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The future of the construction industry is digital

The double-whammy of a pandemic and a recession has made 2020 one of the most challenging and disrupted years in living memory. 

But the bright spot, in an otherwise battered economy, is construction, which forms a major part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ”Build Back Better” campaign. Britain’s construction industry grew at the fastest rate in almost five years in July as business picked up after the coronavirus-related shutdown. The IHS Markit/CIPS construction Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 58.1 in July from 55.3 in June. A sharp rebound from April’s record low of 8.2.

With governments around the world urgently investigating fiscal stimulus measures to get virus-hit countries back on their feet, research shows that climate-friendly policies could deliver better results for global economies and the environment.

The global construction industry is estimated to be responsible for between 35 to 45 per cent of CO2 released into the atmosphere, making it a major contributor to global warming. Given global commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change, the industry urgently needs to adopt more sustainable methods.

Two new technologies will help drive construction’s transformation to being a sustainable digital industry – Building Information Modeling (BIM) and modular construction.

BIM uses data to analyse and improve design, construction and operation of buildings. Modular construction turns construction into assembly – almost like Lego for the real world. We are rapidly approaching a time when both digital and modular will be a “must-have”, not a “nice-to-have”.

A move to digital transformation, driven by legislation and a new focus on safety, will become key priorities in a post-pandemic world. While architectural and engineering professions have been leading the switch, compelled by the government’s BIM mandate, the benefits of digital haven’t been seen across the sector.

The construction industry needs solid data to do everything, from running its day-to-day business to attracting new business. It’s technology that can provide these crucial resources across the board.

We believe the construction industry can, and must, improve. With change being driven by improved decision-making, based on connected systems and information, the industry can deliver better outcomes. People, organisations, and data will come together through technology and smarter ways of working. With a growing population and increasing competition for resources, we believe this will benefit construction, the wider economy, and society as a whole.

Digital tools improve standards, reduce mistakes and improve record keeping and auditing at every stage. This keeps costs down, builds on schedule, and drives up quality. The construction industry is notoriously sluggish when it comes to the adoption of technology. But if we are to meet the challenges of delivering 2050 net-zero targets, as well as building better, safer and smarter, then property contractors and developers need to embrace digital.

Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of the Transition Board, has also called for the whole industry to improve standards and embrace technology to help boost building safety and quality. So there is political and social pressure on the sector to rapidly adopt digital to improve practice.

Equally, emerging tech companies like Botmore, Oculo, and One.Site are making it easier, championing a digital drive in the construction industry.

Ultimately, the future is digital and should be welcomed, not only to protect the environment but also turbocharge Britain’s economic recovery.