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Centre for Digital Built Britain

Blog: Digitalisation of Construction for a Young Audience - come to Cambridge Science Festival!

Ahead of CDBB’s inaugural event at the Cambridge Science Festival, and an appearance on BBC Click, Thayla Zomer, a researcher at CDBB, explains the digitalisation of construction to a young audience.

Robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and new technologies are transforming the way we will build the schools, homes and hospitals of the future. It is, without doubt, an exciting time to work in the design, construction and operation of our built environment as we embark on the journey to digitalise construction.

CDBB’s Science Festival event, on Saturday 23 March, is designed to encourage young people towards a career in construction by highlighting the skills and knowledge that might be needed in the future. CDBB has also been asked to appear on BBC News Click – the news channel that highlights the latest technology news, gadgets and apps – to talk about the benefits of using digital technologies to transform the construction industry.

Digitalisation has been underway in many sectors for decades, yet construction lags behind – despite being one of the most significant contributors to global GDP. Digitalisation enables construction to compress processes leading to significantly reduced costs, delays and risks. Innovation in construction helps the industry to increase safety and work more efficiently making better use of resource to lower carbon impact while creating new businesses opportunities.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) brings construction into the digital age. BIM is a process for combining information and technology to create a digital representation of a project that integrates data from many sources and evolves in parallel with the real project across its entire timeline, including design, construction and in-use operational information.

It enables the idea of creating a building initially in a virtual model, and only then in reality. With BIM, a digital model is created, comprising all information relevant for the construction and the building itself. This digital information is then available for the entire lifecycle of a building – from planning, construction and facility management to deconstruction.

The digital model represents the building in a holistic way; it is not just the 3D representation of the building. The 3D object on its own is not enough to represent a building. Simply put, if you imagine an object, like a banana, it is possible to develop a perfect 3D replica of the banana in a digital modelling programme or even using 3D-printing. But this is only one kind of representation of the fruit. It does not include any of the fruit’s data, for example, its sugar content, calories, country of origin, and all the other factors that identify the object. BIM is more than a 3D representation – it is a virtual and complete representation of the building.

Having a virtual representation really helps in reducing operational costs when a building is up and running because the model forms an as-built record of all systems constructed. If the model is kept up to date, then BIM becomes an ongoing process to track maintenance, issues, and changes through the entire life of an asset.

The benefits for the economy that accrue from better buildings and infrastructure delivered by the construction industry are of even greater importance. BIM is enabling intelligent decisions about construction methods and design, leading to more sustainable buildings and infrastructure, safer working arrangements, and a critical focus on the whole-life performance of assets.

My research is about implementing BIM as business-as-usual and as a common practice across the construction industry. It aims to develop detailed guidelines on how to produce and manage information across the asset lifecycle supporting construction firms in achieving consistency in their practices. When BIM becomes business-as-usual, and all construction firms adopt the same practices, productivity in the sector will increase considerably. 

Join us at our Science Festival drop-in event in the Maxwell Centre on Saturday 23 March from 1.30-4.30pm, where we are demonstrating how BIM has been used across the University’s projects and the benefits it is bringing. The University of Cambridge is building on the transformation to digital to support the delivery of exceptional educational facilities and enable more informed asset management decision-making. Come and introduce yourself and I would be delighted to talk about digitalisation with you.

About the Cambridge Science Festival 

The Cambridge Science Festival provides the public with opportunities to explore and discuss issues of scientific interest and concern and to raise aspirations by encouraging young people to consider a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Each year, the Festival welcomes visitors to hundreds of events and receives extensive national and local media coverage. Over 170 event coordinators organise talks, interactive demonstrations, hands-on activities, film showings and debates with the assistance of around 1,000 staff and students from departments and organisations across the University and research institutions, charities and industry in the eastern region. In addition, over 150 people volunteer their time to act as stewards to ensure visitors have a safe and enjoyable Festival experience. 

Centre for Digital Built Britain – Event: The Future of Construction  

The Centre for Digital Built Britain will host a session aimed at highlighting to young people the construction jobs of the future and the skills they will need. As part of the government’s industrial strategy, digital is being championed as a way of improving efficiency in the construction industry. CDBB will demonstrate how many of the toys, tools and technologies they use for entertainment and learning can to eventually lead to dynamic and fulfilling employment in digital construction.  

CDBB Lego City 

There will be a Lego-based activity which will demonstrate how a platform approach to design for manufacture and assembly achieves a much more efficient and scalable approach to construction.  The drop-in drop-out activity will be run by a facilitator who will guide children through the construction of various components for buildings that will comprise a growing CDBB Lego City. 

Building Information Modelling and Digital Technology Demonstrations 

CDBB is partnering with Bouygues to a host of digital activities to demonstrate how virtual reality and gaming pursuits can be adapted and utilised in the construction industry. Children and adult participants will engage with virtual reality headsets, 3D scanners and time-lapse film while learning how these technologies are being used to construct and manage built assets that have better outcomes for citizens and society.  

The digital activities will also demonstrate how Building Information Modelling (BIM) is implemented to better design, build, operate and integrate various buildings that better serve the people who use them. 

Other CSF activities going on at the Maxwell Centre from the EPSRC CDT in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NanoDTC)

Mind the Gap 

In healthcare it is critical to be able to measure traces of molecules with great accuracy - to diagnose or monitor the progression of diseases, check for allergens in food, or for drug testing. At this exhibit you will find out about the biosensors of the future that use nanoscale techniques to detect molecules in extremely small quantities. Many interesting and important biological molecules like DNA and proteins are very small, and scientists are constantly improving our ability to see and measure them. But to really progress, we need vastly improved, affordable detection technologies to measure the millions of times rarer signaling molecules that indicate our health. By pulling molecules of interest into the small space or nanogap between our tiny sensor components, they now become visible to our instruments. New techniques are emerging to do this using nanopores, atomically thin membranes, and tiny gaps between gold nanostructures that are just billionths of a metre across. 

Nanovignettes – nanoscience through the eyes of artists 

NanoVignettes is a series of micro-films presenting latest research from the EPSRC CDT in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NanoDTC), in an inventive and accessible visual format. NanoDTC students and associates were paired with MA-level artists, and together these teams explored crossovers between their disciplines. Scientists introduced the artists to their labs and research, and the artists then created dialogues and imagery to explain their understanding of the scientists’ work. The micro-films communicate their shared understandings, across unusual divergences in ideas, language, and idiom. By harnessing the creativity of scientists and artists working together, the videos speak to wide audiences on many levels. 

Perskovite solar cells and lighting for a fully sustainable energy future 

See state-of-the-art approaches to low-cost solar energy and high-efficiency lighting solutions using metal-halide perovskite semiconductors. Join the Optoelectronics Group for live demonstrations and hands-on experiments that bring scientific concepts and challenges to life.