Although construction digital transformation seems to have been a debate for a long time, it is easy to forget that we are only at the start of construction change that will be happening for a long time to come. It is just one year since the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) opened at the University of Cambridge. It recently issued its Year One Report on the state of the digital transformation of the construction industry in Britain to reflect on the achievements to date. It is a recommended read for anyone interested in construction change, summing up some of the ways the industry has reacted to the ambitious and challenging objectives set out by Government.
Collaboration for construction digital transformation
One of the important developments it notes is the formation of the Transforming Construction Alliance, which came into being late in 2018. It was born of a recognition that digital transformation can only progress if industry and academia cooperate, bringing sector and technical knowledge and skills requirements together. This initiative brings together the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), BRE (Building Research Establishment) with the CDBB. This combined expertise in digital, manufacturing and construction technology, as well as a track record in supporting policy development and industry change, will create a powerful think tank. Innovate UK awarded the TCA £72 million in funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Transforming Construction programme to deliver a Core Innovation Hub and help the sector harness manufacturing and digital technologies. Definitely a step in the right direction.
Achieving ambitions for construction change
How well industry meets the construction digital transformation ambitions of government is important, because the construction sector can be a driver as well as an indicator for economic growth. Inefficiencies and low productivity levels have undoubtedly led to a reluctance to embrace change and technical innovations. So, the Government is encouraging digital transformation as a way to save costs, reduce harmful emissions and embrace circular economy principles, to keep resources in use longer and extract maximum value. In addition, it will help the construction industry to step up to meet the Government’s ambitious housing targets.
Tracking the evolution of BIM
The CDBB’s report also lays out the plans to change BIM Levels 2, 3 and 4 to Design, Build, Operate and Integrate. The context of BIM aims is shifting slightly, to improve engagement with all stages of construction from design to maintenance. Specialist task forces and working groups will ensure information is shared and expertise pooled to guarantee cooperation across the industry, academia and government. The UK is already a leading innovator in global construction and BIM. As a result, the British standards for information management are likely to become international standards. Features, case studies and expert interviews throughout the report illustrate how the UK construction industry is changing, adopting BIM, enjoying the advantages of offsite manufacturing and benefiting from research projects.
The report also explains the creation of the Gemini Principles, the first output of its Digital Framework Task Group. It has now laid out proposed principles to guide the national digital twin (an ecosystem of securely connected digital twins), and the information management framework that will enable it. These are starting to address important enablers of the Government’s vision of Britain’s future national infrastructure, as outline in the latest Industrial Strategy. It has the aim of improving the performance, service, and the value our infrastructure delivers to society, business, the environment and the economy.
Building Digital Britain
The CDBB sits at the heart of how construction digital transformation will unfold and how the construction sector will leverage key technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and others, within the future built environment.
Digital Built Britain is a long-term project. It has the potential to change the way we build, live and work in, and manage and maintain future buildings and infrastructure – plus transform the construction industry into an efficient and clean driver of economic growth. While much of the research is taking place in academic institutions throughout the country, to make this as successful as it can be, the fundamental drivers of construction change must still come from within the industry itself.
Construction digital transformation is accelerating, but key reports can help you keep pace with the changes. You can download the full report from the CDBB here.