COVID-19 has forced all of us to assess the way we work, which offers new thinking

The digital construction revolution has grabbed an increasing number of headlines over recent years as new technology has been introduced into the industry.

There is little doubt that the opportunities presented by digital construction and the new tools of the trade being developed have excited the industry. The potential for massive growth is undeniable as the technology opens up new ways of working on projects, from the earliest design stage through to completion.

However, it is also fair to say that the take-up across the industry has been something of a slow-burn.

There is now a hope that the new advice and guidelines imposed on us all in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is ensuring people are having to find new ways of working remotely, at home and safely, could ultimately help the wider industry embrace digital construction opportunities more fully and enthusiastically.

Technology has helped countless people carry on working through the pandemic

Paul Groves Paul Groves Editor of Specification

Benefits

As we all become more used to using technology to try and complete our normal working day outside of the normal office environment, there is a possibility that we begin to see the benefits of these new tools and adopt them in far greater numbers.

Connecting manufacturers, architects and construction professionals, wherever they may be located, instantly and effectively is something that would revolutionise working practices. And we know from the Hackitt recommendations and the changes to building regulations and building safety, this desire for greater collaboration and a more joined up approach is something the whole industry wants.

For example, research undertaken by leading construction specification software provider NBS suggests that 70% of specifiers need manufacturers to provide them with BIM objects and product specifications.

As a result, NBS developed the first and only cloud-based specification platform in the industry, NBS Chorus, which has been specifically developed with construction professionals in mind to deliver benefits including:

  • Minimise risk – rely on NBS’ multi-disciplinary specialist team to keep on top of thousands of changes to construction standards.
  • Increase collaboration – with a powerful permissions model, empower your team members to work together on specs in real-time, across organisations and locations.
  • Drive efficiency – create a seamless link between your model and specification, saving you time and reducing the risk of information becoming out of sync.

There are other online and digital tools, software platforms and websites now available that also arm industry professionals with a bewildering array of systems and solutions all designed to make the working day more efficient and effective.

These digital construction tools, allied with Modern Methods of Construction, are increasingly being seen as not only the bright future of the industry but also the answer to many of the immediate challenges it faces.

Lacking ambition

So there is some consternation that the Government’s next construction strategy is likely to merely mirror its existing strategy.

David Hancock, the director of Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), government’s chief advisory body for infrastructure, said the “same again” approach was likely because the industry is too slow at making change. It will address the same issues which have plagued the UK construction industry for decades and he added that one of the biggest problems facing the industry was the “negative collaboration” between firms.

Dr Stephen Hamil, Director of Innovation at NBS, said at the time: “The problem is the pace of change in the industry. While Government proposals, including the house building and infrastructure programme, are on the right track, digital adoption has been too slow.

“It’s true the BIM mandate pushed adoption along. However, the sector is not seizing the mantle and taking advantage of all that digital can offer. Properly implemented technology is an enabler, not a barrier. It can stop the traditional adversarial relationships between design and construction teams which fail clients and end-users. Beyond this, it can drive up both quality of delivery, reduce risk and increase the profitability of the teams through open relationships and seamless information management.”

Ramping up change

There is a growing hope now that this pace of change could be about to ramp up considerably. Instead of a barrier, a growing number of us are seeing technology as the type of “enabler” Dr Hamil referred to and significantly as the perfect way to foster collaboration and more positive and proactive working partnerships.

Forced by Covid-19 to assess our own ways of working, how we can adapt to the new rules and remain productive and use technology to achieve not just everything we normally do in the office but a lot more besides, the digital technology revolution could be about to be launched in spectacular style.

Technology has helped countless people carry on working through the pandemic. It could well be the answer to the issues that have plagued the construction industry for far too long.

Paul Groves is editor of Specification magazine