Next Generation Offsite Construction

This week saw the Annual Build Offsite Conference at the Institute of Civil Engineers take place. We registered in anticipation of learning from some of the industry greats, networking and spending some time with our construction sector colleagues at the bar, which is always a great way to round off the day.

Richard Ogden, chairman of Build Offsite mapped out the objectives of the event and threw around some really interesting statistics. None were more impressive than the headline: £10 trillion will be spent in the global construction sector in 2017. Whilst it is meant to be an eye-catching figure it does demonstrate the size of the opportunity that is available for everyone in the space. Is your market still 100 miles radius from your office, or is it the world? There’s no need to travel in this new digital world – just pop it in the cloud and chat on Skype, right?

Sir John Armitt gave an inspiring opening address and spoke very eloquently about the relevance of engineers in the world today and the challenges that we all face in the future. Armitt talked about his frustrations in the fact that our sector hasn’t changed it’s thinking in over 50 years of being involved in the built environment. Innovation, R&D and different thinking is at the top of his agenda for moving the sector forward at a time when the market is obsessed with price and terms.

Following Sir John a collection of high level execs from London Underground, Laing O’ Rourke and Mott McDonald gave a great presentation covering all things digital. DfMA , data rich information and augmented reality were used to demonstrate the benefits available to clients and contractors across the supply chain to improve how we quote and deliver projects on time and within budget.

Mike Mungall of GSK presented some eye watering numbers to put into context how R&D in pharmaceuticals compares to that of construction. They have 100,000 people working in 115 countries and their business lives and breathes on the back of R&D. The business globally spends £300,000 per hour on R&D and only 15% of the medicines developed make it to market. On a practical level Mike shared some insight into their supply chain methods and showed how the process is less linear and a more of an open book. A new phrase we learned today was about using Gain share and Pain share to drive behavior designed to work together. We wonder if this will ever be adopted in construction or will it continue to be a ‘push the risk down to Tier 3’s and 4’s model’?

Leif Granholm , BIM Ambassador who is responsible for digital delivery within Trimble (Tekla ) talked about the evolution of drawing and designing of buildings over the centuries. An articulate overview from medieval times through latest technology was genuinely inspiring. Trimble working with partners such as Microsoft will change the way design offices and fabricators work in the future. Watch this space for future announcements from Trimble, it’s game changing.

3 Key learning’s from the day we want to share:

  1. BIM is also starting to be called digital engineering – If you don’t have a digital strategy you are going to get left behind – whether that’s BIM or just developing your overall awareness for digital developments.
  2. The decision our business owners made 6 years ago which centered around focusing on 3D and BIM was 100% correct.
  3. The sector is going to change for all of us at all levels. Different opportunities will throw up different challenges the most nimble and open minded will embrace those opportunities and the others are probably going to get left behind.