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During the launch event for Digitising the Construction Sector competition on 20 February the Modern Built Environment KTN held an afternoon workshop session on Data Acquisition and Processing.

 

luckey_sun | Flickr via Creative Commons

luckey_sun | Flickr via Creative Commonsbim

A big thank you to all the participants that joined us during the afternoon. We had 25 participants from a range of disciplines and sectors, including universities, consultancies, technology providers and major contractors. Some of the most fruitful discussions came about from having representatives from sectors such as automotive and aerospace in the room confirming that other sectors may be ahead of the curve, but they still face the same challenges.

Some of the key discussion points revolved around:

Structuring data

There was considerable discussion about how to capture data and structure it. Enforcing structures can be difficult to implement and may result in people simply not providing the right data. In many instances the data exists but the right people don’t know it exists.
Those from the aerospace sector stressed the importance of not getting hung up on getting perfect datasets. Enforced data structures can be difficult to implement. Need to build the datasets based on data you have and then translate them. It is critically important to understand the context of the data. Need to have both human and machine readable data.
There was a lively discussion around the premise of “good data is the data you have”. On the one hand those from the IT sector asserted that perfect data is not necessary, new data analytics tools enable users to mash data, however from the testing and certification side concerns were raised about making decisions based on poor quality data. Can mashability work in this context? Is good data the data you have? Should data be structureless with a smart librarian to collate it?

Trust in data

Data based decisions are better decisions, but can you trust the data? Who is going to take the bold decision and risk to base their decisions on BIM data rather than traditional models? One contractor in the room agreed to take on the risk of ordering precise amounts of plasterboard based on BIM calculations, the results were less product ordered, lower cost and less waste to landfill.
Emerging services such as condition based maintenance rely on trust in the quality of the data – this requires a culture change within the FM sector and integration within their existing processes.
Ownership of data also emerged as an issue. If this data is going to be used across the life of the building and its constituent assets, are robust models in place to ensure data is kept up to date? Moreover, procurers are going to have to be enlightened FM companies are buying data as well as assets, but many others are buying systems and then finding they cannot access the data. Data has a value and business models need to surround it.

Embedding BIM throughout the industry

Discussions centred around how BIM should be part of the process, it should be how the industry does things rather than simply an add on. Everyone should be empowered to be BIM enabled. At this stage it is not widely implemented throughout the industry. How can Tier 1 & Tier 2 contractors ensure that their Tier 3 & 4 contractors understand BIM and feed in the data. There currently appears to be ambiguity about what is meant by BIM, but the work of the BIM TaskGroup should help to dispel such ambiguity.
Much of this centres around culture change and changing mindsets. However BIM systems need to find ways to integrate with how people work rather than requiring people to change their working practices. This is critical to extracting the right data at each stage of the process.
Some of the academics in the room were looking at how the academic sector can support the industry in developing the right skills to exploit the opportunities of BIM.

Existing buildings

There was a good deal of discussion around what we do with the existing built environment and its assets. The UK’s building stock is one of the oldest in the world so is there a role for BIM in existing buildings? Do technologies such as geometric reasoning open up new opportunities for us to scan physical assets and use the data to better manage and refurbish our existing buildings?

The Digitising the Construction Sector competition opens on 17 April and closes on 30 April. The Modern Built Environment KTN is running workshops in Cardiff on 11 March and Glasgow on 17 March.

Ali Nicholl
About the Author
Innovation Network Manager @BRE_Group helping companies to innovate within the built environment. All opinions my own.

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