Digital Construction Week 2017 – Event review

From BIM to Digital Construction

For the last three years, Digital Construction Week has become THE construction industry event to attend in the UK. Starting in 2015 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, the show dedicated to digital construction, engineering, design, manufacturing and operation has undoubtedly grown a lot. Digital Construction Week 2017 was staged at the London ExCeL- a venue located on an impressive 100-acre (0.40 km2) site on the northern quay of the Royal Victoria Dock in London Docklands, between Canary Wharf and London City Airport. The feel of the ‘construction industry’ skyline surrounding the ExCeL was undoubtedly played a role in setting the mood for 2 days of great talks on technology and innovation. Supporting and exhibiting at the show for the last 3 years, the Cobuilder crew dove into the great atmosphere of the show with excitement and great expectations – and let us tell you that – DCW2017 did not disappoint. Here are our highlights of the event and some interesting takeaways that we brought with us to our headquarters.

The BIM Village: From Process to People

Every year the Cobuilder Bar is strategically positioned next to The BIM Village. The reason for this is that it is among the most highly attended theatres by visitors and exhibitors alike. The BIM Village is exactly the place to learn the latest and greatest news in the BIM world. Interestingly, at DCW2017 the ‘BIM’ word was less and less prominent in most of the talks. Maybe as a result of the growing disillusion with the overly complicated BIM communication (supported by different vendors) and the overuse of acronyms in the sector, we noticed that the ideas behind BIM are starting to be discussed under far broader terms like ‘digital built environment’, ‘digital construction’ etc. Accordingly, the BIM Village this year focused much more on the business case, implementation, and adoption of digital strategies in different types of construction industry related businesses.

70% people

Listening to most of the lectures at the BIM Village stage was easily left with the impression that the cultural change management credo that a successful strategy is 10% technology, 20% process and 70% people is also quite applicable to the percentage coverage of the most popular lecture topics. Digital construction is, after all, a change in not only how we build buildings but also how we build a world that thrives on information. Firstly, people need more and more information in order to make good decisions. Secondly, technology generates more and more data every day. Consequently, based on these unquestionable trends, we are left with something of a simple economic question – where do we draw the line and make supply and demand meet? How do we derive the best value from the information we have? These were the questions that we found most exciting at this stage.

Chaos Theory

A brilliant presentation by Bond Bryan’s Digital Information Specialist Emma Hooper looked at such interesting notions and the need for a very important function in modern construction – Information Management.

Let us tell you a little secret – while Emma was delivering her impressive talk about the importance of working with structured, meaningful and valuable data, we found many parallels to our own way of thinking. We were extremely happy that Cobuilder and Bond Bryan seemed to agree on another crucial point: it is the Information Managers that will help the industry bridge the gap between process, people and technology.
Another person that left us inspired was the social media guru Su Butcher from Just Practising who looked at collaborative working and the impediments to achieving best results by using it. The highly interactive talk was structured like a ‘brain storming’ session and left everyone feeling (us included), what we are sure Su intended with her approach – as part of the cultural change that is happening now.

Most Interesting New Theatre – DBE Theatre

In addition to the Industry 4.0 Theatre, which explored the future of the digital built environment, a great and a much needed change to the DCW agenda was the introduction of the DBE Theatre. Supported by the leaders in innovative manufacturing Wienerberger, the DBE theatre was a place where manufacturers – a huge segment of the digital construction industry supply chain were included in all the discussions about the future of the way we build. It is important to note that the DBE theatre gave voice also to important BIM4s as of course the manufacturers’ BIM4M2 and the representatives of small and medium size enterprises – BIM4SME (95% of the people working for the construction industry work in SMEs).

The manufacturer’s perspective

Paul Surin, Head of Digital Built Environment at Wienerberger AG, gave a lecture on the hot topic of Digitalization and BIM for Manufacturers that heavily underlined the great benefits of implementing rigorous data management processes internally. His take on the actual use of Product Data Templates in a huge international business such as Wienerberger’s had an empowering impact on all manufacturers present. The idea of the manufacturer as the single source of truth for all their data assets both internally and externally was well received and used as a starting point for many of the following discussions.
Cobuilder’s CEO and co-founder Lars Chr. Fredenlund used the already elevated mood to lead the audience to a different level of construction industry passion. His emotional talk about the need of standardization in the construction industry mixed the technical and the relatable. As people and machines have to learn to use the same standard language, he highlighted the importance of unifying and agreeing on common approaches of entering in the digital era of construction. It is all there he said in the standards made for us by CEN, in EU’s CPR and also within the international process standards such as the draft standard ISO19650.

Working together

Construction product data is central to all digital endeavours and we already have it – locked in unstructured silos. How can the construction industry thrive on data like Google, Amazon or Well, Lars says we first have to agree more. We have to work together with the international initiatives for implementing open standards and information management standards so we are part of the success story that is happening now. Will we be the only industry that is behind agriculture in its digitalization journey any more? Not, if we collaborate and use standards, thinks Lars.
Another important takeaway we found in Steve Thompson’s lecture on the Future for construction product manufacturing – people should not try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to implementing digitization practices in their organisation – there is guidance out there. Product Data Templates are the recognised way to go forward for the manufacturing industry and initiatives such as BIM4M2 and CPA’s LEXiCON are there to provide manufacturers with the support they need.

UK BIM Alliance – Best Practice for clients

As you probably know, the mission of the UK BIM Alliance is to help professionals understand the value of a digitally enabled industry. With the strong slogan ‘Making BIM Level 2 business as usual by 2020’, the UK BIM Alliance tried to make all their sessions as practical as possible. A good example of this was how the Alliance partnered up with DCW for the launch of their guidance document and data matrix aimed at getting clients and contractors started in selecting data requirements for the construction and operation of buildings.

The UKBIMA Guide

How to reduce the cost associated with COBie? How to leverage efficiencies of scale by automating the data collection at the construction site? The ‘Data requirements for the construction and management of buildings; A guide for clients’ is developed by lead industry thinkers to assist clients in setting their data requirements for the construction of buildings in accordance with BIM Level 2. It does not suggest a definitive set of requirements, but provides the starting point for clients and their supply chains to produce high quality Asset Information Models – ‘digital O&Ms’ that can be used during the long operation stage of any building. Such admirable initiatives make a great point to prove that BIM Level 2 is not the ‘bane of the contractor’ as long as there is enough guidance and clear instructions in how to achieve the best results.

A reason to be proud is that as COBie and data requirements experts Cobuilder were among the contributors who were pulled in to help the Alliance with producing the comprehensive guide based on the available technological solutions of today. Moreover, Cobuilder’s former CEO Nick Tune is one of the three authors of the document (together with Nick Nisbet – AEC3 and Sarah Davidson – Gleeds).

To sum it all up

It is very hard to calculate the ROI of an event in the construction industry. We all know that being there because everybody else is there just does not cut it anymore for your performance-based marketing department. However, we at Cobuilder believe that DCW 2017 was an incredible success on our side. Educating the industry has always been among our first and utmost priorities and seeing so many people attending all the theatres at DCW was exhilarating.

Meet and Greet

The speaker opportunities we got led many people to the Cobuilder Bar where they could meet some of the people behind Cobuilder’s products. This exchange between provider and market is priceless – as we have learned this year ‘it is all about the people’ and change is certainly driven by those people we met – the people at DCW2017.
Finally, we extend our very warm thanks to all visitors that we met at our stand and we hope to see you again next year! Be at DCW 2018 and you will surely find us there!

Digital construction week nick tune
DCW 2017