Striking early with SmartForm

by Andrew Johnson | December 18, 2020 |  3 min read

Striking early with SmartForm
Home / Insights / Digital Technologies / Striking early with SmartForm

Formwork moulds account for 40% of building costs for reinforced concrete structures, rising to as much as 60% for civil engineering structures. Conventional (traditional) timber and plywood formwork systems are one of the most used systems in concrete construction. Plywood is low cost but only lasts for 12 to14 uses before the form must be broken up and recycled. This is a very labour-intensive process on large structures, consuming large quantities of materials, including plywood. It is considered as the least observed activities in terms of sustainability performance as formwork costs as much as £58 per m². For these reasons there is a huge amount of waste materials and time, so not that great for the environment or the clients.

In October 2020, BIM Academy, in collaboration with Yeltech and Brunel University, conducted a feasibility study focussed on helping businesses and/or the public sector in the UK recover from the coronavirus pandemic in a sustainable manner, demonstrating the impact and potential of a clean growth led recovery and transition to net zero.

The research focussed on developing a digital technique to optimise formwork efficiency, reducing cost, and increasing productivity on site to reduce waste and carbon emissions. The concept “SmartForm” was created.

SmartForm is being developed with sustainability in mind. We are applying an Internet of Things (IoT) approach to introduce bidirectional data flow, combining pre-existing BIM data with on-going sensor inputs and site progression mapping to provide a dynamic formwork management system to reduce time and labour requirements as well as optimise material use.

Not only will it be intelligent, but it will also be reactive to site conditions, monitor project progression and evolve the project plan. Our concept will improve the efficiency of conventional formwork management by enabling projects to visualise live site operations and track the performance and health of concrete structures.

We aim to optimise both conventional formwork placement and the maturity of concrete during curing. This alone will offer a 25% overall reduction in combined labour and material costs, but also savings of up to £15 for every m² of concrete poured.

Significant progress has been made in the three months, allowing the team to collaborate and understand the measurable impact conventional formwork and concrete curing maturity has on projects such as waste, productivity, and efficiency. Formwork costs are high because a formwork section requires up to 12-steps: moving, stockpiling/preparing materials; assembling/erecting formwork panels; concrete pouring; stripping; visual inspection; cleaning; dismantling and reusing.

Not solely concentrating on only monitoring formwork, we are researching and developing embedded sensors for monitoring temperature and hydration during curing and staying with the whole structure for its entire life passively monitoring its health, creating a digital twin.

The project has already gained a large amount of support from contractors and organisations within the construction industry. Skanska in particular has supported us from conception through the feasibility study. Together we can already see the potential this will bring by planning pilot projects for Skanska in the summer of 2021.

For more details on this work, contact Andrew Johnson at [email protected].