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Centre for Digital Built Britain

 

As further easing of the COVID-19 lockdown measures are implemented across the UK, our sector continues to focus on building back better. In a time like this it’s easy to become distracted by the here and now and focus solely on what needs repair today instead of looking to the future. However, we must connect the dots and continue to embrace innovation to ensure a stronger, more resilient industry capable of standing up to global pandemics, climate change, political uncertainty, or whatever else may come to pass. 

Connecting the dots

As our industry becomes increasingly digitised, the information we collect and manage digitally proportionately increases in value. Companies are continuing to wake up to the value of the data they own as a result of smart asset management and digital construction practices. This data economy is highly beneficial when it comes to growing a particular sector or area of research, but the optimum benefits of data exchange/sharing will only be realised when we consider what could be achieved by connecting the dots between data sets. When we envision a common approach to information management built on the foundations of the UK BIM Framework, that allows data to be appropriately and securely shared across organisational boundaries, then we can start to understand the potential benefits for the economy, society and the environment.

Using the recent COVID-19 response as an example, we know there is data being amassed from various sources such as testing for the virus, tracing its path, progress against our net zero targets, skills and training development, how people are adapting to working from home and the mental health of the population etc. All this data is extremely valuable in providing insight into the impact the virus has had on society, the economy and the environment, yet presently the data sits within siloes meaning it’s a lot like individual jigsaw pieces scattered across a table top. By joining the jigsaw pieces together, we will see the bigger picture – but in order to do that we need to ensure the pieces have been designed in such a way that they can connect together. For built environment data this would be through the development of a common approach, building on the EN ISO 19650 series of standards and insights from data science and information management as we have proposed in our Pathway Towards an Information Management Framework paper and are exploring in our BIM Interoperability Programme with the Construction Innovation Hub. There is clear evidence to support this proposed approach, one such source coming from the McKinsey Global Institute in which they estimate productivity gains of 50-60% within the construction industry, through the adoption of digital and manufacturing technologies designed on the basis of collaboration.

Spreading the word

As a Government partner, focused on working towards a digital built Britain that delivers genuine public good, our role through collaborating with leaders of industry, academia and Government is to inform, support and empower the industry in making progress with its digital transformation. Our goal is to support the digitisation of the entire life-cycle of our built assets, finding innovative ways of delivering more value from our existing infrastructure and dramatically improving the impact these assets have. 

We’re doing our bit by spreading the word about the benefits of better information and data management and how the UK BIM Framework and the emerging Information Management Framework would enable us to really unlock the value potential of all this data we’re amassing.

Last month I spoke about how we can best support the recovery and resilience building of the construction industry at the Cambridge Forum for the Construction Industry (CFCI), and at a UK BIM Framework webinar to launch ISO 19650 Part 5. I was also part of a panel at the Digital Construction Conference. For us it is imperative to bring the industry along on this journey towards digitisation, with everyone understanding and appreciating the benefits potential for them, and the greater good.

Support network

The response from industry in light of COVID-19 has been very encouraging. Not only is there a real sense of collaboration and cooperation but also an eagerness to explore innovative ways in which we can move forward in an effort to ward off catastrophic impacts in future. The Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) Roadmap to Recovery plan, supported by the Construction Innovation Hub, has set out their approach for guiding the industry out of the crisis with their three phased plan set out for delivery over the next two years.

  • Phase 1: Restart (first 3 months)
  • Phase 2: Reset (3-12months)
  • Phase 3: Reinvent (12 months +)

We’re well underway with the Restart and Reset phases, and the CLC has introduced a range of industry expert bodies to assist with the Reinvent phase – aware that it will require extensive consultation and research to deliver a plan that helps to build resilience across all sectors of the built environment, whilst simultaneously creating as many opportunities for growth as possible. One such expert body is the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) who have recently published their own open consultation report on the future of the ‘new normal for infrastructure systems’.

We are committed to working with the Construction Leadership Council and its partners to help align and coordinate the digital aspects of the roadmap to ensure that we create an interoperable, secure, and resilient set of solutions.

Looking ahead

We’ve a long road ahead of us. If COVID-19 has taught our industry anything, it’s that being prepared, informed and agile is imperative to our survival in a crisis.

Better information management and secure, trusted data sharing can, and will, build greater resilience, ensuring we’re able to thrive in the face of potential setbacks. If we know more about how our infrastructure and the services they support are performing, we can make better decisions. This information combined with advances in digital twins and modelling will allow leaders and organisations to model changes digitally before acting physically - supporting scenario planning, investment decisions and ensuring our cities and infrastructure best serve the needs of the people. By working together and collaborating on our approach, we can achieve better outcomes and ensure that no one is left behind.

To find out ways in which you can get involved and collaborate with either our working groups or engagement programmes please visit our website for more details.

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