CORE

AI and sensor-based tech that replaces concrete curing guesswork, with precise, real-time data.

Last updated: 11th November 2020

Date uploaded:

Approved for use

Innovation Lead: Sherrie Rad
Project number: 104800
UKRI funding: £700,000

Website:
converge.io/


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Summary

Concrete setting has often been one of the causes of site delays and inaccuracies, leading to waste of materials and resources. Now Converge and BAM Nuttall have taken the guessing game out of concrete curing by drawing on cutting-edge technology that provides more accurate strength data and improves concrete cycles. CORE's Artificial Intelligence engine and Internet of Things sensors gives site teams live, real-time data that improves the concrete mix (reducing waste) and predicts the precise moment the concrete has reached its minimum strength (removing delays). Constructions teams can now plan with confidence and know when to act, leading to more productive, quality and sustainable builds in the sector. And with 210 UK construction sites currently adopting CORE technology, it could save the industry as much as £136m annually by 2025.

Innovation type: Digital
Organisation type: Construction tier 1 contractors, Innovative SME

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Project pioneers

Converge, a wireless and cloud-based technology firm, teamed up with BAM Nuttall, one of Europe's largest civil engineering contractors, to add more precision and planning to industry-wide use of concrete and reduce wasted time, money and resources.

The problem

Understanding and accurately predicting concrete curing time is critical to construction projects, as curing dictates the next stages of the build and fitting. But using concrete in construction still feels like guess work and depends on many changing factors from site to site, such as weather and different mixes. It relies on manual processes and tasks - from concrete monitoring, lab tests, waiting games, and over-pouring of concrete. This leads to lost time, fines and poor productivity as well as unnecessary waste and carbon emissions. While it might feel like a small impact on one site, when scaled up across hundreds of sites and concrete cycles, it can result in weeks of lost progress and ultimately cost the industry millions of pounds every year.

Vision

Rather than throwing away precious time, money and resources, concrete precision data will allow construction teams to plan better, act more precisely and have the right people, in the right place, at the right moment. Notifications, alerts and live feeds will mean contractors can access real-time, in-situ concrete strength data so tensioning can begin as soon as minimum strengths have been met, with not a moment lost. Knowing when project milestones are reached like this will save valuable time, money and resources - and reduce the impact of concrete waste on the environment.

Key Insight

The UK Green Building Council estimates that the construction sector uses more than 400 million tons of material per year. BAM Nuttall and Converge felt that this was a few million tons too many. The pair fundamentally agreed that innovation was needed to drive change. They already had a strong, strategic relationship having worked together on other projects. Converge already had proven feasibility of CORE, a sophisticated system of sensors and analytics to accurately predict concrete curing times, but now needed to test it further. If it worked, they believed they could create a £1.8bn global opportunity, and grow it to £3.5bn by 2025 (at a 9.7% CAGR).

First step

CORE uses an advanced AI-based prediction engine to give site teams a crystal ball for concrete strength and temperature data. So the first step was focused on prototyping, testing and validating the novel technology. To date, Converge had invested a significant amount of engineering time, effort and expertise. Now with the BAM Nuttall partnership in place and the Transforming Construction grant confirmed, the pair set out to capture live, real-time insights into the status of the build — all remotely.

Barrier

The industry has become risk-averse about investing in and adopting new technologies and processes, when traditional methods and manual techniques feel reassuringly safe and trusted. Low-level standards prevail. These less accurate or inefficient methods are then leading to critical actions on site needing to be delayed or repeated which escalates costs, lowers productivity and increases levels of wastage and emissions.

Process innovation

Site teams must wait for concrete to hit a critical strength before scheduling the next activity. More often than not, at the time site teams are needed to strike formwork or tension the slab, they are deployed in other areas. CORE provides new precision data that allows site teams to know exactly when to act, and so site managers can co-ordinate and collaborate effectively. Essentially CORE allows teams to interact in a more effective, data-driven way.

Digital Innovation

CORE uses an advanced AI-based prediction engine to capture accurate measurements on site. The predictions engine combines local weather data, a database of historical concrete curing data, and real-time IoT sensor measurements from the pour. The precise live sensor data gives the construction team a unique ability to predict the time the concrete will reach minimum strength, so that constructors can plan with confidence and know precisely when to act and deploy their teams. The further development of a mobile app allows the site team to carry out contactless site checks and inspect the status of the concrete remotely. This has been particularly important during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

Whole life innovation

The data captured by CORE during construction can be fed back into a BIM model that creates a permanent record of actions taken and material performance. This allows other contractors and the wider industry to learn from real-time, real-site evidence and improve the concrete curing processes throughout the industry. This compound effect will save considerable labour hours, reduce the cost of builds, and ultimately reduce wastage and emissions thanks to efficient concrete usage. This exciting technology will pave the way to more productive and sustainable concrete builds.

Collaborators

Converge is involved in the Bath University research leaders project, installing their sensors in the demo building that is going to be built at BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials. Converge is also partnering with Keltbray on another Transforming Construction C&RD project called HIPER Pile. To date, this support has seen 210 UK construction sites adopt the technology. City Airport is using CORE in its new concrete taxiway and Bath University is installing CORE sensors in the demo building that is going to be built at BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials.

