3D imaging technology developed by Irish company XYZ Reality is being used to speed up construction of a massive new "hyperscale" data centre in Denmark. Construction giant PM Group is currently using XYZ's new HoloSite technology in building the vast processing centre and says it's working on a policy of "build it right first time" with the tech.
XZY’s tech is essentially a hard hat with built-in goggles. Those goggles have a digital screen that can overlay a 3D representation of the original plans and blueprints for the building on to what the person is actually seeing, an augmented-reality (AR) image. The theory goes that, by doing so, it’s easier to see what should be built and where, and fewer mistakes and wrong measurements will be made. It also reduces the need for constant laser measuring as building proceeds.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Mark Gillett, head of mission critical at PM Group, said: "PM Group has been at the forefront of digital project delivery and the utilisation of BIM [building information modelling] for more than 20 years. This has yielded huge gains in areas such as off-site construction assemblies, on-site co-ordination and more.
“Combining a detailed design model with XYZ Reality now gives our on-site construction teams instantaneous verification of the installed element during a complex build. The powerful visualisation and verification accuracy of installation brings an additional benefit right from the commencement of construction with assured benefits flowing right through the build sequence.”
XYZ Reality has raised more than £7.6 million (€8.6 million) in funding from investors and government grants since its founding in 2017, and says that identifying out-of-tolerance construction after it has been built can lead to project delays and escalating costs, and this is particularly evident in phases involving complex mechanical and electrical engineering works. By using the imaging software to compare the original plans with the physical structure, on site and in real time, the plan is that delays and cost overruns can be avoided.
Diarmuid O’Sullivan, construction director of PM Group, said: “We’ve been using HoloSite since the beginning of the Danish project, and it is unlocking significant productivity advancements on site. It has allowed us to move away from a reactive approach to tackling errors, to a more proactive way of working, solving problems before they actualise as a cost. This technology is ground-breaking and adds significantly to the augmented reality and other digital technology we are using on our projects across the world.”
David Mitchell, who founded XYZ Reality, told The Irish Times: "Augmented reality challenges many long-standing construction practices and shifts the industry to a more forward-thinking, proactive approach to building. Having worked as a digital construction manager on some of Europe's largest construction projects, I have witnessed first hand how damaging it could be to take a reactive approach to tackling construction errors, but the technology wasn't available to do it differently – I knew there had to be a better way.
“My goal was to develop technology that supports a proactive way of working, and this is what we’ve been able to achieve with HoloSite – a product that enables construction teams to build it right first time.”
According to Mitchell, errors in construction mean that 7-11 per cent of project costs can be wasted, and in very large building projects this can run to as much as €80 million.
The potential of using AR in construction isn’t merely in visualising work that needs doing as you go. It can be used to work out how a building will fit into its intended landscape while it is still being designed. It can be used to demonstrate to stakeholders – from investors to local residents – how a building will look and function in a manner that is potentially far more immediate and real than an artist’s impression, or even a model.
The drawbacks of AR? Essentially, it's down to training and investment. According to Deloitte, the construction industry spends only 1.2 per cent of its revenue on IT, compared with a 3.5 per cent average across all industries. Breaking that barrier could be XYZ's biggest challenge.