Project casebook: Construction sector

Wireless profiles a number of construction companies that are using the latest wireless technology to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve safety alerts on site

Project casebook: Construction sector
Emergency warning system for Wembley Arena construction site

Radio telemetry specialist Wood & Douglas has supplied building and construction company John Sisk with a radio based audible warning system to provide open area protection for the Wembley Arena reconstruction project.

John Sisk & Son is part of the Sisk Group of construction companies founded in Ireland in 1859. Sisk is a national building contractor serving customers throughout the UK with a turnover of £225m.

The re-configuration of Wembley Arena, a major London live music venue, was a £25m project that involved upgrading the Grade II listed building, originally constructed in 1934 for the Empire Games. As part of the project the Arena has been reversed, with the main entrance opening onto a new public square while the new stage now has a covered service yard. The Arena has approximately 12,200 new seats, which is an increase of 271 on the original configuration, nine large dressing rooms, promoter offices, a 200 seat restaurant, hospitality suites, 10 bars as well as fast food outlets and a box office.

The refurbished Arena now offers excellent facilities for its customers and promoters.

The upgrade was the first part of Quintain’s regeneration of the area surrounding the city’s new Wembley Stadium.

The OpenNet 6000 system deployed at the Arena by Wood & Douglas enabled any worker to give a warning if a fire or other dangerous incident occurred. It consists of six 120dB sounders arranged in three clusters of two devices, initiated from any of the seven manual call points (MCPs) located around the site.  The MCPs, each one attached to a PACSNET 300T radio transmitter, communicate with the master control panel by radio.

If it received a ‘Break Glass’ signal, the master control panel activated some, or all of the sounder clusters by radio communication with battery backed slave panels with local wiring to the sounders. The sounders have a typical effective range of 70 metres in an environment with an ambient noise level of 70 – 80 dB and specific tones for ‘small fire or other safety incident’ and ‘full site evacuation’ available.

The central panel continually monitors the health of all elements of the system, with a check signal received hourly from every radio device.

Such systems are particularly useful on a temporary basis when construction work is being carried out on large or congested sites. John Sisk is at the forefront of applying best practice in this regard to meet obligations under the Control of Major Accident Hazard (COMAH) regulations. Up to 64 break glass/radio units can control up to 48 sounder clusters, enabling the protection to be extended as required; the break glass call points and sounders can be located up to 5,000 metres from the MCP.

Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering uses wireless tech

Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering is a specialist foundations contractor and is typically first on site to dig foundations. The company has been using wireless technology for many years – starting with two-way radios then mobile phones and GSM data transfer.

‘For about the last decade we have been using GSM to transfer production records from our continuous flight auger (CFA) piling rigs to our head office on a daily basis,’ says the company’s Jason Scott.

‘These rigs have PCs in the cabs which monitor a number of process parameters on the rigs and record information that allows us to produce plots of the piling process that we provide to the client and use internally. In the early days this information was transferred back to the office via floppy disk - a medium that is far from well suited to a dusty construction environment.’

Balfour Beatty also uses automated text messaging from the PCs on the same rigs to alert maintenance staff when the rig develops a fault. The service is also used by the firm’s engineers to access production information when they are away from site. An engineer, for example, can text a rig and get a report texted back telling him what the rig is doing at that moment, how many piles it has completed that day, how much concrete it has used and whether or not it has encountered delays.

‘Several years ago, now we developed a site based data collection system using local wireless network technology,’ adds Scott. ‘This provided information to our site operatives from a web server on the site via hand-held wireless enabled tablet PCs and allowed them to record as-build information electronically, rather than on paper However, operating local wireless networks on site is a tricky business, and even with the help of battery powered mobile access points getting reliable coverage in all conditions was difficult.’

‘As GPRS and 3G became available and the coverage and speeds improved, we were able to switch to these as an alternative,’ says Scott. ‘With some creative thinking and a move to rugged PDA devices we were able to provide similar services to smaller sites for less with the added benefit of the servers being back at our head office. The advent of Windows Mobile and the .NET framework has also helped, since we can now develop bespoke applications in-house at a low cost.’

One unfortunate side effect of recording data electronically on site and transferring it back to the office was the tendency to shift engineering knowledge along with it. It was much easier to record data on site and then view or analyse it in a main office than it was to provide access to it on site – where it would often be most useful. Now, with the advent of 3G cards and in particular VPN and thin-client systems such as Terminal Server, that process can be reversed. All the company’s engineers now have laptops, 3G cards and, via VPN, the ability to access the company network and database systems from anywhere.

‘This has started to dramatically expand our use of mobile data and, in some cases, change the way in which our engineers work,’ says Scott,

‘They can now have direct access to emails, drawings, schedules, live and historical production data and company procedures. This level of connectivity also raises the possibility of other developments such as safety-alerts and new ways to spread best practice.’

Byrne Group identifies £300,000 in savings with RFID asset management

Byrne Group, which is building prominent new skyscraper The Shard London Bridge, has identified more than £300,000 in savings and boosted safety management through improved management control of more than 1,300 items of equipment, plant and tools.

Work began in 2008 to improve the management and control of equipment, plant and tool assets on all of Byrne Group’s construction sites. Detailed research showed that by adopting RFID technology (Radio Frequency Identification) utilising Assettagz software with COINS Plant Manager system a holistic solution could improve performance.

Byrne Group’s Consolidation Centre in south London provides plant and materials, and warehouse and distribution facilities for the company’s construction sites. Historically, monitoring and control was managed using manual systems, however, as part of Byrne Group’s continuous improvement programme the management of assets has been automated with RFID.

All site staff are issued with RFID enabled ID cards which are used in conjunction with handheld computers to track any equipment issued to the staff. The fully integrated system ensures that only assets that have been inspected and tested are issued and that the staff member using the asset has the appropriate training and authority to operate it.

Once an item is no longer required on site, a site foreman generates a return request and the logistics department collects the item and returns it to the Con
Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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