Autodesk Construction Solutions (ACS) journeyed to London last week. We kicked the week off with Connect & Construct–a full day of keynotes, workshops and hands-on exhibits addressing the future of design, building and operations. The next day at Autodesk University London, thousands of designers, creators and builders from around the world convened to discuss the trends, best practices and cross-industry opportunities driving the future of the built world.
If you’ve never been to London, the city is striking in its mix of old and new. There are countless historical landmarks juxtaposed by ultra-modern, cutting-edge architecture. Every corner of the city is a stark reminder of how much our building capabilities have evolved throughout history. Yet, with so many construction cranes now erected across London, every window view is an indication of how much opportunity still remains to transform the construction industry.
Attending the week’s events with this frame of mind, I and the rest of the ACS team left London incredibly excited about what’s ahead for the industry, and how it is evolving to deliver the infrastructure our world needs.
Here’s what we covered:
Digitization Is the First Step
After taking some time to catch the digitization wave, the construction industry is now well on its way. It started with moving plans off paper and on to digital mediums–an important initial step–but digitization is about more than just that. Leveraging the power of connected devices and cloud applications, the entire construction team can instantly communicate and share information–designs, estimates, schedules, specifications, activity data and much more.In turn, the office, trailer and the field are all in sync. With the latest information easily available when and where anyone might require it, everyone on the team can work faster and make more informed decisions, in turn reducing costs, saving time, improving safety and minimizing environmental impact.
At Connect & Construct, Skanska, one of the world’s largest construction firms, reiterated its commitment to digitizing and making technology an integral part of how it delivers projects.
“Everything is about making digitalization a natural part of every employee’s everyday life,” said Skanska’s DigiHub Manager Lotta Wibeck. “We want to use the technology to support the work and make information about drawings, deliveries and planning available in real time.”
By ingraining technology into its organization, Skanska aims to make construction more profitable, and eventually more predictable.
Break Down Data Silos by Integrating Workflows
Teams don’t operate in silos–each phase of construction informs the others–and they need access to the right and relevant data across every phase of their projects. If a team’s data is siloed across various applications tailored for a particular construction phase, employees will only have to spend more time manually transferring data to wherever it is needed. So as the construction industry adopts technology solutions, it will require integrations to fully capture the digitization opportunity.
For example, before construction begins, designers create BIM files laying out all of the models and details that will be needed during construction. However, if field workers can’t easily access the BIM information while they are building on-site, they’ll have to spend additional time cross-checking their work against the BIM file once work is complete. By that time, it may be too late to catch mistakes and the team could be forced to rework, increasing costs and potentially the delivery timeline. Autodesk recently released a solution for this specific BIM-in-the-field issue: PlanGrid BIM–the first product integration following Autodesk’s acquisition of PlanGrid, making BIM data easily available in the field.
At Autodesk University, VR and gaming producer Unity Technologies also demonstrated its first integration for the construction industry: Unity Reflect–a solution that allows users to immersively view the latest 3D models via Unity applications on platforms such as the mixed reality headset, HoloLens.
Moving forward, we can expect to see more integrations that streamline workflows so teams can have easy access to all the data they need to make decisions more effectively across the project lifecycle.
Predictive Capabilities Can Take the Industry Even Further
As organizations start sharing information across solutions, they are likely amassing troves of data. Leveraging maturing AI, technology providers will be able to help organizations put that data to use and automatically extract cogent insights on project activity to flag issues and risks before they happen.
Royal BAM Group, a general contractor that showcased its regeneration work at Coal Drops Yard in London’s popular King’s Cross neighborhood, is starting to leverage predictive capabilities through tools like Construction IQ–an analytics solution that uses data from BIM360 to predict project quality and safety risks. In fact, subsidiary BAM Ireland has reported a 20% improvement in project quality and safety since it started using the solution.
With ROI potential like that, we’ll surely see more companies adopting predictive analytics tools in order to gain a competitive advantage in the industry.
In addition to these three key points of transformation–digitizing, integrating and predicting– there was even some talk about what’s beyond predictive analytics.
For example, with some of the lines between manufacturing and construction beginning to blur, companies can start to leverage their digital workflows to increase the use of prefabrication and modular construction, and drive profitability and predictability even further. Design and manufacturing firm Howick was at AU London, along with its partner StrucSoft, showcasing how it’s developing offsite framing solutions for the construction industry.
Final Takeaway from Autodesk University London
Last week’s events made it clear there is a lot of opportunity and work to be done to turn the construction industry into a fully digitized force. But if the vision and enthusiasm of the technology leaders who attended Connect & Construct and Autodesk University are any indication, the future of building is extremely bright.
Missed Connect & Construct and AU London? You can still attend AU Las Vegas 2019 in November. Learn more here.