Seven things we learned from the Digital Construction Summit

19 May 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

The Digital Construction Summit, a high-profile event organised by Construction Manager and BIM+ held in London on 15 May, brought together clients, contractors, architects, consultants and suppliers to assess construction’s digital progress to date – and identify the next steps the industry needs to take.

Here are seven things we learned:

1. Information management is now a “central plank” of the built environment

David Philp, global BIM/IM consultancy director at Aecom and chair of the CIOB’s digital technologies and asset management special interest group, explained how BIM and information management have become key to how buildings are designed, constructed and operated, as clients and contractors agreed that the technology was becoming indispensable.

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2. There are major benefits to BIM - but they need to be made public

Garry Fannon, head of BIM at Willmott Dixon, revealed how the contractor's BIM projects took less time, retained more profit and generated higher quality outcomes than its non-BIM projects but urged his counterparts to do more to shout about the benefits to persuade clients to use BIM.

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3. There’s a £160bn pipeline of public-sector BIM projects on the way

Encouraging clients and contractors to continue on the BIM journey, Alex Lubbock, head of digital construction at the Infrastructure & Projects Authority, revealed that there is a pipeline of £160bn worth of BIM projects in the public sector.

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4. Disruptors are watching construction with interest

Bryden Wood’s director and global head of systems Jaimie Johnston warned contractors they need to become more like Amazon or face disruptors, who are watching the construction sector with interest, muscling in on the action.

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5. Contractors need to get better at record keeping or face trouble

The head of design at a major housing association has blasted contractors for their inability to provide information about the buildings they have constructed and claimed that in many cases main contractors have no idea what their subcontractors are putting on buildings.

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6. The robots are coming - but they might not replace you after all

Neil Thompson, SNC Lavalin Atkins' expert on robotics, and the consultant’s digital construction director, explained that falling prices in robotics meant that the technology would soon play a more important role in construction. But robots may augment skilled workers rather than displacing them.

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7. BIM has a language problem

The terms used in the world of BIM are often nearly impenetrable for those outside it and need to change, several panellists argued.

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With the advancement of building technologies, records of how buildings are being constructed are more important than ever.

The ability to capture building data digitally, enables constructors and end users to be able to quickly and efficiently retrospectively look back at how parts of the works were constructed.

Edward Carolan, 21 May 2019

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