Covid ‘aftershocks’ pave way for digitally enabled construction
The “aftershocks” of covid-19 will be with construction for years to come, making digitally enabled ways of working the norm.
That was the prediction from David Philp, impact director at the Construction Innovation Hub, who was speaking on the first day of the Digital Construction Summit.
Taking part in the opening webinar, sponsored by Buildots, discussing how to put digital at the heart of the built environment’s recovery, Philp stressed: “It is really important that we explore the opportunities that digital can afford us.”
He said: “We’ve seen a seismic shift towards digital, how we collaborate, share information and use this thing called the common data environment. If these were fully embraced, it is going to help us be more sustainable, more productive and more effective in terms of the offering right across the whole lifecycle.”
He added: “What we have witnessed is currently the majority of buildings are procured individually, designed conventionally and constructed onsite using traditional skills and materials which is a big issue in terms of covid recovery, however we are seeing examples of modern methods of construction increasingly being used that might be modular or volumetric. Despite this progress, these solutions are not yet deployed at scale. Clients may not be aware of them so we are trying to promote the world of MMC and how it can be deployed across multiple building types.”
Philp explained that the Construction Innovation Hub was working with industry to develop a digitally enabled platform construction system – one that can be designed, manufactured, installed on a structural carrier frame that can be used across multiple building types.
Fiona Moore, information management consultant at the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB), explained how important it was for construction to address the interoperability of BIM and building components to put together a platform capable of creating built assets.
Moore said: “It’s not always a problem but we need to address some of the real-world issues,” she said.
Defining interoperability, Moore said it was the ability of two or more systems to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged.
She said that increasingly, the value of information about a building that can be used beyond the capital stage for the whole asset lifecycle was being recognised.
“We’re looking at major procurers who have been in the BIM space for a long time and they understand the value and the use of this information,” she said. “Think of the number of times you have been on a refurbishment project and you can’t get to asset information and as-built information, so it is obvious this information is useful to clients and they need to procure and protect it.”
Describing the importance of having interoperability of information, she said: “There are lots of clever proprietary solutions out there that help supply chains to collaborate and exchange information and all of those are valid but quite often this falls over when information is passed across the contract line, is received by the procurer and they have no way of housing that information and making proper use of it.”
Moore said the BIM Interoperability Expert Group (BIEG) has identified a series of workstreams to enable BIM interoperability. The four primary workstreams are: Classification, COBie and Industry Foundation Class (IFC), education and skills, and standards.
Focus areas for the secondary workstreams include looking at how to establish a seamless information management platform for procurers, how to standardise information requirements under a standard information approach, and how to write into contracts the need to achieve technical interoperability.
The BIEG is now looking at increasing one-to-one consultations, round table discussions and workshops to address some of the barriers to interoperability that the industry faces.
Meanwhile, Mark Enzer, digital director at the CDBB provided an update on the National Digital Twin Programme and highlighted the important role that BIM has played in establishing it.
Enzer said: “The foundation that has been laid in the work that we have already done in BIM is an essential foundation for the National Digital Twin. We couldn’t even imagine it without that foundation being laid. It shows us just how important information is and how we need to manage that information through the asset lifecycle.”
Aviv Leibovici, co-founder of Buildots, which provides a data-driven process management service to construction firms by equipping construction workers with 360-degree hard-hat-mounted cameras that compare progress on site with the BIM model using artificial intelligence, added why he regarded BIM as so important to boosting productivity in construction.
He said: “When projects are designed in BIM, it is what we call ‘design for production’ – you expect to see a high correlation between what the design is and what will actually be built. This thing that enables co-ordination and consistency is critical. You can only track what you can predict, which is why we use BIM but also explains why BIM in my mind is critical.”
To watch a recording of the webinar in full, click here.