Digital construction, like BIM, has no universal definition.

Digital construction is the use and application of digital tools to improve the process of delivering and operating the built environment [B1M]

Digital construction includes – but is not limited to – Building Information Modelling; although technology is one of the 4 essentials for BIM.

The Government Construction Strategy 2011 is considered the main driver for the construction industry to adopt digital construction techniques with the bold (but unmet) aim of fully collaborative 3D BIM for government projects. Nonetheless, the Strategy did nudge companies to embrace a new process and face some of its challenges head-on. Amongst its other aims are saving money (as a client), improving productivity, creating world-leading digital construction – BIM is part of the strategic plan to bring construction into the digital age!

McKinsey research shows construction is one of the least digitised industries globally. The UK government in its Digital Built Britain Strategy 2015 recognised that the built environment has been slow to adopt [new] technologies and remains one of the last major industrial sectors to adopt the new ways of working.

The technology behind BIM has existed for many years. So from that perspective, BIM is not novel.

It is the integrated use of those technologies that is novel (which relies on collaboration and to process more than it does on any specific technology). Your project contracts are not the place to specify the technology to be adopted by the project partners.

However, the client does need to make its information needs clear which may require its advisers to ask better questions (see Winfield Rock Report 2018).

What should you do?

Your project contracts need to take into account of the change in risk profile – technology can minimise or remove some known risks but may introduce new previously unidentified risks. Any risks associated with the application of technology for a BIM-enabled project need to be shared (eg there is some disquiet about the CIC BIM Protocol 2018 which allows providers of information to avoid liability for software compatibility).

Your project contracts, or the protocol, also need to consider interoperability, data integrity and security, as well as testing and commissioning. The technology needs to enable the data-sharing process.

References: Digital construction quote from B1M (you can watch their 3-minute video introduction to the topic here); Imagining construction’s digital future (June 2016).

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