While architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) contractors have increasingly embraced the use of new technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) on behalf of clients, the adoption of digital technologies within their own practices have been slow. With that being said, since the Hong Kong Government’s push to drive the digital transformation of the industry with the launch of ‘Construction 2.0’ in 2019, the industry’s attitude towards innovation has become more positive.
In fact, digital twin is believed to be one of the most important technologies for real estate and construction in the next decade and plays a crucial role in helping cities achieve net-zero carbon emissions. It was listed as one of the top ten strategic technology trends by Gartner for three consecutive years. By building a digital replica of construction site, the project team can see and understand real-time site situation in 3D, and co-ordinate with different parties effectively. According to a recent EY report, digital twins can help to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint of an existing building by up to 50 per cent, alongside cost savings of up to 35 per cent.
One of the fast-growing tech ventures driving the digital transformation of the construction sector is Varadise, which offers a cloud-based construction management platform that drives speed, efficiency and accuracy at each phase of the construction project lifecycle. Contractors along the supply chain can leverage Varadise’s purpose-built, interconnected construction management platform that reveals the right information at the right time so different stakeholders can make the right decisions.
Terence Lui, founder and CEO of Varadise, a chartered civil engineer by profession, was bothered by manual, tedious paperwork back in the early 2010s after joining a leading construction contractor. “Though I was new to the trade back then, I thought there must be better ways that could cut through the complexity and keep plan change records in order with digital technologies,” he recalls, adding that apart from his engineering background, he was also keen about employing machine learning to automate foundation engineering work.
After familiarising himself with the operations of the company and identifying the pain points, he proposed his idea to the company’s management. “When I pitched my idea at an in-house innovation competition, the company’s management was impressed and felt it’s worth exploring.” In about three years’ time, Lui successfully convinced the construction firm to embark on a digital transformation journey. Later, he founded Varadise with the consent of his former employer. “I remain thankful for the opportunity and support given by my former employer to pioneer a digital transformation in their organisation.”
“Our platform integrates the functionalities of BIM, GIS and real-time IoT sensing and captures all activities related to a project, including when, where, what and how they happened as well as who were involved, therefore allowing for real-time collaboration and instant decisions to made to respond to incidents.
"We work closely with our clients to create a digital strategy that encompasses the entire project lifecycle.”
Designed as a secure online system, clients and external stakeholders can be assured that data are well-protected and that only authorised personnel have access to the data they are entitled to. “Imagine that each member of the project team communicates with the platform separately, it saves a great deal of time from redundant communication activities, like sending e-mails, phone calls and meetings, unless they are absolutely necessary.”
Having time-stamped digital records, covering all aspects of a construction project, offers maximum reassurance and protection in the event of any incident or accident. “Moreover, objective digital records can help increase accountability, reduce claim impact, and improve litigation efficiency.” And as the platform’s data grow and when harvested, they can be transformed into insightful analytics that can facilitate the design process. Taken together, big data from the cloud platform can tell a developer the optimum locale for a new project.
Varadise’s digital twin platform is now adopted by the major works departments under the Development Bureau. For example, the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) is using it for the upcoming planning and development works in the New Territories.
Lui says that ever since the Hong Kong government’s ‘Construction 2.0’ initiative, he has received stronger support than ever. Apart from various works departments adopting the platform, Varadise has also gained more exposure through events organised by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and other industry bodies as a showcase for construction innovation.
He believes that digital systems can spell the difference between financial success and failure in construction and will be gradually adopted by the private sector. “Though there are still barriers to adoption in the private sector, digital twins form the backbone of smart cities. I’m proud to be part of this journey.”