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News & opinion

31 JUL 2018

Survive and thrive – the debate around technology

The RICS Digital Built Environment Conference 2018 brought together industry leaders to debate why surveyors must use technology to survive and thrive.

Here’s a round-up of what was said at the London event.

Speed of progress

David Stapleton (DS), Chief Executive Officer at TenderSpace: “The fact remains construction is the second from least digitalised industry ranking just above agriculture. There are demonstrable cases [for the use of digital technology] but for whatever reason, there are many who still don’t see it. We need to understand why… is it fear? Cost? Lack of understanding? Or are we all sitting there waiting for someone else to decide which is the right technology to use before we all jump in?”

The fact remains construction is the second from least digitalised industry ranking just above agriculture.

David Stapleton

Data collection and consistency

David Throssell (DT), BIM & Digital Engineering Operations Manager at Skanska UK: “We want to be in a position where we are collecting data more easily so that we can be more predictive about the performance of projects. A move away from working out what we did wrong to actually predicting things before it becomes a problem.”

Jeff Belk (JB), Head of Estate Projects, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust: “The thing that excites me most about technology at the moment is the ‘I’ in BIM. I think in the next five years, we are going to see a much better way of working with information, in a much more coherent and legible format, which will make the information much more usable for people running an estate. Currently, taking data information through the property cycle is not as clear or constant as it should be. Even if you have a standardised BIM execution plan, the quality of data is variable with lots of work often needed to make that data usable in the future.”

The drive for BIM

DT: “There’s a shift to encourage clients to use BIM properly earlier on. People argue that BIM costs more, but I disagree. It can do in the early stages of a project because you have to invest more time in making it work - but if you think of the cost in construction because of poor detailing or things which have been forgotten about or not coordinated properly… and if you think of the knock on effect of that  the time to administer changes, redesign it and compensate for delays on a project  you start to realise you soon have a greater overall cost benefit. We’ve just finished an £18.5m build and the number of changes we’ve had to make is 18 because the BIM process was properly coordinated from the beginning. That saved a lot of time and money”

JB: “A key tipping point looks to be once FM systems enable clients accept and use BIM data straight away. For clients with large estates that will be a standard requirement due the time savings it will bring. As more clients get exactly what they need from FM software providers, I feel the FM industry will go on to drive the adoption of BIM.”

Better and earlier collaboration

DS: “My focus and passion is about communication. Why? We don’t do enough to look at our industry as a whole. We have a very linier construction process which consists of different verticals. You perhaps talk to the verticals to your left or right but how often do you get the whole of the team involved at the earliest stage?”

JB: “We have to recognise that a contactor and the client will have different commercial aims, but by collaborating it allows us to establish the project envelope. There will always be commercial conflict in the way of different priorities, but that shouldn’t be conflict within the project itself  if there has been clear collaboration in terms of what the outcomes should be.”

Future skills

JB: “The skills I think surveyors will need are around being able to analyse data and then interpret that data and sell it to different audiences. For example [on a hospital project] a clinical team may need to know how infection will be controlled, and then I might have a director of finance asking how much it will cost. The project management team need to be able to quickly present the necessary data in a relevant format.”

DT: “I’m currently bringing in data scientists, not to do the job of our cost planners or quantity surveyors but to help give our professionals the skills they need to undertake the analytics for themselves.”