Road construction is a logistical minefield of local council permissions, workforce and machinery planning, and financial considerations.
Any delays or complications can have large financial implications and critical impacts on local communities, especially when it comes to traffic management.
The scale of repairs and maintenance in the UK is significant. According to research from the Department for Transport, around 1,180 miles of UK A roads and over 12,900 miles of B and C roads needed maintenance in March 2022.
Now, contractors are turning to the latest in generative AI to make projects more efficient.
One of the biggest factors impacting road construction is traffic management. Every time an existing road requires work, contractors must consult with local councils to get lane or road closures approved. Closure periods are only granted for a specific timeframe, making the deadline extremely important. If deadlines are not met, contractors can face financial implications if deadlines overrun.
Rush hours and increased traffic during the day mean night and weekend road closures are favourable because they reduce the impact on local communities. This can impact the schedule of the workforce and change when specific tasks are carried out, adding further challenges to the construction process.
Understanding how to maximise the road closure time and traffic management strategies is key to ensuring projects meet the expected deadline. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) can help.
ALICE Technologies is the world’s first AI-powered construction simulation platform. It starts with basic project information from a 3D model or logic diagram. Information relating to labour, materials, equipment, road closure constraints and construction methodology is then added. The result is a baseline cost and resource-loaded schedule that allows optimisation and efficiencies to be explored by adding or removing different conditions and resources, like machinery and labour.
The software analyses the data and creates multiple scheduling options. Road contractors can then easily choose their optimum route for delivering the project, using their own insights and understanding of any constraints to ensure deadlines are met.
ALICE also enables contractors to work on one unified interface, rather than relying on data coming from a variety of crews, machinery and software solutions. This helps streamline decision-making and provides a unified reference point across the site.
Larger road construction projects, like motorway works, typically take three to five years to complete. It is important that projects are kept on track from day one, to reduce the risk of missing deadlines and additional costs. Proactively assessing early project delivery data allows site managers to see the productivity rates in real-time and spot any delays immediately.
They can also use this information to adapt the project schedule through ALICE if issues occurred on previous projects, so they can be prevented.
By 2050, National Highways has a vision to provide a road network that supports the country’s transport needs but also protects and strengthens the natural environment and community well-being. It is also planning on delivering net zero corporate emissions by 2030.
This is a prime example of the impact environmentally conscious customers will have on road construction as they push developers to deliver on net zero emissions promises.
ALICE can provide contractors with data about the operation hours of machinery and the volumes of materials used. For example, ALICE can provide data about the impact of using two smaller excavators rather than one larger one. Site managers can use this information to carry out carbon calculations to assess the carbon impact of different decisions.
A similar comparison could be made as sustainable products, such as asphalt that stores carbon, emerge onto the market. Project managers could face a more complex and time-consuming installation method for the new product. ALICE could be used to show the time and cost implications of using a more sustainable solution. Project managers could then assess the sustainable benefits against the cost and time implications identified in ALICE.
Working, whatever the weather
Rising temperatures and increased rainfall are growing factors in road construction globally. Some processes, like setting concrete, can be impacted by the increase in extreme weather events. ALICE can be used to simulate project downtime or periods when specific activities will not be able to be completed. This allows project managers to plan by making the working periods more efficient or focusing on other activities that can be completed during extreme weather events.
Road construction and maintenance is a never-ending process, but by making it more efficient and streamlined with AI, contractors can ensure they stick to deadlines and financial limitations. ALICE helps make scheduling data more unified across a construction site, allowing project teams to consider more options and pick the right solution to overcome any setbacks or delays or even stop them from happening in the first place.
Read this article as published on Highways Today here.