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Centre for Digital Built Britain completed its five-year mission and closed its doors at the end of September 2022

This website remains as a legacy of the achievements of our five-year foundational journey towards a digital built Britain

The UK construction and housing industries lag behind most other fields in taking advantage of new technologies. Government has repeatedly expressed its commitment to digital transformation in the construction sector. This is a social, cultural, economic and political challenge and not just a technical problem. It requires analysis of the non-technological factors inhibiting digital uptake in the construction sector. 

Working in collaboration with two other CDBB projects ("Facilitating the digitisation of off-site manufacturing" and “Digital Twins: driving business model innovation”) and based in the Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning Research (CCHPR), researchers used theories and methods from the social sciences to identify factors holding back digital transformation and propose strategies to address these inhibitors. 

The process

A first phase of work surveyed the status quo with respect to industry maturity and uptake of digital solutions in the UK construction sector. Findings from this phase guided subsequent qualitative work. 

The researchers compiled organisation-level and project-level case studies to identify factors influencing early adopters, and undertook a comparative international study to understand why other countries are leading the way in off-site manufacturing (OSM) and modern methods of construction (MMC). 

The core research followed a qualitative approach using exploratory interviews and case study designs. This allowed for a deep exploration into non-technical inhibitors to the adoption and use of Building Information Models (BIM) and OSM in firms and across supplier networks on projects. In total, 72 interviews were conducted (circa 104 hours).

The study benefitted from the participation of industry practitioners working for client, contractor, consultant, manufacturer and sub-contractor firms in the UK and engaged in the delivery of a mix of social and economic infrastructure, including housing. Interviewees represented 20 different firms in the construction supply chain, engaged as research partners for the project.

Researchers also investigated premanufactured value (PMV), a metric endorsed by UK government to evaluate building projects. Could PMV act as a driver to increase MMC? Does high PMV translate to better projects? What other metrics are necessary to realise the desired shift in favour of BIM and OSM? 

Additional strands of research examined the experience of those residing in housing built through modern methods of construction (aka post-occupancy experiences), the geographies of off-site manufacturing, and the academic methods used to assess OSM (Ehwi et al 2021).

Outcomes and outputs

Applying a sociotechnical lens, researchers were able to identify six categories of inhibitor to greater BIM and OSM uptake: technology (e.g., digital literacy gaps), people (e.g., attitude, skills), culture (e.g., risk aversion), process (e.g., coordination issues), goals (e.g., profit), and infrastructure (e.g., work occurring on site).

In the case studies of early adopters, researchers found six common factors that assist them in overcoming inhibitors: leadership commitment to driving change, a strategy with realistic objectives, a ‘growing together’ capacity-building approach, trust-based client relationships, employee skills and training, and robust collaboration and communication structures (Shojaei et al, 2022). The researchers have published additional guidance on how to support the necessary skills and training.

The international comparative study (with reference to Japan, Sweden, Singapore, Germany, USA, Canada and China) indicated that strategies for change need to be attentive to the existing industry structure, and capitalise on existing sources of institutional pressure (e.g., government demand, mandates) and the available resources (e.g., skilled labour, finance). The researchers also identified ways in which targeted funding could assist OSM adoption.

The researchers have published findings iteratively to share this understanding with a wide range of audiences, in accessible formats. In addition to reports, working papers, and research articles, researchers shared findings directly with the Construction Leadership Council, BIM4Housing Group, UK Institution of Structural Engineers, and their sub (working) groups. 

Summary reports include: 

A full set of outputs can be found on the CCHPR website. For assistance finding outputs relevant to your interests, use CDBB's Knowledge Base Navigator.

So what?

A programme of organisational change across an entire sector requires better understanding of people and processes as well as technology to succeed. Researchers have documented inhibitors in detail, from how prevailing norms support adversarial and labour-intensive approaches, to how lending practices support conventional methods at the expense of innovation. Addressing such systemic factors is essential to enabling the necessary step change in favour of digitalisation.  

Drawing on the full body of research, researchers formulated evidence-based recommendations for industry and for policymakers.

Recommendations for construction industry firms and their executives: 

  1. Develop a digital and manufacturing technology transformation strategy that sets out realistic objectives in plain language and with clear and achievable targets; 
  2. Prioritise employee skills training and competency development, offering in-house or externally sourced training as appropriate; 
  3. Work with supplier networks to improve or build capabilities in using BIM and OSM for projects through a ‘growing together’ approach. 

