The future success of digital construction lies with improved planning, more consistent procurement by Government, integrated software systems, the education of the young and the development of hybrid solutions that don’t scare the industry, according to the opening debate at this year’s UK Construction Week (UKCW).
Chaired by architect and TV presenter George Clarke, a panel of digital construction experts took the discussion on digital to a new level compared to previous years.
Offsite construction, BIM and even the use of robotic technologies on site were all acknowledged as established solutions – but what matters now is how these are applied and approached with a completely different mindset, the panellists agreed.
David Clark, head of manufacture and innovation at offsite specialists McAvoy, commented: “We are at a point of acceptance of BIM.
“We all want to take digital data and bring this to the front line of manufacturing. But we need a long-term pipeline coming through – a guaranteed demand which unlocks investment.”
The role of Government was central to this, as the industry’s largest client responsible for 40% of the sector’s capital expenditure, explained Mark Bew, chairman of PCSG.
He accepted it is hard to be a client but told the packed auditorium about what he described as ‘the first glimmer of hope’ – outcome-based contracting and new forms of procurement which are now starting to be used and which lift the requirements around data.
“It’s now an adult-to-adult conversation, not adult-to-child approach,” he said.
He also urged greater Government uptake of common components which, just as in the car industry, allow a huge variety of customisable products for the end-user but essentially all stem from a simple, standardised portfolio of parts.
Elsewhere at the show, building quality and safety were hot topics across the UKCW seminar and CPD programme and culminated in RIBA’s official launch of its Building in Quality tracker.
Developed in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Building and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, RIBA president Ben Derbyshire introduced the tracker and details of the five-month pilot set to transform building safety forever.
Other show highlights included Lord David Blunkett, Heathrow Skills Taskforce, talking about strategies to address the skills gap in construction, property expert and TV presenter Kunle Barker leading a vibrant panel discussion on diversity, equality and inclusion, and the launch of the Passivhaus 2019 student competition, aiming to arm the next generation of architects and designers with the tools and design skills needed to deliver sustainable buildings.
Nathan Garnett, UKCW event director, reflected on the opening day: “The calibre of debate has been higher, more detailed and more positive than in previous years, and the examples of innovation and best practice are more plentiful.
“Combined with record numbers for a first day, I’m confident that this show is delivering on its promise to make visible the future of construction.”
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