Digital technology adoption in UK construction

16 Nov 21

While the extent of digital adoption remains moderate to low in most areas of construction in the UK, the rate of adoption is picking up post-Covid, believes GIRI Technology Working Group member Abhishek Srivastava, who runs technology company Teknobuilt.

Abhi was speaking at the GIRI technology in construction webinar which addressed the role technology can play in reducing errors in construction. He observed that while digital adoption as a whole remains low, many organisations are implementing multiple point solutions to solve problems. “There are a lot of good point solutions that offer efficiency benefits for specific departments or teams, but how do we move towards increased digital adoption overall and consider how, as organisations, we can integrate all these solutions?”

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GIRI’s working group aims to identify technologies that reduce error and offer new revenue streams as well as new opportunities for adding value. “This is much more than just the application of the technology,” said Abhi, “and it is also more than the process of converting analogue information, interactions and communications to digital. Digital engineering is likely to combine a range of technologies such as autonomous, semi-autonomous, and manual operations with the cloud, with sensors, with big data and 3D printing to open up new possibilities and create new products, services, and eco-systems.”

As part of its research, the TWG looked at current technology adoption in UK construction, categorising solutions by their various stages – from digitally-enabled design to digital facilities management and the creation of digital twins. In all cases, adoption is currently sitting at low or moderate, although Abhi noted that implementation rates in all cases are changing post-Covid.

There is moderate take-up of digitally-enabled design including BIM, digital process, design management and virtual reality. However technologies such as supply chain analytics, blockchain and cloud computing, which fall under digitally-enabled procurement and can help to enable collaboration and best practice in project management, continue to see low take-up. Blockchain, in particular, said Abhi, has the potential to support effective and transparent contract management and can improve productivity and efficiency.

While there is moderate take-up of digitally-enabled manufacture and sub-assembly technologies such as MMC, this is lower for on-site technologies. But Abhi highlighted the numerous point solutions that can help to reduce errors on site, or catch them early, such as drones, 3D printing, and some on-site automation. And the benefits of having a full digital eco-system mean we can move towards a more integrated digital FM/digital twins approach, using sensors, GIS, and Internet of Things innovations.

He emphasised that technology should never be considered in isolation. “The approach is important. The technology on its own may not reduce error, but we can definitely use technology to reduce errors if we have a proper understanding of the areas we need to focus on.”

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