New technologies have the potential to revolutionise the construction and housing market. What is holding the industry back?
The construction industry has been unable to keep up with increasing levels of productivity when compared with other industries in the manufacturing sector. Many construction firms continue to operate under outdated practices.
In addition, the industry continues to contend with vulnerabilities including a persistent skills gap and labour shortage delaying completion times and affecting the overall certainty of a build. Uncertain geopolitical factors like Brexit also pose a serious threat to the health of the industry.
Building Information Modeling
If the construction industry is to achieve the ambitious goals set out in government planning initiatives like Project Ireland 2040, it will require the redefinition of current roles and the adoption of innovative technologies to increase production levels.
One factor that must not be overlooked is the considerable potential in the use of modern methods of construction, primarily modular building, and Building Information Modeling (BIM).
Building Information Modeling is a useful 3D model based digital tool for planning, designing and construction of buildings that could increase the end-to-end efficiency and improve quality, while at the same time, driving down costs of constructions projects. The software has a wealth of applications across the construction and manufacturing sectors including for the construction of buildings, infrastructure projects and transportation systems.
This state-of-the-art technology elevates the construction trade into a new era of innovation. The software has been hailed as revolutionary and has the potential to change the way the entire industry operates. Industry insiders estimate the growth of the BIM industry to be valued in the billions of dollars over the next decade.
BIM has become such an important facet of the evolving industry that some governments are mandating its use on all large-scale public projects. The recent government published “Future Jobs Ireland 2019 Report” encouraged the use of improved technology and the implementation of BIM to stimulate productivity improvements in the construction sector.
The collaborative potential of BIM systems could alter the way that firms operate and introduce modern working practices. According to Harry Vitelli of the BIM company Bentley Systems, “Better project outcomes are achieved through a complete flow of information among applications and across distributed project teams for greater accuracy across the entire supply chain.” Due to the collaborative nature of BIM systems, firms will need to promote teambuilding, communication and conflict resolution to create a productive and creative working environment.
Impact of BIM on the Industry
This technology is a crucial tool for firms and introduces a new skill set to attract potential new recruits to the construction industry. And it isn’t just a question of creating more jobs, it is of the utmost importance to ensure the availability of quality jobs that will be resilient into the future.
Building Information Modeling also enables different disciplines across a project, from architects to project engineers, to collaborate on the same digital model of the project’s structure. This allows all stakeholders to operate harmoniously, streamlining the design and construction process.
The resistance to change is one major hindrance in the adoption of BIM systems. Their complexity and the shortage of professionals trained in their operation could contribute to mishandling and errors in their operation. While there are several providers of BIM systems, there is a lack of standards across the industry, hindering collaboration and growth in the sector.
There are also issues of liability and data security regarding the use of BIM systems on construction projects. This technology introduced an entirely new way of working that some companies and individuals may not be familiar with. The inherently collaborative qualities of this technology may make it difficult to assess liability when it comes to flaws in construction. When different people are input information into the same model, it may become difficult to determine responsibility for changes made.
Building Information Modeling is software and with any software, there are concerns about data security. It is essential that project data be kept secure and confidential. Data loss and cyber theft are real concerns that companies must consider when using any technology. For architectural and engineering firms, it is important that design information is protected from intellectual property theft. At the BIM industry continues to evolve and grow, many of the current challenges with its use are likely to be addressed.
In Ireland one of the possible impediments to the increased utilization of technology in all sectors if the proficiency of users. According to the “Future Jobs Ireland 2019 Report,” less than half the population has basic or above basic digital skills, which is well behind the EU average. Improved science and technology education will be imperative for the health of the economy and the future of the country.
The potential exists for an improved construction and real estate industry, it is up to investors, developers and builders to make it a reality. BIM technology offers firms a real opportunity to embrace modern thinking and practices and translate it into improved efficiency and enhanced quality.