Revolutionising construction compliance with Imerso

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A deep dive into compliant fire-safe installations with Frederico Valente, CEO and Co-Founder of Imerso

Fire-safety compliance in construction is a critical and challenging area, especially with recent stringent regulations.

Exploring the broader landscape of fire-safe installations in the construction industry using the Nyt Hospital Nordsjælland (NHN) project as a case study, we can examine how technology can revolutionise compliance practices in construction, highlighting how innovative technologies like Imerso’s AI are making a significant impact.

An intelligent platform

Imerso is an intelligent platform built to close the gap between the BIM plans and the actual As-built reality at the jobsite.

We achieve this with a two-fold approach: First, by making 3D Laser Scanning so easy and fast that it can be deployed in any project as a daily routine: without need for expensive third-party services or expert surveying skills.

This way, the project teams are able to track and document the As-Built status much more effectively at every step of the project – with millimetre precision, and true-to-life 3D data.

Secondly, our software analyses the incoming field data and compares it to specifications of the BIM models.

This enables the project teams to access their digital jobsites online and conduct virtual site tours with any number of remote teams.

Most importantly, the platform provides instant reports on work progress and quality in real-time with the construction work, including automatic detection of even the most hidden defects.

As a result, project managers can stay ahead of costly rework and delays, avoid time-wasters and disputes, and keep all team members on the same page while they build.

In short, our mission is to enable our customers to build better with better data.

AI development

The inspiration for using AI technology in construction sites came when I challenged my co-founders to experiment with 3D reality capture technologies, as a great solution to track the As-built status in a construction setting more effectively: fast and accurate measurements in every direction in a few minutes.

The problem was the high cost of scanner devices, as well as the expertise traditionally required to use 3D data efficiently.

Our company vision kept developing towards removing both these obstacles and enabling anyone in any project to use 3D Scanning as a routine workflow, especially as the price of equipment continues rapidly decreasing.

Along the way, we were suggested the potential to use this volumetric data to automatically check work quality and progress.

That was our ‘a-ha’ moment.

The landscape of fire-safety compliance

One of the most relevant changes to fire safety compliance in recent years has been widely-reported fire accidents such as Grenfell.

This prompted fire-protection compliance to surface into the spotlight and led to stricter regulations in the UK construction industry.

In other countries we’ve not seen the same regulatory changes yet, but are seeing an increased awareness of fire-safety compliance topics from major construction players and inspection agencies.

In Denmark, the Niels Bohr University construction was an infamous case that got into lots of problems when final inspections revealed tens of thousands of fire closures had not been done properly.

This resulted in the already delayed handover to the University of Copenhagen being postponed indefinitely until all issues were fixed.

The client opened additional investigations on its other construction projects, specifically targeting the quality of firewall construction to mitigate the same scenario from happening elsewhere.

Understandably, there was a lot of frustration for all participants, in addition to unnecessary financial and societal costs, in having to resolve issues that should never have existed.

Case-Study: Nyt Hospital Nordsjælland

In the NHN Case-Study on this topic, the construction managers explain their success with using Imerso to monitor the construction quality of fire-rated wall partitions.

Critical infrastructure buildings like the Nyt Hospital Nordsjælland must adhere to hundreds of fire-safety codes, and fire-rated walls are a particular challenge in construction projects.

Basically, there are some aspects of fire-rated wall constructions that are still somewhat misunderstood in the construction industry.

Fire-rated walls are certified by the manufacturer to deliver a certain performance on fire-resistance (e.g. a 2 hour fire-wall is meant to resist fire for that amount of time).

However, this performance can only be assumed if the equipment is installed as specified by the manufacturer, without any modification.

Unfortunately, in a construction setting, this is often at the mercy of having a proper sequencing plan that takes these matters into consideration.

What typically happens is that the layout for technical services (MEP/HVAC) is still being discussed by the time the partition walls are being erected.

This leads to the walls being closed-up, and later someone opening holes for the technical equipment to pass-through, not realising they might be compromising the fire-rating of the wall installation.

Leveraging Imerso, the NHN team is able to flag the specific locations where the plans for upcoming technical equipment is in collision to the newly-installed metal frames for the fire-rated walls.

This allows immediately communicating the case to the responsible teams before the walls get closed-up: per example, that proper framing must be built to accommodate the openings for the upcoming technical installations.

Another similar scenario relates to out-of-tolerance technical installations at the site, where per example technical HVAC/MEP equipment is installed through openings too close to each-other, or too close to the superstructure.

In the BIM plans, those installations were planned with sufficient space for fire-stopping insulation, as per regulations.

However, the real installation at the site was done in a different placement, where the equipment is breaching the necessary space for regulatory compliance.

Without Imerso’s alerts, these misplacements would likely remain hidden, and pose a significant risk to the project.

AI’s role in construction

The construction sector is still heavily reliant on outdated workflows that have not changed for decades.

The industry is ripe for leveraging modern, digital ways of working and sharing information.

The opportunity is truly transformative, as many current manual workflows can be easily replaced by automated ones, that allows experienced workers to finally do what they do best, instead of wasting time and resources in menial operational tasks.

Working smarter, not harder is the main point here; which will be a powerful ally in helping the industry address its increasing workforce and productivity challenges.

Specifically to AI, I think it’s being hyped beyond the point.

It doesn’t really matter what tech is running behind the curtain, as long as it can deliver value and make people’s lives easier.

As AI continues to advance, it will continue to become even more pervasive in every product.

But the point is that today there is a vast range of tools that can already produce a tremendous positive change.

Strategic compliance

For construction firms looking to improve their fire-safety compliance strategies, my recommendation applies both to ensuring work compliance, as well as to overall ensuring work quality and a well-paced project.

The key is to adopt a proactive approach to site monitoring based on objective data.

Companies can no longer be satisfied with subjective checklists, sparse photographic documentation, or random spot-checks with low level of detail (such as manual red-lining).

Companies will be better served with raising their standards for verifying and approving completed works systemically at every step of the sequence.

Moreover, companies must adopt an internal organisation that sets the right incentives across partners and also recognises that issues will definitely happen – but they are equipped with rapid feedback loops between the site and the office to detect, adapt, and resolve issues on the go without impacting the pace of the project.

Rather than sticking only to what is known and true in the past, rather take every opportunity to explore new ways to work better and continue improving. This is Lean Construction in a nutshell.

This article was originally published in the January 2024 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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