May Winfield, Head of Commercial & Legal: Cities & Digital, Buro Happold
To use a now common turn of phrase, we are living in unprecedented times. Whilst this has brought numerous challenges in all aspects of our lives, it has also led undeniably to an acceleration in the adoption of technology. Without the use of office facilities or face-to-face meetings, those hesitant to use video conferencing and electronic data exchange have been forced to make use of technology and digitisation to continue to work effectively. However, whilst technology and digitisation are now more at the forefront of minds, this technology revolution has been coming for a number of years in the construction industry as we move progressively towards Construction 4.0. Arguably, one of the major catalysts for this has been the ongoing adoption of BIM, mandated by the UK Government’s 2011 Construction Strategy. The standards and processes emerging as a result of that strategy have been adopted or used as examples for similar efforts worldwide.
Finally, leading to the introduction of the international digital information management standards, ISO19650, which are not just about BIM and 3D modelling but about information management for all digital data regardless of source, e.g., robotics, modular construction, or 3D printing. Indeed, we at Buro Happold now provide separate information management services to clients, who realise the importance of getting the data and digital processes right to reduce risk and ensure they get the deliverables they intended.Even the Government’s recent Construction Playbook places significant emphasis on BIM, progressing the recommendation of the 2019 Hackitt Report. The Playbook states that contraction authorities, contractors, and suppliers “should use the UK BIM Framework.
” The UK BIM Framework is the overarching approach to implementing BIM in the UK, compliant with the ISO19650 standards, and the documents forming the Framework are the result of years of work. primarily by volunteers committed to the industry. Indeed, many do not realise that we worked on these seminal documents on a completely voluntary basis. Such passion and commitment to the industry have given me hope and optimism for the future construction industry that fully embraces the digital environmental and technological advancements as business as usual. Though realistically, we have a bit of a way to go before we get there.Nonetheless, the embracement of technological advancements and comprehensive digitalisation of the construction industry is not just possible; we are already well on the journey, with all the well-reported benefits this brings. This wider digital movement continues to receive government support and encouragement, such as via the Government’s push for more modular construction and use of drones and the current creation of a National Digital Twin.
Arguably a lot of these technological advancements link full circle directly or indirectly back to BIM or BIM processes as they involve digital information management processes and also, often, 3D models.
Such technology and digitisation, in turn, leads to a need for a shift in both mindset and services offered within the industry - as construction methods change and clients have new requirements or expectations. Buro Happold has recognised this for some time and is known for its forward-thinking and technologically advanced ethos, for example,internally implementing BIM on all projects for some years and being fully compliant with the new information management requirements of the ISO19650. We understand that technology is revolutionising construction for the benefit of our clients, requiring agile thinking to provide the most relevant service and deliverables. One of Buro Happold’s digital thought leaders, Alain Waha.
put it that Buro Happold are “inventing the future” with clients such as via our work with the Construction Innovation Hub; our computational engineering approach allowing us to integrate design processes with technologies forming part of the construction process or finish assets, or even optimising design for offsite construction. Importantly, we engage with our supply chain toward full digital construction, as collaboration is a key part of successful digitisation and BIM. Widening involvement in this essential digital space further, BuroHappold recently released its first digital product, Workplace Analytics, and continues to progress its open-source, collaborative model platform called the BHOM, which enables consultants to get over the real problems of interoperability when collaborating on models.
We live now in an industry where Boston Dynamic’s Spot the Dog robot carries out site surveys (though it may currently be better known for its dancing on YouTube), and the Centre for Digital Built Britain (a collaboration between government, industry, and academia) is working steadily towards a national digital twin (I am a part of the working group which aims to release an important digital twins toolkit on this soon. Technology and digitisation are clearly here to stay, not least because they have been proven – time and again – to save time and costs, reduce waste and improve quality and health, and safety, all-important issues if our industry is to survive and thrive. How we react to this revolution will affect how it impacts us; we must recognise that all advancements require complementary changes. How quickly will our industry be willing to move mindset and ways of working to embrace advancements and progress? The recent unprecedented times may have been the catalyst for that.