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    Built Environment

Data management in the built environment

Experience the burgeoning demand for digital transformation within the built environment sector.

Becoming a data-driven organization

Over a decade ago, the UK government initially encouraged the built environment sector to embrace building information modelling (BIM), a method for overseeing data throughout a construction project's entire lifecycle.

Starting in 2016, a significant portion of the UK's BIM initiatives concentrated on integrating ISO 19650 Building Information Modelling – a global standard for information management of built assets – alongside the corresponding guidance within the UK BIM Framework, seamlessly into everyday business and project operations.

The digital drive is accelerating

The Construction Playbook, published in December 2020, gives guidance to UK Government bodies and other organizations on sourcing and contracting public works projects and programmes.

First, client organizations are urged to “harmonize, digitize and rationalize demand” in their use of platform approaches, standard products, and components – critical to transforming the sector’s ability to plan, invest and deliver digital and offsite manufacturing technologies.

It adds that contracting authorities in the UK should use the UK BIM Framework to standardize the approach to generating and classifying data, information security and information exchange because many organizations have poor digital legacy.

The Playbook states: “While the volume of data relating to UK construction is rapidly increasing, it is often fragmented or not easily accessible.”

This can be a result of industry project teams that historically engaged in silo-based working, and the adoption of proprietary software applications that can hamper sharing and reuse of information.

Improvements to consistency and quality of data can also help to make digital transformation a reality. Standards and guidance for interoperability of information have a role to play in this.

Enhanced data sharing is becoming more prevalent

The requirement for interoperability is highlighted still further in a report from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority – the UK Government's centre of expertise for major projects – called Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP): Roadmap to 2030.

The TIP and The Construction Playbook form the basis of the UK Government’s construction strategy. Both are endorsed by built environment organizations, so there will likely be a greater demand for the sharing of enhanced data.

In addition, a UK Government and Industry Interoperability Group has been established to focus efforts on areas including classification, client information management practices, technologies, and procurement.

Enhanced lifetime value

Many organizations across the UK architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) sectors already have advanced digital capabilities, but the UK government construction policy now requires that these continue to evolve.

Supply-side organizations’ people, processes and technologies will also need to be adapted to satisfy growing client-side demands for better long-term outcomes.

Relevant support is offered through the Construction Innovation Hub’s Value Toolkit which drives “better social, environmental and economic outcomes through value-based decision making.”

There are also sectoral initiatives. For example, in August 2021, the UK rail regulator, Network Rail and the UK Department for Transport jointly launched a Better Value Rail Toolkit.

The TIP vision is a data-connected ‘system of systems’ where investment and operation decisions in the built environment are driven by insights derived from data.

Client owner-operators are likely to expect suppliers to conform to exacting long-term asset information requirements. And using data to drive new and more efficient ways of working can help AEC organizations to be competitive in a market where increasing volumes of rich information move increasingly quickly to sustain longer-term collaborative relationships.

Enhanced whole-life data

The original UK Government BIM hypothesis was: “Government as a client can derive significant improvements in cost, value, and carbon performance through the use of open sharable asset information.” This remains as true today as it was a decade ago, but we are now more painfully aware of the dangers of climate crisis and are yet to achieve that ideal state of ‘open sharable asset information.’

In its latest policy announcements, the UK Government is setting out its heightened expectations of secure exchange and use of information across organizational boundaries and systems and physical assets. AEC organizations – and the technology businesses supporting them – will need to efficiently create and securely share, manage, and maintain clients’ asset information.

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