This guide is here to help you understand exactly why construction software is revolutionising the industry. With cloud-based systems, there’s a sense of traceability and accountability that has never been seen before in construction. All team members, from architects to subcontractors, are connected in one place giving them the opportunity to share information and collaborate.
In this guide we’ll be discussing how a Common Data Environment allows construction teams to integrate many parts of the job into a shared ecosystem. The addition of accounting, estimation and BIM software further boosts the efficiency of the team. We’ll show you why a platform like Zutec’s can unlock real potential in the construction industry.
Digital technology is revolutionising many industries and construction is no different.
It’s driving the changeover from cumbersome paper-based document management to cloud-based. It facilitates better planning to ensure fewer problems occur onsite and a smoother construction process for all stakeholders.
It’s also behind greater collaboration and transparency between stakeholders – between peers onsite and also up the chain of command.
Construction software saves valuable time as it speeds up multiple aspects of a project, from inspections to snag lists to handovers. And once the final handover is complete, it helps make the successful operation of the building more efficient throughout its lifespan.
Firms who adopt construction management software quickly find that it helps solve a whole range of problems. Now all stakeholders can be connected on the platform via their mobile devices.
“As projects get bigger, you end up with a massive paper burden, which a digital solution will remove,” says Zutec project manager, Gemma Hawes.
“The thing is for companies to remove themselves from using a paper-based system to share information more easily, so there’s greater transparency in updating for all the players.”
This greater transparency can also have a motivating effect on teams and improve the quality and efficiency of the work. Teams and individuals know they are accountable for every step of the work they do.
Zutec Vice President of Solution Sales, Daniel Da Silva explains: “Traceability and transparency is a big problem in construction at the moment. On some sites, we see Whatsapp being used as one of the biggest forms of communication, which is going to be a disaster in construction. That’s uncontrolled information.’’
Using software such as business information modelling (BIM) in conjunction with mobile apps for inspections helps with better planning and sequentiality on sites. For example, just-in-time delivery can be optimised, so sites are not cluttered with materials that are not needed until later in the job.
Daniel DaSilva adds: “We offer an inspections platform and when you’re combining that with a digital handover solution, when you’re combining that with a common data environment or drawing management, when housing all of that ecosystem in the one platform, that then allows you to streamline. There’s less training required by all of the various parties. They don’t have to learn how to use two or three different systems.”
It can also be used to monitor all the health and safety inductions of new personnel coming onsite, meaningmore compliance and fewer accidents.
One of the huge advantages of using construction management software is the opportunity to fully integrate many aspects of a job into one common ecosystem.
This method, where all sorts of data from various sources on a project (from maps and models, to ongoing inspections, assigned tasks, costs, materials, schedules) is feeding into the one place, leads to huge gains in terms of efficiencies.
Each part of the project can easily be informed by the other parts because all of the data is unified in one easily accessible resource, rather than fragmented in different physical locations, different media or incompatible software.
This idea of a common data environment (CDE) is leading to new gains for tech-savvy building professionals who recognise and harness the full power of digital technology to deliver the best job possible.
A CDE is a central store where information from construction projects is gathered together, kept, managed and shared.
By using a single source of information, it will increase collaboration between stakeholders on a project, reduce the duplication of work, reduce the number of mistakes and problems – and thereby create greater efficiency and save time and money.
Once clear protocol around the workflow for dealing with information is established for all parties, to avoid errors or lapses and therefore fully ensure the integrity of the data.The CDE becomes the ultimate source of ‘truth’ around a project.
When a CDE is used in conjunction with the whole range of tools available via construction management software, it becomes a potent weapon.
Zutec’s Daniel DaSilva, explains: “When you use an inspections platform and you’re combining that with a digital handover solution, when you’re combining that with a common data environment, with drawing management, drawing submittal, drawing review, when housing all of that ecosystem in the one platform, it then allows you to streamline.”
A feature of large construction projects now is the digital recording of information into 'data lakes' – where data sets from all sorts of different sources on the project are feeding into a single platform.
There, they can be integrated together and analysed. This gives everything a traceability, it allows for more insights, and it helps you to quickly solve any issues that may arise.
“Digital solutions will help you with the fast resolution of issues,” says Zutec project manager Thomas Heery. “You can raise issues fast and you can resolve them fast. And, as a result of this, it actually should improve safety, quality and time on a project.”
One ground-breaking aspect of the digitalisation of construction data is the use of building information modelling (BIM) software.
BIM software uses data from the designers, architects, contractors and other stakeholders and creates a 3D virtual version of a facility before it’s actually physically built. This modelling can help to greatly reduce uncertainty, it can improve safety and, crucially, it gives you the opportunity to spot and solve potential problems.
“Every developer who’s building anything from council houses to skyscrapers should have a digital handover solution,” says Thomas Heery. “If your digital handover solution is set up from the start, you can save a lot of money when it comes to your maintenance at handover.”
As the accumulation of construction data is ingrained in the building of the project, there’s no requirement for a huge administrative task to bring it all together at the end – that work is already complete.
