Construction Cameras At Work

By Vicki Robertson, Vice-President/General Manager, iBEAM Construction Cameras | September 28, 2010

Builders and developers throughout the United States are turning to specialized construction cameras to help them manage and market their projects. Two high-profile projects in Jackson, Miss., illustrate how easy it can be to get started and how cameras can directly benefit contractors.

In June 2007 construction began on the nine-story high-rise office building, The Pinnacle at Jackson Place in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. This 194,000-square-foot building is part of a planned urban center known as Jackson Place bordered by Lamar, Capitol, Farish, and Amite Streets in downtown Jackson.

The project has a number of characteristics that led the owner, Parkway Properties of Jackson, Miss., to request a construction camera to monitor and document construction.

Parkway Properties owns or has an interest in 67 office properties located in 11 states, but The Pinnacle is the first building that they have constructed from the ground up. So the company wanted a way to keep its employees current on the progress of the building.

Furthermore, the building is located in the Katrina GO Zone, with significant tax incentives for completion and occupancy by December 31, 2008. With leases signed for 73 percent of the space in the new building, Parkway also needed to keep tenants informed on the building's progress.

Parkway Properties gave the task of finding a camera to its builder, Harrell Contracting Group (HCG). Based in Jackson, Miss., HCG is a multifaceted contracting firm offering general construction, construction management, design-build, consulting, and development services to a broad base of clients throughout the southeastern United States. The company is experienced in building office, worship, retail, hospitality, and institutional facilities.

A few blocks away from The Pinnacle, ground was also being broken for the Jackson Convention Complex. Uniting the Mississippi Arts District with the Farish Street Entertainment District, the $65-million convention center is an essential component of the revitalization of downtown Jackson.

Dale and Associates Architects, who are involved with both projects, encouraged the Convention Center Commission to also include a camera at the Jackson Convention Complex to keep the commissioners and the public updated on the progress of the project.

"This is a forward-thinking project, and the camera is visible evidence of that forward thinking," notes Mike McBride, AIA.

HCG and Dale & Associates Architects both enlisted the help of iBEAM Systems, Inc. and selected the iBEAM OnSite live construction camera for their projects.

The iBEAM OnSite camera system lets viewers watch live activity at the job site around the clock. The camera is fully remote-controllable, allowing viewers to pan and zoom into areas of interest or concern. Automatic day/night mode and an all-weather enclosure mean that the camera can be utilized 24 hours a day, even in the worst weather conditions.

A provider of cameras for construction projects throughout the United States, iBEAM Systems designs all their cameras to withstand the harsh conditions of active construction sites. HCG selected a camera configured with a wireless high speed Internet connection to allow the camera to be placed on a building adjacent to the site.

The camera has enabled Parkway Properties and its clients to watch The Pinnacle grow from bare ground to near completion. Dale and Associates Architects use the camera to stay up to date on activity at the convention center site and to illustrate site conditions during meetings. Citizens of Jackson can log on to the convention center's web page to view live progress.

Although the camera at The Pinnacle was initially intended for use by the owner, HCG has realized multiple benefits from having the camera active on their project.

In addition to allowing viewers to watch construction activity live, the iBEAM OnSite camera takes high-quality photographs of construction every 15 minutes and automatically uploads them to iBEAM's Image Archive, building a start-to-finish record of the project. Included in iBEAM OnSite Hosting services are monthly and end-of-project time-lapse movies.

These monthly movies have proven to be incredibly valuable to HCG. During the initial phases of drilling the auger-cast pilings for the foundation, unknown underground obstacles from old building foundations were found, causing a number of delays. With the GO Zone occupancy deadline looming, HCG was determined to stick to their schedule, which required them to drill and place hundreds of these pilings.

The time-lapse movie of this phase clearly shows the movement of the drill rig and excavation of the old building foundations. As a result of having this detailed record of activity, HCG was compensated for the additional work required to maintain the schedule and suffered no economic penalties because of these delays.

Because the time-lapse movies show a month's worth of work in an easy-to-view format, the company can keep their employees informed of project milestones. In less than three minutes HCG's project team can review recent progress and discuss the various phases of work that have been completed, spotting opportunities to improve project delivery.

Like other contractors, HCG also uses the camera as a marketing tool.

HCG self-performs the majority of the concrete work on its projects. To ensure that the concrete at The Pinnacle would cure at a rate that met project specifications, the work had to be performed at night to avoid high daytime temperatures. During this part of the project, the iBEAM OnSite camera captured images 24 hours a day.

"These time-lapse movies have shown potential clients specific examples of our approach to fast track construction and the steps we take to ensure project schedule compliance, a critical element for financial success of a project for building owners," notes Don Roberts, vice-president of HCG.

"The timestamps on the photos helped show that our company does whatever it takes to get the job done," adds Coleman Green, HCG's marketing director.

HCG was recently selected by Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing of North America, Inc. as the general contractor for the construction of the Press and Paint facilities at their new Highlander SUV production facility in Blue Springs, Mississippi. Based on their experiences with the camera at The Pinnacle, the company plans to use cameras on this project as well.