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Building the foundations of a better future – Part two

Gill Kelleher
Gill Kelleher 06-12-2021

COP26 brought the world to Glasgow to discuss the climate crisis and how we change the way we work to address this existential threat. But it wasn’t the first forum at which the Hub was represented. UK Construction Week, in which the Hub was a delivery partner, gave professionals from across the construction and built environment sectors a chance to meet and discuss the challenges we face. Here, in the second of two articles, the Hub’s Impact Director Gill Kelleher looks back at the panels she chaired and the lessons we can take forward.

Digitalisation of the Construction sector  

I also chaired a panel session on digitalisation of Construction sector where I was joined by Matthew Egan from Modularize, Dan Leech of the TDS Group, James Parsons Moore from Autodesk and Shelby Green from One Creative Environments.

Key themes that emerged were:

Digital processes and innovation, such as Advanced manufacturing technologies, BIM, Digital twins, digitalisation of business systems and product lifecycle management tools are being used now to improve efficiencies and productivity of businesses, but as a sector openness and access to data is still a critical issue

Shelby shared some great insights into extracting the benefits of BIM into practical workflows that deliver tangible value for clients, contractors, and the supply chain.

Daniel Leech, Technical Design Services Group and others expanded on innovative ways they have brought together Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA) under one roof. For example, the digital delivery project for Terminal 2 of Hong Kong International Airport for the Hong Kong International Airport Authority utilising the latest construction technology breaking new ground on more collaborative ways of working.

There is still a massive way to go to boost productivity through digitalisation – industry is very fragmented, with major cultural issues impeding adoption of digital solutions. Risk is also being passed or sold down the supply chain, being a major blocker for adoption of digital tech on the frontline of live projects, such as old industry procurement/ contracts versus new digital approaches.  More needs to be done to automate, standardise products and processes, leverage upfront planning and design processes whilst also upskill those on the ground with the tools and resources they need.

Recently, ONE Creative have been exploring ways in which BIM can be incorporated into the Internet of Things for operational benefit. A particular area of interest is how data and visualisation can drive decarbonisation. ONE has also been developing digital workflows to support the building safety community in response to incoming legislation. Innovative tools used for building operations incorporate BIM, Data sharing, reporting and resident engagement.

Coordination and collaboration are vital. There’s a disconnect and divide between those designing and engineering buildings to those actually delivering the work on the ground – an ageing workforce and challenges of how to upskill and gear up the workforce with best and latest available technologies is a major issue.  Matt from Modularize with more than a decade’s worth of experience using advanced manufactured solutions shared some insights about their approach to help bridge some of these gaps. They provide manufacturing information packs (MIP’s) for both offsite manufacturing and onsite construction in accordance with the construction programme. Through its well-developed network of offsite manufacturers, construction contractors and supply chain mean they can ensure the right materials, plant requirements and operatives are deployed in the right place at the right time. This level of information is how we can provide upfront fixed costs at the design stage providing cost certainty at a very early stage of the project.

UK Construction Week was a fascinating insight into the work that the sector is doing now and the steps that must be taken to support the build back better agenda. We haven’t reached a tipping point as an industry, where we can use digitisation to transform construction, but the industry and its people are definitely on a mission to make it happen.

As we continue this work, the Hub will play a vital role in leading and developing solutions and methodologies today that answer the challenges of tomorrow – there’s a still a long way to go! Thank you to all the panel members.

Blog post was written by Gill Kelleher, Impact Director for the Construction Innovation Hub. 

This is part two of Gill’s ‘Building the foundations of a better future’ blogs. Please see part one here.