Digital tech to improve safety in construction sector

Friday, 24 February, 2023

Researchers have developed state-of-the-art technology that will take outdated aspects of Australia’s construction industry into a modern digital age. Professor Zora Vrcelj, head of Victoria University’s Built Environment, and Professor Yuan Miao, Head of Victoria University’s Information Technology, have combined high-tech tools with engineering and architecture to improve safety training in construction.

With the help of a construction simulator (COSI) with virtual reality (VR), the researchers want to reduce workplace injuries and deaths. COSI’s fully immersive VR experience allows trainees to use high-tech goggles and equipment to enter and explore a simulation of a construction site to learn about safety. The simulator lets users learn to climb ladders, move equipment, work in a confined space, or walk along narrow scaffolding, without any real risk.

City councils, construction companies and the Victorian Building Authority have expressed interest in the innovation. Vrcelj said the project could help modernise the construction industry. Andrew Shea, CEO of the Builders Academy Australia, Simonds Group, said training workers via simulated experiences would make a real difference to a worker’s learning.

The researchers also aim to modernise the profession of building surveying. Traditionally, surveyors conduct mandatory inspections of buildings during construction with a clipboard and a checklist, as they assess the framework, electrics, plumbing and design of a building. “The surveyor comes, checks that everything is up to code, ticks the boxes, and then leaves. But if something changes that affects the build before the next inspection, no one has any idea what’s been done or where the alterations have been made,” Vrcelj said.

Instead, the researchers have developed a cloud-based platform where photographs and 360-degree scans of the building are uploaded, and can be accessed remotely in real time from a smartphone or iPad. This provides chains of evidence if things go wrong, and early opportunities to prevent defects from happening in the first place.

Image credit: Victoria University

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