Excerpted from the keynote address, “Strategic Business Transformation for the Building & Construction Industry,” delivered to the BIM-MEP AUS Construction Innovation 2016 Forum on August 4, 2016 in Sydney, Australia.
The fourth industrial revolution – the Digital Age – is creating the drivers to transform the Construction Industry as it seeks to exploit the significant advantages to be derived from the effective and efficient use and management of data.
Industry-leading technology, developed for other sectors, is exponentially improving value and efficiency, and can be employed to propel Construction into the digital age.
This impacts not only the Construction Industry but also the logistic supply chains which support it, improving capability and skills, and contributing to the economies and construction potential of the countries involved.
The considerable amount of data which is created during the design, development, construction and utilization of the built asset, if properly configured and integrated, can be harnessed to drive value, cut costs and waste, and used to create a digital asset. This data-driven digital equivalent, when used by the end customer, can provide a dynamic platform on which to manage legacy, sustain the present and plan the future.
Effective configuration management will drive operations and ongoing maintenance, leading to an increase in the return on equity.
With Singapore as a reference, cities across the globe are getting smarter with data sources and multiple sensors connecting people, services and things, so they can engage with each other.
Bringing together infrastructure, social capital and technology fuels sustainable economic and social development, with the aim of providing better lives and urban environments for all. Cities are not just trying to be smarter, but are using technology to engineer their futures.
Cities are on an upward technology path. The construction industry, however, is not taking the same dynamic trajectory.
Construction itself is often an outdated, dangerous, and low-productivity industry. The Industry must start driving value and keeping pace with the development of future cities.
But steering the Construction Industry in the right direction has challenged planners for decades. This is especially true in the UK, which lags behind many countries and much of Asia for modern building practice.
Process models for construction have remained largely the same for hundreds of years.
As a stark example, though materials were very different, the construction techniques employed to build the 72-story Shard tower in London were not that different from those employed to construct St Paul’s Cathedral nearly 400 years ago. (However, St Paul’s took 35 years to build, the Shard three, so some things have improved!)
Essential transformation is emerging.
- Automated manufacture of building components is leading to lower construction costs, improved quality, and significantly reduced waste.
- On-site work consists of assembly of quality-assured parts, each guaranteed to be fit for purpose.
- 3D technology has made significant inroads into architectural design and fabrication to excellent effect.
But process modeling at the construction phase is virtually non-existent. When we get it right, we will see Building Information Modeling literally take on new dimensions, at the design stage, during construction, and ultimately in building management, enabling built assets to be managed economically and effectively using real-time sensor data fed onto the platform; this breathes life into the digital equivalent.
Using shared 3D experiences to simulate cities and developments reveals potential problems that may not be seen by any other means. Overlaying data reveals new views. And it is possible, with this technology, to predict events in transport systems and hubs, in public services, in utility provisioning, and in security.
Seamlessly linking the system to financial software allows cost planning and budgetary predictability. By this means, potential problems and their outcomes can be observed, costed and fixed before they occur.
A significant business opportunity appears as this scientific approach is extended into the supply chain.
When collaborative practices, which have powered other industries into innovation, are applied to building, they produce stunning results.
A construction supply chain, sharing closed data, can have a major positive impact on the time and cost to deliver a project, adding value to the overall process.
Many building projects overrun and outspend their budgets by more than 20% and end in expensive and wasteful litigation.
Between concept and delivery of a finished building lie the stages of design and engineering, contracts, bids and awards, fabrication and construction.
Each stage is fraught with risk, and stakeholders’ risk in a building project of any kind can be more than financial. Buildings define their locations and neighborhoods; people have emotional attachments to them.
Much of this risk can be reduced when clients, architects, contractors, communities and stakeholders work on the same current unified knowledge platform, where guesswork and misinterpretation are removed, and open yet secure collaborative integration is a given.
Litigation at, during, or after a construction project is commonly the result of poor communication between systems and people.
Errors with building components and services are expected, and usually occur, but are absolutely avoidable.
Simply unifying the change order system on a building project allows people to work collaboratively. They have access to the current status of the building and its information. This enables better informed strategic and tactical decision making at all stages and virtually eliminates errors caused by wrong or superseded instructions being acted upon.
In summary, technology can forever change the popular perception of the Construction Industry as one which is labor-intensive, wasteful, costly, and financially and physically risky.
A dynamic, effective, high-value Construction Industry will attract investment and become an economic driver.
Effective configuration management will drive operations and ongoing services and maintenance, leading to an increase in return on equity, and the ability to compete more effectively in a demanding industrial and economic climate, leading in turn to national economic growth able to withstand global economic shocks, as well as expanding job opportunity and stimulating economic activity and increased GDP growth.
Integrated and configured data on a dynamic business experience platform gives the politician, the business leader, the developer, and the people who are forging global and national economies, a window into their world – a window into what might be as they shoulder the legacy of the past, manage the reality of the present, and shape the vision of the future.
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