We have had many false digital dawns in the construction sector, but now it feels different. Progress on Building Information Modelling (BIM) is picking up pace and innovations like 3D printing are now being embraced more widely.
BIM becomes a priority
The Hackitt Review has brought this era of digital engineering within touching distance. The analysis of regulations and building safety following the Grenfell Tower fire included a clear demand for BIM to be ‘mandated’ in the design, construction, refurbishment and operation of all new high-rise residential buildings. Information technology, in general, will play a crucial role in creating the ‘golden thread of information’ identified by the review team and endorsed by new CIBSE President, Stephen Lisk, in his inaugural address.
Mr Lisk noted the importance of preserving the original design intent of a building to ensure it remains safe and energy efficient throughout its operational life. This means embracing the digital tools – now widely available – that can help us hand over high quality technical information to the people charged with running and maintaining the building long after the construction teams have departed.
The Hackitt Review also stressed that digital records should be produced in an ‘open and non-proprietary’ format because ease of access to detailed information about the building will be crucial if its proposed new regulatory system is to work.
‘Having BIM-enabled datasets during occupation means that duty holders will have a suitable evidence base through which to deliver their responsibilities and maintain safety and integrity throughout the life-cycle of a building,’ the Hackitt report said.
The Grenfell tragedy was a seminal moment for our industry. It is a sad fact of life that it often takes a disaster to kickstart much needed change and there are many things that can no longer be ignored in the wake of the fire. The good news is that many of the recommendations made by Dame Judith’s committee are within our industry’s grasp thanks to the growth in digital innovation.
Manufacturers have a crucial role to play by developing and delivering digital tools designed specifically for our specialist sectors. Many of us are already well advanced in our efforts to provide solutions. At Swegon, we have been working hard on methods that underpin a collaborative way of working that involves all of our supply chain partners and addresses many of the ‘systemic’ problems identified by the Hackitt Review.
It does feel like we have been flirting with true digital engineering for some time and that the industry was waiting for a business imperative that would speed up investment in the necessary technologies and training. The Grenfell tragedy has surely provided the necessary impetus by reinforcing the importance of using recent technological breakthroughs to deliver design consistency and to support ongoing building management, safety and efficiency.