Working remotely is great for those who are pushing pixels, drafting documents and reviewing plans. But how can it work on tasks that seem to require a hands-on, eyes-on, boots on the ground presence that just seems to scream for a site visit?
Just because we’re all staying closer to home doesn’t mean airport projects need to slow down. In fact, proceeding with construction is ideal when airport operations are down. Impacts to the traveling public are limited and workers can make faster progress with fewer starts and stops.
Virtual inspections are one way to keep up the progress without increasing the risk from infectious disease. With the help of onsite construction inspectors and contractors utilizing video technology, activities that historically have required a physical presence can still occur – allowing projects to remain on schedule.
We developed guidelines for remote activities on active project sites and tested the technology to confirm its effectiveness.
Here are some of the best practices we’ve learned that can help guide airports through implementation of these remote measures.
1. Take note of benefits and risks.
We’ve all become used to video meetings. They can be used for numerous construction needs, including general site visits, testing observation, project issue resolution, and punchlist, final and warranty inspections.
Video meetings use equipment already on-site and common software, limiting impact to project budgets and resources. In fact, by reducing travel costs, the project can actually come out ahead.
Harnessing video technology can also help keep projects on schedule and, as a result, prevent additional costs related to project delays and increased airfield closures.
Information security must remain a high priority. At RS&H, our project teams and information technology and security groups work hand-in-hand with clients to ensure private information from video walkthroughs stays private.
2. Maximize hardware and software performance.
You don’t have to be a video expert, but you should keep in mind a few tips to ensure your virtual airport inspection or walkthrough is successful.
Video medium - Either a tablet or a smartphone can work. The purpose of the remote activity should dictate the hardware chosen.
Video quality – Make sure the hardware is set to record the highest quality possible. In addition, all remote participants should turn off their videos during the inspection, testing or site visit. This not only preserves bandwidth, but it also makes the video display of the project image large and clear, and the focus remains on the task at hand.
Documentation – With video conferencing apps, you’ll be able to record inspections and walkthroughs, which is great for formally documenting the remote session. This is a benefit of the remote video option when traditional on-site methods aren’t possible.
3. Understand the limitations of not being on-site.
As helpful as video can be, it can’t replicate the tactile abilities people have in traditional, in-person situations. That makes the person chosen to be on-site incredibly important.
Under normal circumstances, for example, project team members might run their hands over a pavement joint to see if it’s smooth. The tactile responsibility, however, now falls on the person on-site, meaning he or she needs to be knowledgeable about the subject matter, including the project or material requirements. That way, if those calling in want to know whether that pavement joint is smooth, the on-site team member can be the hands for the team and offer an informed judgement.
The person in control of the video could be an airport representative, an RS&H associate or a subcontractor who is available to help.
Those on the call can ensure inspection quality from their end by asking the on-site representative to focus on a specific item for further study or to provide localized photos for review.
4. Prepare all parties ahead of meeting.
For these virtual activities, planning and preparation in advance are key to maintaining quality.
We’ve developed three main tips for planning ahead.
Tip #1: Provide a proposed schedule in advance of the video session. The schedule should include the following:
- Purpose of the call. It’s important for all to understand the intent of the session.
- On-site preparation that is occurring in advance of the call. If the call is for a specific inspection, it is helpful for the participants to understand the steps taken in advance.
- Projected length of the call. The length of a video session will widely vary, depending on the purpose of the remote session. The proposed time commitment from the participants should be understood in advance.
- Written correspondence indicating items to be inspected and requirements being satisfied. (Note: Construction issues should be ready for inspection in advance of live video.)
Tip #2: For inspections that involve multiple disciplines, consider holding different inspections based on discipline.
This would be a slightly atypical process, since multiple disciplines are often on-site at the same time. But it would allow each discipline team to focus solely on their specific part of the project.
Tip #3: Participants should focus on reviewing project site information and specific data ahead of time to help identify potential areas of concern and focus during the remote inspection.
One tip for after the virtual activity: There should be formal correspondence in writing within 24 hours of the video to verify acceptance test.
As we work to respond to today’s challenging circumstances, we should be evaluating opportunities for innovation and alternative methods of delivery.
Use of video technology is one such way we can overcome the constraints of this time. Although nothing beats being on-site and witnessing construction firsthand, this new application of existing equipment and platforms allows all of us to stay safe and adhere to governmental guidelines.
Whether we are working through these current conditions or taking on future challenges, remote video procedures can help projects move forward – without sacrificing schedules, budget or quality.