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This is where digital construction will be in 12 months

Mathew Riley

The past 12 months have seen a number of forces begin to tackle construction’s unacceptable levels of productivity.

The issue our industry now faces is how we adapt to change.

The sector deal announced in November’s Budget provides a potential catalyst for these changes. We now need to bring together digital design and offsite construction to truly boost productivity – not only to address the acute shortage of affordable housing but other assets too.

Digital design techniques are becoming more accessible, and it is vital that such innovation is encouraged and invested in. Advances in computational design and the use of data can revolutionise the industry. Advanced digital design tools solve major engineering challenges, allowing us to model and analyse design options faster and earlier, speed up planning and assess options with greater ease.

Housing drive

Chronic shortages in affordable housing will drive offsite construction. Many organisations are developing their own offsite supply chain, which is encouraging – but only part of the story.

By combining digital design with offsite construction, the industry can take huge strides forward in delivery and, I believe, boost overall sector productivity by up to 40 per cent.

However, technological advancement without practical experience can create solutions that don’t deliver.

“By this time next year, new technology-driven skills will have emerged and the industry will be beginning to attract new talent”

Government and industry leaders must recognise the potential benefits and help to deliver a standardisation of digital tools and methods. This will become easier the more they are adopted, as time and money are saved, safer design is delivered and productivity and sustainability improves.

Construction will reap rewards with new skills offsetting shortages elsewhere, reduced onsite labour costs, and a more sustainable business model that can compete for the best talent.

The golden egg

With stronger evidence, by the end of 2018 we will likely see the procurement process formally requesting and assessing digital techniques. But clients must not kill the goose that lays the golden egg; the supply chain must be rewarded on long-term value rather than short-term cost.

This will foster new partnerships and open the door to more affordable investments. The fundamental needs of our social and economic infrastructure have not changed, but how we pay for them will.

By this time next year, new technology-driven skills will have emerged and the industry will be beginning to attract new talent.

Those that are bold will reap the rewards.

Mathew Riley is managing director at Ramboll UK

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