For the past 7 years I have delivered the State of the BIM nation presentation at the opening of BIM Show Live. This gives me the chance to reflect on where we have come from, what we have achieved and what there is still to do. As I have been preparing for 2018 I have been reflecting on the past and it’s fantastic to see how far we have come as a sector.
In 2011 digital construction was embraced by a relatively modest group of “enthusiasts”. Today BIM is the standard design approach for the industry and we are exploring the new opportunities available to us using the latest technology and digital construction practices. Even though coordination and modelling are now the industry norm, many people don’t seem to fully understand what ‘level 2’ is and how to apply it in practice.
Those not adopting and taking the time to understand BIM will not be left behind, they have already been left behind. We no longer need to convince people of the value of the use of digital tools as the facts and figures speak for themselves.
I liken those burying their head in the sand to those who said online shopping would never take off when Jeff Bezo launched an online bookstore. The fact is there is lots of new technology available such as virtual and augmented reality, blockchain and artificial intelligence, and we need to be ready to embrace and apply these in our working methods.
At BIM Show Live we will be exploring and discussing these opportunities. However, there are still some fundamental issues we must address to move the industry forward. During 2017 and 2018 we have seen two catastrophic events. Firstly, the Grenfell tower disaster and secondly the collapse of Carillion. Both events are very complex and involved many factors.
Those of us who work within the sector will be unsurprised by what happened as we have all been aware of the cultural issues within the sector for many years. We have challenges of workmanship, compliance, specification, payment terms, contacts; the list goes on. Much of the momentum regarding the digitising of the sector is down to the mandating of BIM in all government projects in 2011.
This made the sector sit up and take notice. I believe as we work through the issues from Grenfell and Carillion we will see increased legislation and a greater responsibility being placed on commissioning clients. They will be responsible for the ultimate compliance of a building which will include standards and workmanship.
I can see a growth in independent certification and the return of the clerk of works. We saw a similar approach to Health and Safety in the 1990s with the CDM legislation to address the issue of fatalities on site. Construction is now headline news and we are under the spotlight. The Hackett report identified how complex our sector is.
This is only the beginning of the unpicking of our processes. There is still a long way to go with both Grenfell and Carillion and I’m sure there will be custodial sentences for some of those involved. We must continue the momentum the sector has built and work together to address the issues which have been highlighted over the past year. Undoubtedly technology can play its part.
We will be able to look at how digital surveying can monitor compliance and workmanship or how blockchain can improve contracts and payments. We have the opportunity of a generation to address the embedded cultural issues in construction. The sector investment as part of the Governments industrial strategy gives us an opportunity to build on what has been achieved over the past 5 years and change perceptions of the construction industry.
We must make sure we continue the momentum of the last five years and use it to address some of the current issues and ensure they never happen again.