Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

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Balfour-backed remote inspection tech gets funding boost

13 August 2020

A new digital tool for remote building inspection, supported by Balfour Beatty and developed by the University of Strathclyde, has received a funding boost.

The project has been granted £35,000 by the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre’s i-Con Challenge, and the University says the platform “will enable the management and monitoring of the construction phase of buildings and improve productivity and quality, with fewer defects in the long term”.

The platform will be trialled on the University of Strathclyde’s new Learning & Teaching building, which is being built by Balfour Beatty.

The aim of the project is to introduce algorithms for defect detection and sizing in image data through a combination of deep learning algorithms, traditional image processing techniques and VR interfaces. 

A large, publicly-available dataset of building defect images will be created that can be used as a standard by the community for algorithm development, testing and comparison. 

3D immersive environment

The platform will create a 3D immersive environment of a building, minimising the need for quantity surveyors and health and safety inspectors to be present at a site.

The platform will also be able to provide occupants and the wider community with meaningful ways to engage and contribute to a building programme.

The project proposes a framework for integration of methodologies and tools, including VR and digital photogrammetry to collect real-time data that support automated decision-making. 

The platform will also provide opportunities for building control compliance activities. 

Dr Andrew Agapiou, senior lecturer in the University’s Department of Architecture and the lead researcher on the project, said: “The ability to accurately detect errors and defects in remote and hard-to-access buildings has significant value. In many situations, these structures are inspected using digital cameras to capture images that can be analysed offline by experts who study the footage in detail.

“The use of advanced photogrammetry and AI technologies will help data gathering and analysis with minimum human interaction with buildings.”

The project partners are the Scottish government’s Building Standards Division, Sublime, Robert Gordon University, Balfour Beatty Construction, BDP, Anomalous Technologies, Scottish Futures Trust Hub-Cos Partnership, Highlands Council and the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre.

The i-Con Challenge is designed to match those faced with current challenges with those in industry and academia who can offer “rapid, impact-focused solutions in a bid to build resilience for a brighter future through innovation”.