Top 10 digital trends in 2023 in the built environment
Built Environment Sector Development Director, EMEA
Article published March 31, 2023
Becoming a global leader requires the right knowledge, skills and an openness to embrace new technologies and processes.
Staying ahead of the latest disruptions in your industry and understanding how they work is key, particularly in fast-moving sectors with complex regulatory landscapes such as the built environment.
To help you become ‘future-ready’, we share a high-level look at the most relevant and important digital trends to impact the built environment sector in 2023 and beyond.
What is meant by the built environment?
Firstly, when we talk about the built environment at BSI, we’re talking about the entire lifecycle of an asset. We provide solutions to organizations throughout the design, construction, operation and decommissioning or refurbishment process, helping them to embed excellence, embrace new technologies, and become more resilient at every stage.
The digital built environment
From machine learning to satellite monitoring - digital technologies are becoming increasingly ingrained into the built environment.
"The rise of new technologies such as digital twins and AI are converging the physical and digital worlds in the form of smart cities and connected assets. This presents huge opportunities for tackling pressing global challenges such as the climate crisis, productivity and rapid urbanization."
- Rahul Shah, Sector Development Director EMEA, Built Environment, BSI
metaverse, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
digital trust and cyber security technologies
building information modelling (BIM)
big data and data analytics
smart cities, the Internet of things (IoT) and the industrial Internet of things (IIoT)
off-site modular manufacturing
wearable technologies and exoskeletons
robotics, automation and drones
3D printing or additive manufacturing
It’s vital for everyone in the sector, from product manufacturers and architects to contractors and government agencies, to adopt digital transformation in order to keep up with the competition and become future-ready.
Top 10 digital trends in the built environment for 2023 and beyond
Stay on the pulse with our breakdown of the latest technologies and global innovations in the sector:
AI and machine learning
virtual reality and the metaverse
digital twins and predictive maintenance
digital trust and cyber security
smart cities, IoT and industrial IoT
additive manufacturing (3D Printing)
1. AI and machine learning will aid decision-making
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already commonplace within many manufacturing and construction processes. For example, AI can be applied to a range of applications and systems such as information modelling or robotics to make predictions and aid decision-making.
AI is computer software that is able to form intelligent decisions, while machine learning is a form of AI that uses statistics to enable computers to learn from data. The more data the computer consumes, the greater intelligence it can gain.
In construction and the built environment, these technologies can be used to identify potential risks by drawing on information from previous projects or data in the system.
Examples of this include:
tackling climate change risk through weather and climate forecasting
advanced safety monitoring
accurate budget predictions and prevention of cost escalation
self-driving vehicles and automotive machinery
whole life cycle asset monitoring.
This leads to enhanced productivity and safety throughout the entire building process.
2. The metaverse and virtual reality (VR)
The concept of the metaverse follows a similar idea. The metaverse is a digital world made up of VR, AR and 3D modelling technologies that merge the physical with the virtual.
According to the World Economic Forum, the metaverse could be the next iteration of the internet that transforms the cyber sphere into a digital twin of the real world, inspiring new ways of living and working. Shopping in virtual stores, working in virtual environments and exploring new spaces virtually is no longer in the realm of science fiction.
With fewer physical restrictions, this virtually-designed environment could lead to more imaginative conceptions of how the built environment should look, perform and work for people in the future.
Virtual reality (VR) describes a computer-generated environment that can be interacted with via a headset and controls.
VR is increasingly being used in architecture and building design. VR technology allows architects and engineers to demonstrate the design of a structure in the most realistic way possible. Rather than showing a client or stakeholder a 2D or even 3D plan, they will be able to immerse themselves in the building and explore different areas virtually.
This interactive, 3D environment could be used to test proposed public buildings and spaces before they are built, allowing potential users to open and close doors or move around the rooms in order to ensure it is built with people in mind. This level of testing will help to reduce revisions once construction has started, reducing costs, avoiding materials waste and making projects more environmentally efficient.
3. BIM will strengthen collaboration
BIM continues to be one of the most important digital trends in the built environment and is a key enabler of data-driven decision-making and improving productivity.
81 per cent of organizations have invested, or are planning to invest, in BIM over the following 12 months. Yet, despite their investment intentions, only 12 per cent of organizations see themselves as leaders in terms of their digital transformation strategies, while 32 per cent feel unprepared and behind in delivering digital transformation standards’
- Digital transformation of the built environment and construction industries, BSI survey
What would it take for your organization to embrace digital transformation?
What is BIM?
BIM is the management of information through the whole life cycle of a built asset, from design to decommissioning, enhancing collaboration between different teams.
It allows for better communication and information sharing across projects through a virtual environment, ensuring that the right information is available, to the right people, at the right time. This could include 3D models, drawings, measurements or performance metrics.
The benefits of BIM to built environment businesses are wide-ranging:
increased efficiency and productivity
a reduction in waste
avoidance of rework costs
opportunities to secure government contracts in places like the UK.
By unifying a previously fragmented landscape, BIM is connecting building owners, designers, construction teams, facilities managers and occupants through shared asset data, leading to safer, more efficient and profitable projects.
BIM in practice
A common data environment (CDE) is a collaborative software environment that allows all members involved in a project to communicate. It acts as a source of information for the project, collating all data in order to avoid duplication or mistakes.
For China’s new stadium for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, for example, the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design’s project team used a BIM methodology to assemble all the components for the planning and design stages, saving 100 resource days and reducing design time by 60%. (Museum of the Future, BBC, 2019)
Large public building projects around the world have historically resulted in worker fatalities. BIM can improve health and safety conditions by identifying potential hazards and solutions, ensuring regulations are maintained and reducing human error and miscommunication.
Successful, widespread adoption of BIM globally is reliant upon a standards-based approach and a shared language that facilitates collaboration.
4. Digital twins will revolutionise predictive maintenance
Advances in cyber-physical technologies have resulted in the emergence of digital twins.
What is a digital twin?
A digital twin is a digital representation of an observable element with a means to enable convergence between the observable element and its digital representation. (Flex 260 standard)
Benefits for the built environment
The benefit of using digital twin technology for the built environment is that it can deliver better outcomes for both the economy and society. By enabling better insight and decision-making across the planning, delivery and management of a built asset, this technology can help to drive up commercial competitiveness, increase productivity and help projects achieve their net zero goals. By improving the building and infrastructure design process, it can also have a positive impact on quality of life and public well-being.
The next big thing for this technology is for digital twins to be able to make predictions. For example, signalling when equipment is on the brink of failure or if a component requires maintenance in real-time. This brings with it benefits such as improved decision-making, safety and efficiency as well as better services for those that depend on physical infrastructure.
The challenge is for different twins, data and technology to work together. For example, digital twins built by a construction company will need to be understood by sub-contractors, IoT device manufacturers and facilities managers and be compatible with their own processes. This requires a common understanding of what good looks like.