Recommendations for policymakers: 

  1. Align procurement policy with innovation drive for greater BIM and OSM use; 
  2. Coordinate multi-faceted initiatives to sustain the momentum for industry transformation; 
  3. Support training and upskilling initiatives through subsidies or grant funding with a focus on SMEs; 
  4. Establish a central digital knowledge-sharing platform that is accessible to firms operating in the construction industry to facilitate cross-industry learning. 

Assisted by the research findings, stakeholders can now act to address what is in their power and push others to act to create the context for a paradigm shift. 

CDBB researchers and discussants at an April 2022 roundtable on PMV.

Industry impact of research

The researchers generated an evidence-based understanding of factors affecting the construction industry. The results call for continued collaboration between the government and industry stakeholders in the areas of leadership for transformation; education, training and upskilling; aligning policy, project pipelines and procurement and mutually beneficial knowledge sharing. 

Based on the robust nature of the insights gained from this research, an informed implementation of the proposed recommendations by industry stakeholders will lead to significant improvements in terms of how construction firms adopt and use BIM and OSM for project delivery. This should contribute to the realisation of the step-changes already envisaged in policy documents. 

Achieving a transformed construction sector is a grand challenge that will benefit from investment into sustained research programmes. The findings from the research serve as the basis for future studies, generating knowledge to further support government and industry efforts to adopt innovations and improve the way construction works.  

The researchers continue to build upon this work, including via ESRC-funded partnerships with BIM4Housing and the National Housing Federation’s Building Better initiative, through sector-funded investment including by the Places for People Group, and through direct discussion with relevant government bodies. 

BIM4Housing has created a Collaboration and Communication working group, informed by the research findings, and is now partnering with CCPHR researchers to disseminate the new industry guidance.

“I believe this work, as well as being informative, has significant strategic value; it moves the narrative within the construction industry forward.  … providing a series of steps that are essential requirements to successful BIM and OSC adoption and implementation.”
George Stevenson, Chairman, BIM4Housing

Building Better is a strategic alliance of housing associations who aim to adopt advanced manufacturing systems, supported by the National Housing Federation. CCHPR researchers are now collaborating with Building Better to apply learning from the post-occupancy evaluation research, with the aim of increasing sector productivity and improving standards of quality and building performance.

“[CCPHR] calls for cross-functional teams to drive the transition to effective post-occupancy evaluation and for greater collaboration across the industry, which we strongly support. Now, Building Better seeks to lever our strong network . . . to develop further a roadmap of what can be implemented in customer research to make our new-built homes more customer-centred.”
Trina Chakravarti, Project Director, Building Better, National Housing Federation 


Wider benefits

Innovative approaches to construction should provide benefits across the design, construction, management and maintenance of built assets. Enabling the uptake of BIM and OSM will support housebuilders to build at scale and at speed to deliver more sustainable and future-proofed houses of higher quality and with fewer defects. If this paradigm shift is realised, cost advantages will come from economies of scale, while health and safety will also improve. Digital innovation provides a ‘golden thread’ of information needed for safe, transparent and effective management and maintenance of housing. There should also be positive consequences for carbon reduction and net zero targets. 

Collaboration with researchers on CDBB’s "Facilitating the digitisation of off-site manufacturing", “Digital Twins: driving business model innovation” and “Stakeholder Engagement in Smart Cities and Digital Infrastructure” projects has yielded further joint insights. 

“MMC should be a means to an end and that end is ultimately a better industry, one that is resilient, that’s sustainable, that’s driving better productivity, better quality, more certainty, speed, less waste, health and safety improvements, all of those things. . . . I commend Cambridge and the team for the work they’ve done in pushing this whole debate forward.”
Mark Farmer, UK Government MMC Champion for Housing and CEO of Cast Consultancy 


  • BIM4 Housing
  • Construction Leadership Council

Industry partners: Kier, Multiplex, Net Zero Buildings, Skanska, Swan Housing Association and Willmott Dixon


Research findings contribute to achieving CIH impacts related to information management (with an emphasis on the implementation of the UK BIM Framework), as well as skills and capabilities development and ways of fostering effective collaboration for an effective adoption and use of OSM. Furthermore, the findings contribute world-leading knowledge in academic research about industry transformation through the greater adoption and use of OSM and BIM.

Project Status



Oti-Sarpong, K and Burgess, G (2020) Offsite Manufacturing and Construction Industry Transformation: A Multi-Level Sociotechnical Transitions Perspective In: Scott, L and Neilson, C J (Eds) Proceedings of the 36th Annual ARCOM Conference, 7-8 September 2020, UK, Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 475-484.

Kwadwo Oti-Sarpong, Reyhaneh Shojaei (2021) 'Industry Guidance: Successful adoption and use of BIM and OSM', Report