Digital construction is just as important to us as physical construction
Digitalisation is about a lot more than just technology; it touches almost every facet of the economy. It has to do with innovation, new legal and regulatory requirements, robotisation and artificial intelligence. At the same time, digitalisation is also about new forms of collaboration (like the Hive), organisational structures (for instance, business development & operations like Beyond Eyes) and ethical issues (such as the ethical business application of artificial intelligence). And it is about people. We are increasingly aware of the real value we can add for our clients and their environment using digitalisation. We collect and use data to predict the maintenance of buildings, roads and bridges more accurately, but also to develop new propositions and new business models. Moreover, we incorporate data from the usage phase right from the start of the design process. Data also enable us to keep improving. Our business areas play a key role in having a keen eye for maintaining and increasing that added value. Over the past year, we initiated the move to bring IT developments in the various departments of the organisation more to the fore and make it possible for these to connect with each other.
Piet Hein tunnel
The Piet Hein tunnel in Amsterdam needs a complete overhaul to meet current safety requirements. Outdated technical installations are making way for a uniform and integrated control and operating system. It’s a challenging job, especially when it turns out that the IJ tram has to keep running and almost all the technical and safety installations for the three tunnel tubes are totally intertwined. An additional complicating factor is the fact that the construction team had to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. This led to costly loss of time at the start of the project, while it wasn’t always easy for people to keep a distance at the construction site. Nevertheless, Heijmans managed to replace more than 50 technical systems and improve fire safety, among other things. Using BIM, Heijmans built a digital model of the tunnel with all the major technical components. This enables the company to test almost everything prior to starting work, so that future maintenance will not require the tunnel to be completely closed. As a result, the Piet Hein tunnel will soon be ready for another 25 years.
Instead of scheduling maintenance according to the manufacturer’s instructions or our client’s budget, we can use data to determine the optimal time for maintenance. If we have a good understanding of what is happening in a building now, we can use data to predict what might happen in the future and act on this proactively. In 2022, we piloted ten different types of installation, and in the coming year we will put this way of working into practice. These are mainly mechanical installations, such as those for heating, cooling, air treatment and lighting.
Another significant development is the remote maintenance or operation of a technical installation. This allows us to deploy service engineers more and more efficiently in places and on tasks where they actually add value. Right now, we often have highly qualified employees performing simple routine work. This new way of working on technical installations interfaces with Beyond Eyes, which we set up from the user perspective. Beyond Eyes is an initiative of Heijmans and cleaning company CSU, which recycling firm PreZero also joined in December. For instance, if we find that a room is only used from nine to three o’clock, we make sure it is the right temperature at the right time and that there is no unnecessary heating or cooling when it is not being used.
Beyond Eyes is now ISO 27001 certified, proving that it meets stringent global information security requirements. The data from the buildings we manage provides valuable information on usage. Good examples are the European Medicines Agency (EMA) building and the new courthouse in Amsterdam. Not only did we build those, but we are also responsible for the maintenance of these building for 20 and 30 years respectively. We are already fully applying this new way of working at these buildings. This is also showing us how to improve building management and to design and build even more intelligently at the front-end. For Heijmans, this strong link between the usage phase of a building and the design and construction phase is another major differentiator in the market.
We use a large number of sensors to monitor infrastructure in real time for clients across the country, including the Ministry of Public Works and Waterways and Schiphol Airport. This enables us to predict the lifespan and availability of roads and engineering structures (such as tunnels and bridges) with increasing accuracy. We apply this in numerous places, such as the Beatrix Lock, Schiphol Airport and as part of various wet maintenance contracts. We manage road edge systems, monitor the functioning of locks and bridges, monitor embankments and the degradation of roads and road furniture (such as guide rails, demarcations, and traffic installations), and monitor pollution and emissions.
We collect all this data on the Infra Connect platform and process this to generate insights for our clients. This data remains the property of our clients. We see this platform as the basis for the continued development of data-driven maintenance services. For one, we can connect new digital services to the platform. And because we own the underlying systems and can connect them to each other, we increase the stability of these services. Moreover, by doing so, we create a better overview of our services and the data they generate. So the investments we make are no longer in stand-alone solutions and products, but all contribute to the big picture.
Increasingly working towards standard processes and standard IT solutions adds more structure to the data. We develop data know-how and new methods for the use of that knowledge and data. We are currently applying this working method primarily at Infra, but we will soon implement it throughout Heijmans. Clients such as the Ministry of Public Works and Waterways are also asking us how they can use their data to perform smarter maintenance. We explore the answers to this question and their needs together with our clients.
Heijmans Data Depot
In 2022, we also opened the Heijmans Data Depot, a storage point for all the ‘cold’ data that Heijmans creates in operational processes. These are historical data from installations and sensors, such as figures on consumption or fault reports. We do not need these data immediately in our day-to-day operations, but we can for instance use them for future analyses and reports. In time, we will add a lot more historical data from various systems to this data repository. One of our clients, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Amsterdam, already receives reports based on the data in the repository.
Heijmans Solutions Platform
For several years now, Infra has been using an internal platform, the Heijmans Solutions Platform, which brings concrete products together, including their Technological Readiness Level, which indicates the stage of technology development. No less than 1,400 colleagues used this platform last year. By the end of 2022, there were already two hundred products on the platform, such as Wind Energy, which involves the integrated design and realisation of concrete foundations for wind turbines. Or Bikescout, the most sought-after product, which improves the safety of cyclists at crossing points using LED lights in the road surface that light up when a cyclist approaches. Heijmans’ ambition is to develop this platform into a client portal, which will then show what Heijmans has to offer in a broader context.
Infra also uses digital tools to work on continuous process improvements. From the preparation phase to realisation and maintenance. Design processes are highly automated and thanks to digital construction methods, projects are prepared and realised in a smarter, safer and more effective way.
We use our ground mapping expertise and technology in both infrastructure and property development assignments. The Explosives Detection, Geodesy and Geophysics department investigates soil, using ground radar, 3D ground radar and other geophysics measurement systems to measure what is present in the soil - and what is not - with extreme accuracy. This is vital information to prevent unwanted and unsafe situations during construction or the project. We can use the measurement information to draw up an exact design (fact-based design) and remove old objects from the ground without danger, preventing hold-ups and or delays during the work. We use the results of the measurements for detailed drawings and 3D visualisations. And because we share the information in a Geographic Information System (GIS), the insights and data are also automatically available for other work and activities.