolding or boom lift, and the additional data that comes with the drone images and recordings (time, date, elevation, etc.) is only beneficial for the record keeping.

Drone flights can also be made regularly around the site for capturing and recording progress. For example, they are used by ground workers on other Sir Robert McAlpine projects to monitor the cut and fill exercise.

Digital tools: 360° photo capture tracking

At key stages of the Hockley Mills project (and more regularly too), project members walk around the site, position themselves in the relevant section of a site drawing hosted on Dalux on a tablet, and use Ricoh 360 cameras to record 360° images that are uploaded to the Dalux platform (with data such as photographer and time). This is done site-wide.

Clearly, this practice allows off-site team members to visually access project construction and visuals without the margin of human error that exists in traditional photography. The value of the process certainly doesn’t end there either – for example, the Dalux platform allows team members to track progress and make direct comparisons between recent and past images and with the 3D model. , all within a single platform. Using this 3D model on Dalux, team members can also take measurements and click on model elements to extract technical data.

Capturing the full lifecycle of a project in this way can also have business benefits, in the event of a dispute.

What future for digital construction?

The increased data collection and efficiency enabled by digital construction is hugely beneficial to today’s built environment priorities, such as sustainability, health and safety. However, leadership has proven and will continue to prove essential in deploying the broader engagement needed with these technologies for them to become the industry standard.

In any project team there will be varying degrees of technology literacy, which underscores the importance of never using technology for technology’s sake, but we need more customers who are knowledgeable, able and willing to engage in these practice. As entrepreneurs, we have a certain responsibility to educate those who are green in these methods, because with each new client or team member who builds trust in a digital tool, our industry takes a step closer to where digital construction methods best benefit our operations.

Nick Leach

Digital construction manager

Mark Harrison

Senior Digital Construction Manager

Sir Robert McAlpine

+44 (0) 333 566 3444

[email protected]