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Glodon Co., Ltd.

Glodon Co., Ltd.

Dec 15.2022

Improving the Built Environment Through the Power of Data and Technology

By Cristina Savian

Nima international ambassador and Digital Twin expert at BE-WISE- UK and Australia

As the focus shifts to building a better-built environment, information management is being served as one of the key drivers to create a rewarding and productive construction lifecycle. There could not be a more excellent example of the shift of the focus within the BIM community towards the I in BIM than the recent rebranding of the UKBIM Alliance into nima.

Nima's new tagline is With trusted data, great things happen. As a passionate advocate for the adoption of digital twins for our built assets, I couldn't agree more with this statement and I couldn't be more proud to have been chosen as an international ambassador for the organisation based on my strong interest and work in this growing field. And I am happy to learn that Glodon has just joined nima as the first international patron (link to announcement).

I strongly believe that purpose-driven data, when 'managed correctly, can produce powerful results, which is also why I believe that digital twins are at the core of the data-driven economy.

There is no doubt that 'managing data correctly' is the most challenging aspect of our construction process, but it is also the most rewarding if we achieve it correctly. We, as construction professionals, have a long history of being outstanding when it comes to building our world. However, we have also been proven not to be so great when it comes to keeping good records of the assets with disastrous consequences, as in the case of the Grenfell tower in London. If it were actually that good, there is no doubt that several professions, like surveyors, whose jobs are to continually collect data about the same assets, would be in short demand. Is job preservation what is preventing us from being able to manage our data effectively across the lifecycle of a project?

I seriously doubt that this is the case. There has not been a substantial change in the way we procured built assets over the decades, and the procurement contracts have followed suit as well. You have a need for a new building or infrastructure that needs to be built, so you gather architects, engineers, and builders to build it, then either manage it yourself or hire someone to help you manage it. We focus on the physical asset, not on the creation of those digital records that can benefit us in the long term. We are still far from seeing widespread adoption and inclusion of digital information management requirements into procurement contracts, despite huge efforts from industry professionals and BIM advocates and international standards like ISO 19650 being around for some time. As a matter of fact, it's clear that asking for those digital handovers to be included in the contracts can have a long-term benefit; Digital data is being produced anyway; why not exploit it for other purposes in countless ways?

What are the reasons behind the low adoption rate that we experience today? As we have seen in the RICS whitepaper, which I authored and featured in the previous edition of this Insight magazine. I am curious to know why we are still debating whether or not an effective digital information management process is valuable.

It is a fact that we all appreciate the value of Google. Nowadays, Google Maps and your phone are all you need to get around effortlessly a new city without having to plan anything, and there are several search engines and apps that can assist you with finding all kinds of historical information within minutes.

There is no doubt that we all understand the importance of having something similar for our built assets. I think we all do, don't we?

What would it be like if we could know how many workers are currently working in a construction site and their real-time position with a simple search, or if we knew how many tower cranes there were and their current working conditions within a matter of minutes? If we improved the efficiency of our built assets, and at a higher level, of the entire city, we would be able to provide a better environment across the entire country for all users, starting from ourselves.

In the last 25 years, how has the industry progressed in terms of data and technology? We certainly have made improvements in some parts of the building process; we no longer have drawing boards, and it does not take us years to design a building; we now design digitally, and the process is faster and has been optimised thanks to technological advancement. We create plenty of digital records, so new apprentices will be searching through digital files instead of an unwelcoming environment. For some people, it might be a better working environment. Is this all the improvement we managed to achieve? Would you say we are satisfied with the results? 

Joke aside, apart from producing tons of digital data, what percentage of that data are we actually leveraging and utilising in the long run? Wouldn't it be great if we could organise and search our building records in a more meaningful way so that we could make data-driven decisions more easily and benefit the entire duration of the building?

The Grenfell Tower disaster in London is a clear example of how valuable the golden thread of information can be in the long run when it comes to protecting the community from harm. The new Building Safety Bill mandates a new digitally enable process to improve the health and safety of buildings and hopefully soon, other countries will follow.                                        

But firstly, how do we enable a data-driven culture embedded into the entire procurement model so that we can all contribute to creating and managing the flow of information effectively to ultimately contribute to enabling the digital twin, the core engine, to find your way around the asset? How do we create a digital twin capable of generating meaningful insights at any given time, alerting you when you fail to take preventative action to improve the lifetime and economics of your asset?

Let's learn from those who have already successfully done it; the focus of Google's guide to establishing a data-driven culture is on three core factors: people, processes, and technology.

There is no lack of technological solutions, Glodon has abundant evidence of how data can be collected, managed, and exploited across the construction lifecycle. In fact, in the case of Glodon's R&D building in Xi'an, the digital twin lean construction is achieved. The Glodon Digital Building Platform helped collect data and monitor on-site people, equipment, and material as well as the construction process and environment in real-time by leveraging the power of BIM, Cloud Computing, Big Data, IoT, Mobile Internet, and AI.

So what is preventing everyone else from adopting a better system?

First is the process, starting with the very established, cumbersome, out-of-date procurement model for data acquisition, combined with the people tasked with working across this very long lifecycle, which needs to come together seamlessly.

We need to seek a construction economy in which activity and decision-making are driven by data that is collected, stored, and analysed but most importantly, we need to enable a data-driven culture by default.

My opening speech from the recent Digital Twin conference in Saudi Arabia, in which I had the honor to chair, summarises what we need to tackle the people and processes pieces of the puzzle.

What is required is dreamers who think innovatively and make bold moves. As we are witnessing countries such as Australia and Saudi Arabia, who have initiated the journey of embracing the digital twin opportunity and successfully started incorporating those digital requirements and specifically mandating and sourcing digital twins along with the creation of the physical built assets.

The world deserves dreamers. - that think innovatively

We must think innovatively about how we design, construct and operate our built assets. We are far from leaving future generations a resilient, sustainable, efficient, profitable, and sustainable built environment.

The world deserves dreamers who can make bold moves.

It is our responsibility as global leaders in this digitally built world to be the bold move the world needs. Let's all be dreamers who drive positive change across the industry so that the unimaginable of yesterday becomes a reality today.

Technology is already available, so what are we waiting for to improve the built environment through the power of data and technology?