Lights, camera, action: Offering a new perspective through technology

How digital technology is shaping the future of the construction industry.

Maps and technology go hand and hand in today’s online world – for example, you will likely struggle to find someone in the UK who has not used Google Street View since it was first launched in 2007. The incredibly simple yet impactful technology has been a resounding success, bringing locations to life through our screens whether we have visited in person before or not.

Since then, the pace of digital transformation has accelerated to new heights, fuelled further by the COVID-19 pandemic – meaning that businesses must work twice as hard to stay still.

Research shows that the pandemic advanced the digitisation of customer and supply-chain interactions accelerated by three to four years, while the share of digitally enabled products in company portfolios accelerated by seven years.

Take Matterport for example, this is the standard for 3D space capture, capable of capturing

Digital manager, Daniel Oliver, explains why seamlessly integrating technology into projects improves the customer experience, increases project efficiency, and offers a valuable resource for stakeholders.

Meet the Matterport

“While the use of Matterport cameras may not be revolutionary, with the technology used regularly by businesses across the sector as a project completion record, it’s our alternative application of the device that has been welcomed by customers and admired by sector specialists.

“To date, in the Midlands alone, the Matterport camera has been used across 30 of our latest projects. While every project now includes a scan on completion, many sites implement the technology as part of the dilapidation survey before works start or to create a digital model at the start of design works during the preconstruction stage.

“Both scans help to assist with dispute resolution and give an accurate picture of a site before and after work has been completed. For example, at Holy Trinity Academy in Telford the recent preconstruction scan was essential in capturing the condition of the surrounding environment and included roads and pavements as large parts of the site are still in use while the extension is being completed.

“The same application of the Matterport benefits sectors beyond education too, as shown by the industrial setting at Kibworth Recycling and Household Waste Site and the derelict Broadmarsh Centre that were importantly surveyed prior to building and demolition work commencing respectively.

“There are exciting new ways to use Matterport technology that are being explored, such as combining the scans with 3D models to show how sites will look after construction with a single click. Software may soon be able to offer side by side virtual comparisons displaying the contrast between reality and the future.”

Engaging with stakeholders

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, we utilised Matterport in the same way that most contractors do following project completion. Having a detailed visual record of a project has a number of benefits, such as creating marketing collateral to give potential users and customers a realistic feel of the schemes, but it was not yet being utilised to its full potential.

“Matterport camera footage is not only for the eyes of those in the construction sector but can also be used to bring a site to life for stakeholders who would otherwise not have access behind the hoardings.

“This is especially effective when showing customers and end users the progress of the build or highlighting how the space will be used. During lockdowns, with site visits discouraged to maximise safety, being able to show customers around developments from the comfort of their own home proved another success of our modelling capability and Matterport camera technology. It enabled our site managers to talk customers through detailing and made sure they could experience the full impact of the space.

“We have also used Matterport to give new starters a tour of their office building, putting pins on each desk to show the office layout and providing manuals and instructions on how to use different pieces of equipment, resulting in the creation of a virtual induction. Not only have we used the system to provide our end users with insight into the space they will soon inhabit, but some of our customers have jumped on board and are starting to use the technology this way too.

“While working on education projects, such as Kettering Science Academy, we used the Matterport to show students what was happening on site during lockdown when they were studying at home so they could see the new facility. This is mutually beneficial for the education provider and the students as it strengthens communication and harnesses a desire to focus on studying.

Kettering Science Academy Matterport Scan

“Often customers don’t realise how useful these can be until they have one to explore for themselves. They particularly help the education sector by increasing engagement and driving visitors to web pages, which has previously resulted in us providing new scans to show how the site changes over time and proving the added value working with us can bring. Matterport can often be the key element of promotional campaigns and really make a difference in proving a project’s value.”

Helping with housing

“The property market was one of many industries drastically affected by Covid-19, with limitations on house viewings changing how the buying process typically worked.

“Recognising the impact this was having on customers, we offered the use of Matterport scans to residential businesses as a sales tool –giving house buyers a way to interact with new homes without having to move from the comfort of their living room.

“emh group is one of our customers that used this service successfully at Springfields Independent Living by virtually welcoming potential tenants to the development in the absence of face-to-face viewings.

“Included in the £250 million-worth of homes we deliver each year, the £12m project created 65 new homes in Leicestershire, alongside communal areas such as a hairdressers and bistro to create an inclusive environment that brings together people of all ages.”

Jo Grainger, executive director at emh group, said: “The use of the technology available to us, and the flexibility and support from Willmott Dixon throughout the project, meant that despite the challenges we faced, we were still able to generate a lot of interest and applications for the amazing new facility.”

Dan continued: “Not only can the footage be used for virtual property tours, 360-degree photos, 2D photos, and floorplans, but it can also provide buyers with a simple user guide once they purchase a property.

“Instead of a large binder that often gets misplaced in the moving process, homeowners are able to access an online shared drive with links to the Matterport footage highlighting operational guides for different parts of the home. For example, they could virtually walk through the property and find the boiler, click on it, and be directed towards an online PDF of its user manual, installation certificate and the manufacturer’s website.

“Housing providers can also link appliances to troubleshooting videos, to easily resolve general issues and demonstrate quick, easy fixes without having to find and read a document.”

Say hello to Holo Builder

“Matterport has become an essential tool in our operations and having a combined approach further strengthens our digital capabilities. Each new technology we introduce must solve a specific problem discovered by our team or brought forward by our customers. This why we started using Holo Builder to increase the speed of reporting while maintaining the same high level of detail we pride ourselves on.

“To provide customers with the most up-to-date and accurate progress report possible within an interactive platform, we use Holo Builder technology to offer a way of tracking progress once a week. Even the largest of sites, such as Perry Barr Residential Scheme, take no more than one day to scan.

“We can insert a project floor plan into the Holo Builder software and take a selection of 360-degree photos in the areas that need to be tracked. These photos can then be compared to the same image from a different stage of the build, giving interested parties a clear view of how the work has progressed.

“These comparison images are a great way for customers and their stakeholders to clearly see how much work has been completed and at which stage of the transformation process their build is currently at. Images can be updated as regularly as required, ensuring that the client is always informed on how the scheme is developing in real time, further supporting our mission to work as collaboratively as possible.”

A new age

“Adapting and innovating to meet changing demands is essential to achieving customer satisfaction. Offering new ways in which customers can view and access schemes, engage with their stakeholders and improve the end-user experience is something that will be invaluable as the construction sector continues to evolve.

“As we embrace new technologies and improve customer collaboration, it’s our aim to lead the digitisation of the construction industry, further expand the cost and efficiency benefits we can pass on to our customers and support them in a consultative manner.”