A new, on-site reality…digital technologies trump dinosaur developers
We can’t sensibly call it a Digital Revolution anymore: it’s been around longer than most of us have been alive, but even if the revolution’s over, today’s digital realities are still capable of kicking up counter-coups, each one talking in tongues. The language of choice for AI is, of course, pattern recognition (mostly numbers for G*, words for ChatGPT); Web Development has long adopted a more mystical syntax straight out of Star Wars (including Python, Swift, and (for me) the highly enigmatic, Ruby on Rails). And for the Construction Sector, getting more local, the language of choice is information modelling, or Building Information Modelling (“BIM”) to be precise.
BIM’s ambition is to bring together just about every piece of relevant information on every conceivable component of a building on the basis its subsequent pooling and sharing will enable a more integrated design process. Mistakes and discrepancies are minimised, whilst at the same time optimising collaborative working: and that means less waste and lower costs over the lifetime of the project. So, what’s not to like?
Well, for at least a decade, the answer to that question has depended on your local perspective...
From the perspective of the UK Government and its legion of specialist advisers, the attractions of BIM are obvious: after all, reducing costs and minimising delays have been a policy imperative for every administration since Pitt the Younger, including, more recently, David Cameron’s Government, which not only set HS2 on its fateful path to oblivion but also created the BIM Mandate in 2016 (just before Mr Cameron himself resigned).
The BIM Mandate
Adopting a curious blend of Kindergarten English and NASA speak, the 2016 Mandate dedicated itself to a ruthless process of herding UK construction towards “full collaborative mode”, establishing four steps to perfection in the process (quaintly numbered zero to three): a “zero” rating meant no collaboration at all between the design team and anybody else on the project, everything put down on paper using 2D CAD, and virtually nothing by way of technical engagement (not a state of affairs any modern contractor would recognise, but there you go: that’s what level zero looks like). Then we move through BIM Level 1 (patterns of “limited collaboration” with “some” 3D CAD technologies); and beyond that, BIM Level 2: the big one…the sweet pastures of collaborative working, where contractors make extensive use of 3D CAD modelling within a “fully federated” structure.
And if that all sounds like a long-winded way of saying something quite straightforward…well, of course, it is. I won’t try to explain the mysteries of the BIM Level 3 “Gold Standard” (life’s too short), but for present purposes, the point is that since 2016 BIM Level 2 has been the government-mandated minimum for involvement in any UK public contract (including, oddly enough, HS2): so if you’re one of those feckless few, still in a holding pattern of “limited collaboration”, there’ll be no government work going for you (or at least that’s the theory).
Fair enough, you might say, but what’s the other side of the coin…where’s that second perspective we mentioned earlier?
The other side of the coin
Well, the flip side of BIM is our old friend, Dinosaur Construction. Just ask yourself this: in what other industrial sector would any government be forced to issue a mandate requiring participants to stop using paper plans and pencils, and pick up computers (in 2016, for goodness sake)? In what other sector would the mere theoretical existence of “collaborative working” be a sufficient threshold, rather than an absolute minimum, against which to award major government contracts? Only in the world of dinosaur construction…which is no doubt why, in a 2017 NBS survey (www.building.co.uk), 51% of construction professionals believed the UK Government had given up enforcing its own benchmarking, and only 9% thought the Mandate as a whole was being enforced at all.
In truth, BIM Level Zero is simply a pen portrait (albeit a highly accurate one) of the sort of construction company that still spends endless days wading around in the mud, reading plans the size of tabletops in a high wind, and fruitlessly searching for that last delivery of pipework and cabling (long since buried under a grassy bank). There’s nothing BIM about it at all, and it’s certainly no way to build a modern society…just ask the 47% of HS2 contractors who weren’t even pre-qualified to BIM Level 2: small wonder the project was blighted by cost overruns and cancellations.
ConstrucTech: A new gold standard
Modern Construction, and Modular Construction in particular, does it all differently: constantly building (literally) on a vibrant foundation of innovation and enterprise to create a better future: so if you’re looking for a definition of that Level 3 Gold Standard (see above), here it is: ConstrucTech, and it fully embraces emerging technologies, such as AI and machine learning, without being told to do so; adopts digital communications for better team integration (“federated working” in government speak), and generates high-quality digitised data to minimise project costs and maximise overall efficiencies…all by itself, without any central government mandate.
Amongst a whole raft of other benefits, AI technologies can now be used to generate more accurate and reliable tender documentation (underestimates having been a persistent curse of UK construction (see, yet again, HS2)); modular components can be created using specialist software and tested data (so enabling production of custom made design solutions, on demand); and high traffic areas can be identified in advance, to accurately assess the need for enhanced product specifications down the line: the list of tangible benefits goes on…and on.
That’s what BIM will look like in the future, and it's already way beyond BIM 3, so welcome to the new Gold Standard.
Meanwhile, over in Pune, Modulex is constructing what will become the World’s biggest Mega Factory for the creation of steel modular buildings, using 3D Volumetric Technologies (including AI and IoT) to meet burgeoning global demands for essential infrastructure while at the same time delivering at pace and securing optimal efficiency levels. This cutting-edge ConstrucTech company (part of the Red Ribbon family) has a current order pipeline £37.5 Million. It is primed to roll out fifteen factories across emerging markets over the years ahead.
So, in short, this is a global trend, and there’s nothing unexceptional or homely about it…
Using advanced emerging technologies, ConstrucTech, and offsite construction in particular, is already breaking the mould and helping us shape a better future.