The handover process happens much faster too. “The days in construction when you finished a building and the documents came six months later are long gone. Everything has been sped up,” says Gemma Hawes.
While there are obvious and immediate benefits around enhanced communication and information-sharing that come through the use of a digital package, there are also many other features that can be integrated into a company's solution.
The fact that solutions can be customised for particular clients or users means that stakeholders can take on and leverage different specific aspects of the software as required.
Using construction accounting software as part of the overall digital ecosystem gives users another important tool to help in completing their building projects more successfully.
Construction accounting software does all the same things as general accounting software but with the added extra of some construction-specific features.
So while it will take care of all the usual functions, such as general ledger, accounts payable and receivable, it will also have special modules such as time and material billing, and equipment service and usage tracking.
Most software allows companies to tailor their version to include the aspects which best suit their specific requirements.
Furthermore, construction accounting software can also be used in strategic planning and operations management of a building project. Contractors can ensure the project’s budget is properly managed by monitoring costs and cash flow, keeping expenses and costs organised and improving accountability.
Ultimately, dedicated construction accounting software will help you deliver your project on budget and it will help you ensure that the project is financially successful.
The key benefit of construction accounting software is that it allows you to keep track of the financial aspects of a project as it progresses. Accountants and project managers can see how the budget relates to the progress onsite. If only a quarter of the work is done but half of the budget has already been spent, this is something that must be flagged.
Profitability in any large project is dependent on many different factors, so being able to track job costs is an important feature in accounting software.
Comparing actual costs with estimated costs in real time allows you to keep a close eye on how a project is doing in terms of profitability.
Many construction accounting software packages will allow you to set up alerts on any items that may negatively affect job costs.
When your accounting software is integrated with your software for other aspects of a project, you can easily share data between the various platforms – and you can trust the security and integrity of the data.
The Zutec platform is software agnostic, so is compatible to work in tandem with various accounting solutions.
The sharing is quick and easy as everything is integrated as part of the same ecosystem. The smoother the flow of information, the better the financial health of your project, as all relevant stakeholders are up-to-date and well informed.
One particularly interesting aspect of digital construction software is how it uses building information modelling (BIM) technology to drive efficiency on projects.
BIM software creates a virtual 3D version of a project before construction begins. This modelling increases efficiency by making it possible to draw up more detailed plans for the realisation of the project and to spot and solve any potential problems.
For example, you can see if there will be any problems to pipes and services before they are put in place.
If gives you the opportunity to see where all the pipes and services are located, at the design stage, and see spot any issues before they arise.
The use of BIM modelling as an information mediator is now regarded as compulsory in the construction industry.
In fact, BIM offers a whole range of benefits and efficiencies to the building process. But its use must be carefully controlled and planned.
BIM software works using data input by designers, architects, engineers, consultants and contractors.
Using all this information, it creates a virtual version of a facility. Sub-contractors from all trades can provide data relating to their part of the project.
While the information from BIM can help with planning all aspects of a project, access to the modelling itself is normally the preserve of those higher up the chain of command on a job.
Daniel Da Silva explains: “In the industry at the moment, many people are talking about BIM and how they see this as the solution to digitizing construction. I think it is not the solution, it is a part of the solution.
In the industry at the moment, many people are talking about BIM and how they see this as the solution to digitising construction.
The problem with using BIM (in isolation) is that everything is based around email, and people having access to good computers that can display 3D models.
The reality of construction now is most people don’t have access to all that. Many people who work on construction sites, they don’t even have company email.
So while BIM is a crucial part of the kit, it should be used in tandem with other mobile apps which are accessible by the people lower down the chain of command.
Keeping tight control on a BIM model can be an issue if too many stakeholders have access, and the industry has seen instances of consultants, or contractors, altering the BIM model to their own narrow benefit without the consent of all stakeholders.
This shows the importance of using it as part of a suite of apps and softwares, rather than on its own.
Zutec’s Gemma Hawes explains how they can feed that onsite data into the BIM. “We’ve got some of those tools which get the attention, we’ve got BIM modeling, and we can reconcile that onsite data into a BIM model view.’’
‘‘So, you’re not looking at something just in text and on a 2D view. You can actually go in and view it across an entire building in a 3D model.”
The information input and stored in a BIM will tell you exactly where all assets are in the building in relation to everything else. It will give you an items position, geometry, XYZ co-ordinates, dimensions, location within the building.
It works by assigning everything in the building a GUID (global unique identifier) - each ceiling tile, fixture, desk, everything, which makes each item completely unique and distinguishable from anything else in the building (and on the planet).
This means you can relate things from a number of databases back on one point, and locate things in relation to each other across three dimensions.
Generally, the model will contain detailed information about:
The importance of using BIM software on a project is evident through the amount of efficiencies it can bring.
BIM software offers great advantages in the planning stage, with the knock-on benefit that work onsite progresses more smoothly and efficiently.
