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25 JUL 2018

There’s no need to fear change

“Change is good, change is needed, let’s embrace it” were the concluding words from Chair Ann Bentley at the RICS Digital Built Environment Conference 2018.

Taking place in London on 21 June 2018, this inaugural event began by exploring what surveyors must do to survive as new technologies continue to rapidly reshape and evolve the built environment. However, the emphasis soon shifted towards how property professionals can positively use change to thrive.

During the opening panel debate, David Stapleton, Chief Executive Officer at TenderSpace was quick to remind the room of the task ahead. “The fact remains construction is the second from least digitalised industry ranking just above agriculture,” he stated.

“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.” One reason for this, he suggested, could be because dominant technologies are yet to emerge.

BIM adoption

Referencing BIM adoption, David Throssell, BIM & Digital Engineering Operations Manager at Skanska UK argued that the cost perceptions of BIM needed to change. Although he conceded that set-up costs at the early stages of a project can be high, he offered examples of how at the construction phase, there are greater cost benefits to be realised.

“We’ve just finished an £18.5m build and the number of changes we’ve had to make was just 18  all because the BIM process was properly coordinated from the beginning. That saved a lot of time and money,” said Throssell.

A key tipping point for technology adoption could come once digital asset management systems can freely enable clients to accept and use BIM data straight away.

Jeff Belk, Head of Estate Projects at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust also part of the panel – suggested that a key tipping point for technology adoption could come once digital asset management systems can freely enable clients to accept and use BIM data straightaway.

“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,” he added.

Collaboration

Enhancing collaboration though technology was also a focal theme. Jeff Belk stressed the importance of early collaboration in order to better understand and work to the different commercial aims of all parties involved in a project. Kevin O’Grady, Associate Director at Arup, in a separate presentation, then showed off the virtual airport Arup has created to demonstrate how digital information can flow through a project and use the data to create a 7D fully lifecycle costed model.

Next, Nicholas Jones, Associate Director at Grosvenor gave a client perspective. For his organisation  which manages an estate of over 300 acres in the Mayfair and Belgravia areas of London  digital infrastructure is a key focus. He used the example of telecoms and fibre internet – what was once seen as the occupiers’ responsibility to manage and install, has now shifted towards an expectation from both businesses and residents for immediate access to high speed internet. Grosvenor is also using technology to better support its retailers when it comes capturing, combining and using key metrics such as footfall, weather and customer profiling.

Sessions covering 3D printing, robot construction and immersive design then gave a fascinating insight into the not so distant future, whilst John Cusack from Qubic Aerial Systems demonstrated examples of how technologies such as drones are improving inspection techniques and efficiencies on site.

Bringing the conference to a close, Ketan Patel, UK Operations Director at the Change Management Institute urged business leaders to embrace change as technological innovation continues to increase the speed at which success can be achieved.

“Don’t let other organisations disrupt your business,” he said, “disrupt in a way you can influence.” He spoke about how in the past 30 years, large organisations have thwarted threats from smaller organisations because of their sheer size and strength. Today however, he warned that smaller companies are now making “bigger hits” on market dominators not because of technology itself  but because of a nimble approach in terms of how technology is used to take advantage of new opportunities.