  • BAM Nuttalls
  • BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials
  • Bath University
  • Converge
  • Keltbray

Lead support

UKRI and Transforming Construction has funded just over £700,000 towards the prototype, the business model and exploitation plans. This investment gives the project partners the step-change and competitive advantage they need for rapid commercialisation post-project, to meet both UK needs and to support global exports. Converge also secured a £3.9m venture capital investment following the Transforming Construction Challenge grant – using it to grow their team by 50%.

Long Term Vision

The UK construction industry needs to reduce carbon emissions and improve productivity. CORE can do both. It's innovative AI and sensor based technology makes concrete curing a more productive, efficient and sustainable part of a build. And this exceptional accuracy is revolutionising the industry. 210 sites have already adopted the technology. Among those are City Airport, which is using CORE in its new concrete taxiway, and Bath University which is installing CORE sensors in a demo building that is going to be built at BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials. Converge estimates that the use of CORE over 210 sites could save the industry as much as £136m annually, and that it will secure a 1.4% global market share with a £48m global turnover by 2025.

Human Stories

Site teams must wait for concrete to hit a critical strength so, more often than not, those needed to strike formwork or tension the slab were deployed in other areas when the time came to act. This can be frustrating. Thanks to the effort, expertise and energy committed by the Converge and BAM Nuttall partnership, CORE's precision data allows constructors to know exactly when to act. They can now co-ordinate and collaborate effectively with both client and supply chain about when tasks can - and should - be undertaken.

Powerful Processes

CORE's precision data provides greater insight into the material performance and viability of concrete supplied, allowing the site team to validate its quality and build strong relationships throughout the supply chain. The real-time data also allows site teams to co-ordinate and collaborate effectively with both the client and their supply chain about when tasks can - and should - be undertaken. Essentially CORE allows teams to interact in a data driven way.

Fascinating Facts

The UK Green Building Council estimates that the construction sector uses more than 400 million tons of material per year. CORE's AI and sensor-enabled technology dramatically increases productivity and reduces waste and carbon emissions. This means the 210 UK construction sites using CORE could save as much as £136m annually by 2025. CORE offers significant UK ROI (1,280%) and Converge currently estimates there is a £1.8m global opportunity that could grow to as much as £3.5bn by 2025. For the company itself, Converge estimates it will secure a 1.4% global market share with a £48m global turnover by 2025.

Benefits

Collaboration
CORE provides greater insight into the material performance and viability of concrete supplied, allowing the site team to validate its quality and build strong relationships throughout the supply chain. The precision data also allows site teams to co-ordinate and collaborate effectively about when tasks can - and should - be undertaken.

Cost
Currently money can be lost on a project through over-pour or batch returns. Project managers might also be paying for labour waiting while the concrete is setting, or conversely through delays while waiting for teams to become available. By getting real-time alerts straight to their phone the moment slabs are ready to strike, instead of waiting for cube results, project managers can better plan resource and materials, keeping costs on track. Scaled up, Converge estimates that this increased productivity could save as much as £136m annually by 2025.

Emissions
CORE reduces concrete use in two ways. Firstly the historic performance data makes it easy to optimises the mix design, and so the improved mix decreases the number of batch returns. Secondly, the precision data reduces risk of over-pour. Converge is tracking carbon emission reductions over the course of the project.

Health
During lockdown, workers health and exposure to Covid-19 has been mitigated through the ability to monitor capabilities remotely, through the CORE mobile app.

Investment
Converge secured a £3.9m venture capital investment following the Transforming Construction Challenge grant – using it to grow the team by 50%.

Productivity
CORE has already shown demonstrable, significant gains to site productivity by predicting concrete curing time, eliminating concrete batch returns and optimising construction schedules. The technology will shave days off complex sections of the program and provide site teams confidence to take actions accurately, appropriately and safely. This will be a key metric to measure going forward. CORE typically saves 4 – 6 hours per concrete pour which would equate to 60-100,000 hours on a typical construction project.

Safety
By providing remote monitoring capabilities through the CORE mobile app, teams can carry out site checks and monitor the stage of the concrete from the office or while working from home. This has an impact on safety as it reduces the number of people who need to be on site at any one time.

Time
CORE typically saves 4 – 6 hours per concrete pour which would equate to 60-100,000 hours on a typical construction project. The precise live sensor data gives construction teams access to real-time, in-situ concrete strength data, and so tensioning can begin as soon as minimum strengths have been met, with not a moment lost. Constructors can plan with confidence and know precisely when to act, always having the right teams in the right place, at the right time.

Trade Gap
CORE offers significant UK ROI (1,280%) with the potential for overseas trade. UK-based, Converge currently estimates there is a £1.8m global opportunity that could grow to as much as £3.5bn by 2025. For the company itself, Converge estimates it will grow to have a 1.4% global market share with a £48m global turnover by 2025.