Construction estimating software is used to estimate costs for a construction project – a job that has traditionally been done manually using calculators and spreadsheets.
Doing estimates with software offers greater accuracy, fewer errors, greater convenience and therefore greater speed, so you can make sure you deliver your project on time. It also helps to control costs and to keep the project within scope.
Other benefits include the building of reference databases for costs, libraries for data reuse, easier reporting and overall standardisation of the estimation process.
Whether for bids on tenders or for internal use, preparing cost estimates is a fundamental fact of life for construction professionals.
Construction estimating software offers a solution to these problems, simultaneously simplifying the process, speeding it up and increasing its accuracy.
The software will include an estimation worksheet, similar to a spreadsheet, which will automatically take care of calculations and a number of other functions. The package will have built-in cost-databases, which could either be from your own accumulated data or from a commercial source.
Some systems have a built-in ordering system that allows you to order materials by clicking through directly from your estimation software.
It will also have a variety of customisable functions, depending on your specific needs – these could include job cost estimation, phase analysis, inspection cost estimates and report generating.
Architects, construction managers, engineers and other stakeholders all have input in the use of estimating software in different sectors of the building industry. For example, there are different versions available for commercial, residential and industrial development.
But construction estimating software is mainly used by quantity surveyors.
Use of such software has become widespread across the industry because of the many benefits it brings to a project.
It also offers greater accuracy. For example, it makes it easier for you to pinpoint all your labour, material and equipment costs.
Furthermore, by using construction estimating software, you will be able to build up your own database of prices and costs from jobs you’ve completed, allowing you to use the data from these to increase the accuracy of your estimates and avoid costly overruns.
The software should also integrate with other software solutions as part of your overall eco-system.
Construction software makes it much easier for contractors to keep track of inspections, snagging and defect management.
On a digital app, a worker can quickly enter information about any defects, whether they’re simply following a form or a checklist and ticking different boxes, or they’re providing a photo or a description of what needs to be fixed.
“The use of collaboration platforms allows you to send that information to all responsible parties so that they know: here’s my defects list,” says Zutec’s Daniel DaSilva.
He points to the use of the platform on the construction of the huge Abu Dhabi Airport Corporation terminal as an example.
“On that job, Zutec has got something like 400 concurrent users logging into the platform to do their inspections,” he says. “So that means that there’s 400 people out there signing off on inspections, raising inspections in the field on tablet devices.”
When construction data is stored in the cloud, that means it’s more reliable than traditional paper-based methods – it’s easier to access, it can’t be lost, it can be backed up for total security.
The transparency that comes with digital construction software means the client is always up to date on how a project is proceeding – then can simply go onto the digital platform and check any aspect of the job to see what stage it’s at, at any time.
Daniel DaSilva adds: “The benefit for the client is that they can see all of the photos, they can see how many defects or inspections have occurred or not occurred on the project."
“On the Abu Dhabi airport terminal building, our system is managing all of the work inspection requests and there’s been over 400,000 inspections, all with photos, etc."
While many of the different software solutions on the market focus in on one isolated element such as snagging defect management, Zutec brings this together with a range of features and functions required for other aspects of the job, for optimum efficiency and collaboration.
Effective software allows for greater transparency from contractors and sub-contractors, thus facilitating smoother planning, enhancing the workflow, and avoiding rising costs associated with project overruns.
Ultimately, using construction software solutions leads to greater compliance with industry standards, better-functioning building sites, and optimally operating buildings - and all the positive PR and return on investment that comes with that.
One benefit of construction software is that everyone working on the job has instant access, everyone has instant updates, and all the documents are safe and can’t get lost or damaged.
Any employee who is working on a particular project can easily gain access to the precise data they need, whether in the office or onsite, on PC, tablet or smartphone.
“The current process of emailing people, of creating Excel spreadsheets, talking to people on the telephone - all of that means you’ve got all your information in lots of different areas, and none of it is co-ordinated. And nobody has a view of all of it,” says Gemma Hawes.
A key feature of construction software solutions is that they are easy to use – stakeholders can quickly get to grips with their intuitive design and functions. Also, the software can easily manage the use of documents among a large number of workers.
“You’ve just spent an entire day doing quite hard work onsite, installing or doing whatever it is that you’ve got to do,” says Gemma Hawes. “And now you’re going to have to come back into the office and sit down for probably two, three hours to type up everything that you’ve noted during your day.”
With a software solution that work is already done, the information logged as you went along.
The efficiencies of working with software and of storing data in the cloud are well illustrated by the fact that the use of the Zutec platform in the construction of the Shard in London saved the printing of 50 million sheets of A4 paper.
This would have taken approximately 550 trees to produce.
“In the old-school way, they would compile all of their as-built drawings, system descriptions, maintenance information, etc, in paper format,” says Daniel DeSilva.
“And still, to this day, in some specifications, they hand over that information in wheelbarrows, in big arch lever folders.”
The logistics of dealing with all that paper, and of physically storing it after the job, no longer exist, which again leads to huge savings.