The concept of mass digitization in any given industry is not new. When it comes to the field of construction, however, Gareth Hayes, a partner in Roland Berger's Engineered Products & High Tech (EPHT) Competence Center in Chicago, said the industry is behind.
Hayes offered up a keynote address concerning this matter in his presentation titled Digital Revolution: The New Face of Construction at BUILDEX Calgary Nov. 8.
"Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Building Management Systems (BMS) will change the way we live and work and how structures will be built. There will be implications for architects, engineers, the construction industry and product manufacturers," Hayes said in an interview with the Journal of Commerce, adding digitization will impact the entire value chain.
"BIM streamlines and centralizes information. It's a living, virtual twin, where there's a fully digital rendering of what will happen that can be simulated. It becomes the single source of truth from which parties are operating."
Hayes explained BIM ensures the correct items arrive to the correct site at the correct time.
"BIM will increase safety and quality. It will reduce errors and the re-work associated with the wrong materials being brought to a job site," he adds.
Hayes notes the United Kingdom and Singapore are leaders in BIM, as they are issuing regulations requiring builders to design and build using these modelling systems.
Hayes speculates mass digitization of North American construction is behind other parts of the world in part because there's less of a regulatory push in Canada and the United States to adopt digitization measures and, hence, less of an impetus to move toward it.
"The reality is, it isn't happening if there isn't regulatory demand for it," Hayes said.
He contrasts the construction industry with others like the auto and aerospace industries.
"Construction involves a more complex network than that of other industries. One project can have different locations and there are numerous people who must interact with one another to complete a project," Hayes said.
"Furthermore, unlike in the auto industry, job sites are often outside and deal with varying weather conditions. This doesn't lend itself to a high level of digitization."
Currently, there are six levels of BIM, with BIM Level 1 being the "base level" that has existed for some time. Between 2019 and 2022, Hayes estimates that BIM Level 2, which is already being used in countries like Singapore and Germany, will be widely used across Canada and the United States. BIM Level 2 sees sharing between some people with Level 3 involving a single-share-project model that gets across all levels.
The other prong of mass digitization of the construction industry involves BMS.
"It's like a smart home. BMS involves taking a building with disconnected heating and cooling systems and linking them together," Hayes said, adding that results in such conveniences as being able to control one's home from one's smartphone. "BMS is about taking things that used to be discrete and connecting them."
Hayes anticipates the principal challenge associated with increased digitization of the construction industry will be with the rollout of digitization initiatives. Hayes characterized the construction industry as relatively risk averse.
"This involves an industry that has been doing things a certain way for a very long time," Hayes said.
"Digitization in construction in inevitable. The benefits are undeniably positive, even though it might be painful to get there," Hayes concluded, listing efficiency and quality as significant benefits.