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Costain/Laing O'Rourke discover cunning use for QR codes in construction

The Costain/Laing O’Rourke joint venture upgrading London’s Bond Street station is pioneering a clever use for QR codes - the square digital pattern of black and white blocks that act as modern form of barcode and can be ‘read’ by BlackBerrys and iPhones.

The codes are being used to solve the age-old construction industry problem of working off old versions of plans. Failure to communicate new versions of drawings to front-line staff can result in work being done according to an outdated construction drawing, resulting in site personnel having to re-do the work, increasing costs and delays to the programme.

Attempts to solve this problem in the past have usually involved cumbersome manual systems involving signing individual documents in and out.

But graduate engineer Tom Jamieson, working as a site engineer at Bond Street, has masterminded a new system to eliminate this problem using Quick Response (QR) codes to control the issuing of drawings.


When each drawing is printed, a unique QR code is generated.  When scanned, the QR code directs the user to an external website.  This website is connected to the document management system.  When each drawing is scanned, a clear statement is sent back to the phone in either green or red. Green text confirms that it is the most up-to-date version of a drawing, while one with red print carries a statement warning that it has been superseded by a more recent version.

Results of a trial carried out last November were sufficiently promising that three sections of the Bond Street contract are due to start using the new plans from next month. From April, piling subcontractor Bachy Soletanche will have all its drawings issued with QR codes. Costain also plans to introduce QR coding on drawings for the £400M remodelling of London Bridge Station.

The potential of the new system is so great that software developers are now considering introducing it to new versions of their products. “It definitely has potential,” said Jamieson, “There seems to be a lot of talk about it in the industry, about getting it in as a standard tool.”

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