Digitising the Construction Sector

The digital revolution is upon us. It may have taken a little longer to reach the construction industry, but now that it’s arrived, it’s here to stay. To become more efficient, environmental and economical, we need to let go of the past and embrace the future. Digital information now guides construction from inception through to demolition, helping to save time, money and mistakes.

This new approach can be summed up in three words: building information modelling (BIM). BIM is a multidimensional tool that generates visual models of buildings, whilst simultaneously managing data about it – from design through to completion. As opposed to the traditional blueprints that comprise lines and shapes, BIM takes a dataset and turns it into a virtual 3D or 4D representation. By doing this, we can accurately see how an object will be handled and negotiated when it’s actually built.

It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about BIM solely in terms of ‘software’. Of course technology is a big part of it, but BIM needs to be considered more holistically, as an entire process, which is as much about collaboration and business-mindedness as it is cutting costs and waste.

To promote and raise awareness of this exciting new approach to design and construction, the Technology Strategy Board has set up a competition, Digitising the Construction Sector, with the intention of investing up to £6million in collaborative research and design. The catch? Proposals must promote the digitisation of the construction sector supply chain. This means a synergy between construction, digital and ICT communities, with the goal of developing novel products, processes or services that not only change the way we collaborate with supply chain partners, but ultimately revolutionise the business models we use.

As a company that has always been at the forefront of industry trends and innovations, TDS was more than ready to enter this competition. Our work on Chiswick Park (a business complex that encompasses an office development, a supermarket, a health club, and a restaurant) seemed to fit the criteria perfectly. The site has already won numerous awards, including the Financial Times 50 Best Places to Work.

We were set the task of designing parts of Building 7, a stage of the project that required a specific understanding of digitisation – namely BIM. We undertook the drawing work of three external fire escapes, one internal staircase, and balustrade to the roof. By marrying our knowledge with BIM technology, we were able to produce a model that exceeded all expectations, giving such detailed information as the exact specifications of individual components.

Of course, an essential part of the project was collaboration. For instance, all models were regularly exported and integrated, so that any potential problems or setbacks could immediately be seen and tackled collectively. Put all these components together and you have a project that was not only cost and time efficient, but mindful of usability and sustainability too. And whatever the outcome, it is a project that has undoubtedly set a precedent for the future.