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Putting digitalisation at the heart of the construction sector’s recovery

David Philp
David Philp 08-06-2020

The Construction Innovation Hub (Hub) was launched in 2018 to drive a transformation in the UK construction sector through manufacturing technologies and digital ways of working that are trusted and secure. As we begin to emerge from the COVID19 crisis, this transformation has become ever more critical. Accelerating the adoption of digital and manufacturing technologies and processes will ensure that sector recovery is embedded in new and better ways of doing things, rather than a return to the practices of yesterday. We can also help to maintain the UK’s reputation as a world-leader for the digital built environment, benefiting the economy as a whole. The Hub’s Digital Impact Director David Philp, shares more about the vision of Hub’s Digital work-stream.

Compared to other leading sectors of the economy like automotive, aerospace or retail, construction has been slow to embrace the transformational potential of “going digital”. Just think for a moment about how radically your shopping or travel experience has changed thanks to digitalisation in recent years. Can we say the same for construction?

Embedding lasting change

In recent years – and with a notable acceleration over the past few months due to the COVID-19 crisis – the UK’s built environment has seen a notable shift towards digitally enabled collaboration, virtual stakeholder engagement and secure, resilient information sharing. This must not be viewed as just a temporary measure; the benefits of digital collaboration have become plainly obvious and we simply cannot afford to return to the practices of yesterday.

As a Hub, we are accelerating our transformative programme in support of the Construction Leadership Council-led Roadmap to Recovery, at the heart of which is the modernisation of the sector through digital and manufacturing technologies. As the Digital Impact Director, I am overseeing a workstream which will help to quicken the pace towards greater digitalisation. As part of this, we are producing digital tools to provide invaluable and extensive insight into to how buildings and infrastructure are currently functioning and allowing for scenario modelling to drive continuous service improvement and potential repurposing, as well as supporting the wider net-zero carbon agenda.

The Hub is collaborating closely with industry, Government and academia to support with these changes, not just by promoting digital ways of working but also by making sure we are demonstrating the very real benefits of digital transformation and providing the guidance and tools needed to help the sector adapt and thrive.

Managing data better

Another key area of focus within my workstream is in promoting better information management and secure, resilient data sharing through our development and promotion of the UK BIM Framework and close collaboration with the National Digital Twin programme. Once we, as a sector, recognise the value of a connected, and interoperable infrastructure – such as greater efficiencies, improved standards, lower costs and improved health & wellness, we will be able to collectively benefit from its implementation.  We are enabling the digital economy by supporting the development of emerging practices and technologies to improve the design, build, operation and integration of the built environment and grow export opportunities for the UK. We want to change the way in which people, businesses and services interact, by promoting system of systems thinking and developing a greater understanding of the socio-economic barriers to digital transformation

The future of construction is digital

Looking to the longer-term, our increased comfort with digitalisation will be essential to unlocking the potential social, environmental and economic benefits of data sharing in the built environment. This will help the UK as a nation to tackle systemic challenges including meeting the sustainable development goals, growing AI and the data economy and levelling up prosperity and well-being across the country. It is crucial to our recovery that the built environment grasps the opportunity that digital technologies and innovative uses of data present in the development of high performing sustainable built assets.

The Hub is determined to use the existing momentum around digital working to effect an innovative and radical transformation of our industry, helping to ensure resilience, improve quality of life and societal benefits, maximise the value of built assets over its lifetime and also create exciting new career opportunities in order to attract the next generation of built environment talent.

 

David Philp is Impact Director for the Construction Innovation Hub.