We’re now seeing the Building Safety Act move from plans to action – an event no longer merely on the horizon, but instead looming large as a focus for all involved in the built environment.
The 1 October deadline to register with the new Building Safety Regulator has now passed, and in September the first remediation order was handed down under the Act’s new powers. While the remediation order won’t impact contractors and architects directly, it demonstrates the importance of elements such as having a “golden thread” of information to maintain a clear digital record of any new or existing building.
With the legislation now firmly part of the built environment’s everyday reality, nearly every stakeholder is thinking about how technology can not only help them be compliant but thrive in an increasingly digitally-driven future.
We’re going to identify four key considerations for organisations, at any stage of digital transformation, looking to ride the next wave of digital construction in the Building Safety Act era. However, there are many more ways to enhance workflows and add value, setting firms up for digital success in years to come.
Finding your golden thread
Firstly, arguably the key element of the Building Safety Act is creating a “golden thread of information” that enables an understanding of the materials and processes that have been used to construct the building and how to keep it safe. This information needs to be accurate, understandable and easily accessible for those who need it.
This means that data management is integral to proving a building is safe throughout the course of its lifespan. Implementing a common data environment (CDE) that is flexible and interoperable allows all collaborators on a building project to leave a robust digital paper trail.
With mobile devices and collaboration software now widespread, it’s easier than ever to collect and upload data on site, which goes a long way towards making sure this golden thread is as robust as possible. This can include documents, models, drawings, photos and trade-to-trade handovers, all of which helps to evidence compliance during the build phase.
Using construction management software that’s compatible with a range of technologies enables workers to take advantage of cutting-edge tools like reality capture and model-based overlays that enhance workflows and add value.
An extra dimension
The modern building site is just as much about scanners and sensors as bricks and mortar. Reality capture is a technology that is increasingly present on innovative new builds – the process of laser scanning and capturing a building, combining measurements and imagery to create a point cloud file.
Using mesh model software, teams can then convert the file into a 3D model, which can be easily accessed by project teams across all areas of the build, giving stakeholders a visual, interactive impression of the progress of the project, from any location. Unreliable paper trails are a thing of the past, with digital construction-led builds being much more transparent and traceable.
Interoperability is key
Making sure that all your data platforms and digital tools integrate and work together smoothly is crucial to piecing the puzzle together. In an industry that brings together so many different stakeholders – contractors, sub-contractors, engineers, architects, designers and more – it can be all too daunting a task.
This, too, is where having a CDE to maintain a single source of truth can help to streamline workflows. Many platforms also incorporate application programming interfaces (APIs) to seamlessly integrate other applications and data sources.
Getting this right is about sensible technology procurement but also about skills development and helping people to engage with technology. As Mace head of BIM and digital engineering Duncan Yarroll says, “ultimately, the success of any technology is getting people to embrace its use and invest in the training”.
According to our, 56% of the UK construction firms that said they were ‘unprepared’ for the Building Safety Act blamed a lack of skilled people. This is reflective of a wider talent crisis in the construction industry, but in order to be fully compliant and prepared for a technology-led future, organisations need to take an approach to digital construction that is driven by and for its workforce.
Ultimately, technology is only as useful as the people that can implement and maximise it. Strengthening the talent pipeline and placing a greater emphasis on digital skills development is pivotal to ensuring the Building Safety Act lives up to its potential. This is real opportunity for UK construction to take the lead on digital and data standards that will result in safer and more sustainable buildings for all.
- Matt Keen is director, construction strategy at Autodesk
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