The pioneering construction firm Fira is building the apartment building Capella in Helsinki’s Kalasatama. The project has been an exercise in addressing the sorest points of the construction business – quality, speed, safety and cost management – with digital tools and the modification of the sector’s conventional operating methods.
For Fira, Capella has been a pilot project where numerous new technological tools and methods have been utilised. Thanks to them, the building will be completed faster than a normal construction process would have allowed. They have also improved construction quality, cost management and safety. Data tools and real-time monitoring made it easier to detect errors as soon as they occurred and so to prevent them from being reproduced throughout the building. In takt time production, apartment-specific inspections and the principle of doing things right the first time result in faster learning from mistakes than occurs in conventional projects.
“The most important thing has been to find ways of operating that genuinely make work easier and improve quality. This is why innovative site management has played a key role at the Capella worksite too. The management tested and developed our digital tools,” notes Sakari Pesonen, owner of Fira’s Successful Site programme.
Data organisation and visualisation
Digital tools were used for organising information at the worksite and for its visualisation that benefited all parties. For example, the Sitedrive software developed by Fira divided project tasks into sections and provided everyone working at the site with a personal schedule. The open database Open Data Platform (OPD) monitored the situation on site and distributed the information to everyone working at the site in real time. Information about the progress being made, including information such as the drying conditions for concrete, eliminated guessing, as real-time information was always available.
Fira aims to make the services and product thus developed available to other operators in the construction business, to benefit as many people as possible, both in Finland and abroad.
“Problems in the construction sector are global. Fira and Finland as a whole have a good chance of becoming a global reformer of the industry,” Pesonen says.
Takt time production, digital services and work management in key roles
The greatest benefits were gained from taking into use takt time production and digital services.
“They have sped up activities and improved quality. New tools and ways of operating also improved worksite logistics. There are fewer unfinished tasks at the worksite, which means fewer items lying around to be tripped over. There has also been less to-and-froing resulting from unfinished work than when a conventional method of working is applied. This has reduced the risk and number of accidents”, Fira’s Development Manager Otto Alhava explains.
In takt time production, construction is turned into factory-like production, where each work phase, such as the laying of laminate flooring, is scheduled for each apartment and not for each floor or building, which is the conventional way in the business. In practice, this enables more subcontractors to work in the building at the same time without the entire building having to be reserved for one work phase. As soon as a subcontractor completes its work in one apartment, the next subcontractor can step in to do their job. Takt time production has been used for decades, for example, in the automobile industry.
“At the worksite, a situation was achieved where a different subcontractor was working on each floor. The encounters between the subcontractors created a common working culture. Errors were identified together and corrected immediately, which meant they weren’t repeated throughout the building. No major repairs were needed, which was also reflected in the schedules”, Project Manager Jyri Kauppinen notes.
In addition to takt time and digital tools, Fira tested, among other things, worksite conditions monitoring in Capella. Capella also provided an experimentation platform for other operators. Tests have also been carried out by researchers and start-ups. Fira will use the information collected and lessons learnt to continue developing new solutions at new worksites and will finally apply the knowledge to all of its worksites.
Owner of the Successful Site programme
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Capella’s construction was ordered by Asumisoikeusyhdistys Suomen Omakoti and Fira is the project’s turnkey contractor. The contract consists of a three- and seven floor apartment building and a parking deck.
Fira became well known about two years ago from renovating the plumbing system in an apartment building in Roihuvuori, Helsinki, in a way that meant that the apartments were unusable by residents for only two weeks. Normally this non-use period for plumbing renovations is 12 weeks.
The construction of the Capella apartment building in Helsinki’s Kalasatama has been an exercise in addressing the sore points of the construction business – quality, speed, safety and cost management – with digital tools and by changing the sector’s conventional operating methods.
For us, Capella was a pilot project that allowed us to put various new technologies to use that not only resulted in the building being completed faster, but also the quality of its construction, cost management and safety were better.
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