Towards smarter buildings – pilots put innovation in the construction industry into practice

YIT Corporation News 18 August 2021 at 09:00 a.m.

Pilots put innovation in the construction industry into practice
Pilots put innovation in the construction industry into practice

Construction may appear to be a traditional industry, but many construction projects are constantly being designed and implemented to test new innovations and digital solutions that drive the industry forward. As a major operator and developer, YIT is often a key player in pilot projects combining and integrating the needs of different stakeholders.

A random passer-by may not notice that new innovations and operating models are being tested on regular-looking construction sites today. YIT provides a favourable framework for many of these pilots. Projects managed by YIT are constantly underway to improve construction processes and working methods from the point of view of companies and stakeholders in the industry and the environment.

Many of these development projects involve a more efficient collection, processing and utilisation of data to benefit the different parties involved. In May 2021, for example, YIT announced that it was partnering up with the Turku-based Carinafour, specialising in productivity improvements in the project industry to improve the productivity of the construction industry. The companies are working together to produce a digital supply chain model that will benefit property owners, residents, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers.

“The aim is to create an ecosystem that benefits everyone. Users and property owners can use the high-quality built environment as quickly and efficiently, in terms of life cycle, as possible. Contractors, subcontractors and suppliers are integrated in the projects more effectively, ensuring that the deadlines are met and that the work proceeds smoothly. Optimising the use of materials also helps reduce the environmental impact,” says Juhani Nummi, EVP, Operations development.

In December 2020, YIT also began cooperation with Microsoft, RealEstateCore and Idun to accelerate the digitalisation of buildings. The RealEstateCore consortium has created a common language that enables the digital management of buildings and the development of new services, taking into account the needs of users throughout the building's life cycle. Cooperation helps YIT create new digital, scalable services for investors, property managers, tenants and end-users, for example.

“We believe in open standards and platforms where both large and small operators from different sectors can innovate and share new data-based services together. Today, almost all innovation and piloting are, in one way or another, concerned with analytics, data development, real-time data flows, data recovery and data-derived decisions”, says Mikko Kuusakoski, Head of Data and Analytics at YIT.

Cooperation brings efficiency and results

In addition to data, cooperation is another important ingredient in the development of new solutions. YIT has ongoing cooperation with other companies as well as with various research institutes and universities.

For example, YIT participated in the Aalto University Intelligent Construction Site ICONS project at two construction sites, which monitored, among other things, the movement of goods flows at the construction site using IoT and positioning technology. The Reality Capture project at the Tripla construction site is also part of the cooperation projects with Aalto. It piloted, among other things, how 3D modelling and machine learning based on crane cameras and laser scanning help in monitoring and managing the percentage of completion of the construction site.

“We have a lot of pilots to solve individual challenges, but we also want to compile the lessons learnt into standard operating models and platforms. The ICONS project taught us, among other things, how to be more efficient on the construction site in coordination with one another. It promoted open dialogue, common rules and operational measures. The biggest lesson of Reality Capture was that data collection processes need to be standardised. Every construction site must collect information in the same way, so that the machines can also be taught to anticipate new measures and construction sites,” says Kuusakoski.

Representatives of the construction site involved in the development work

In some development projects, cooperation extends to the whole of Europe. This has been the case, for example, with the Nordic Token project coordinated by the EIT Digital promoting digital change in Europe, as part of the EU's efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The project has designed a COVID-19 alarm that guarantees anonymity and does not require the user to register or use a smartphone. A construction site was selected as the pilot site, and the device has been tested at YIT's Otava construction site in Espoo.

“When Nordic Token was presented to the management, the reactions were immediately positive. Then the pilot was further developed together with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the construction site, and those who practised in the pilot were included. The feedback has been positive, the solution was well received throughout the entire chain,” says YIT's Development Manager Arto Ylikangas, who has acted as the link between the construction site and the pilot group in many pilot projects.

“It is important that the construction site representatives can also influence what is being piloted and how. It helps to find workable improvements to the daily work at the construction site. It is also essential to tell all participants what benefits the pilot project will bring to the participants. Piloting is much more meaningful when the participants know what the whole pilot is about and what is achieved by it,” says Ylikangas.

Common platform for data means more benefits for users

Both Kuusakoski and Ylikangas emphasise that development projects need the views of many different stakeholders in order to succeed. This philosophy has been emphasised in the work of the KEKO consortium. In the  KEKO project supported by Business Finland, KONE, Nokia, YIT, Caverion, Halton, Netox and VTT together aim to create a global building data ecosystem and a platform for different actors to join. 

“By adapting the data produced by the entire built environment to a common platform, it is easier to create smart buildings that serve their users as comprehensively as possible. KEKO wants to use the information to bring benefits throughout the property's life cycle, from planning through construction, maintenance and repairs to end-users and service providers. We started with users and their needs by, for example, interviewing a large number of representatives of various stakeholders,” says Kuusakoski.

The piloting of the project started at the beginning of the life cycle of the buildings, with construction site pilots. According to Kuusakoski, this is the best way to achieve tangible results in development projects. Since then, piloting has moved to commercial properties. The results of the KEKO project will be completed in full at the end of 2021.

The results of cooperation projects with partners have been brought into practice, for example, at YIT's new Workery+ premises. The groundbreaking concept of the Workery+ office premises in Vallila, Helsinki, already receivedthe 2021 Smartest Building Award in the Real Estate and Building Futureproof event.

For further information:
Johanna Savolainen, Communication Manager, Group Communications, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 44 305 4594, 

YIT is the largest Finnish and a significant North European urban developer and construction company. Our goal is to create more sustainable, functional and attractive cities and living environments. We develop and build apartments, business premises and entire areas. We also specialise in demanding infrastructure construction. We own properties together with our partners, which supports the implementation of our significant development projects. We also provide our customers with services that increase the value of properties. We employ approximately 7,400 professionals in ten countries: Finland, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. Our revenue in 2020 was approximately EUR 3.1 billion. YIT Corporation's share is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Oy.