What Can We Learn from Digital Construction Week?

Digital Construction Week is the only UK event dedicated to the digital innovation of construction, engineering, manufacturing, and operation. 

As the largest conference that brings together industry influencers, solution providers and innovators, it demonstrates how technology is shaping the future for construction companies. 

The week provides us with insight, talks, and workshops into the groundbreaking tech and systems that will transform industries as we know them today. 

Commencing across one week in October, 180 industry-leading companies showcase their products and solutions; providing real-life examples of how technology and construction are coming together. 

We cannot deny that technology is changing the way we plan, design and construct buildings. In many ways, technology is currently shaping the way we interact with buildings and maintain them, so it is only right that it is having a revolutionary impact on how we build them. 

Only by understanding the technology available to us, and the technology of the future, can we grow with the change that is coming, rather than be swept away with it. 

If you couldn’t make Digital Construction Week this year, we’ve rounded up the key areas that we feel are worth learning more about. 

Senior Leaders Are Still Not Adopting Tech 

Author Mark Farmer presented a talk at Digital Construction Week around the adoption of new technology which many of us in the construction industry can relate to. 

Despite the rise in technology for the construction industry, senior leaders are still not adopting new technology, and instead continue to favour analog processes. As Mark points out in his report Modernise or Die, this is putting a strain on productivity. 

During his talk, Mark revealed that there are now many different technologies available to both large and small construction companies, which should be harnessed. 

These technologies have the ability to improve site safety, design and build quality. Yet, as Mark detailed, the closer you get to the site, the more paperwork and outdated practices continue to dominate. 

The message from Mark Farmer was clear. If we are going to truly innovate in the construction sector, reskilling the workforce must be a priority. Digital transformation has to come from new talent entering the industry, and with the upskilling of existing roles. Otherwise, as an industry, we are going to keep seeing the same problems appear. 

Unfortunately, in Mark’s report, he found that if digital skills aren’t updated, the new technology available to us will take four or five times longer to land in the construction industry. 

AI Won’t Be Replacing Jobs Yet 

Machine learning and artificial intelligence has done a lot of scare-mongering in the construction industry. Many organisations and people are concerned about how this future technology could replace man and machine. 

On the Innovation Stage at Digital Construction Week, Josh Crystal at Maber Architects revealed the truth about where AI would play a role in both the design and build of our future buildings. 

Using a real-life case study, Josh explained how during a commission they tested an AI to truly see if the results could surpass those of a human architect. 

While the results looked promising, the current format of AI did not meet the criteria required by the client. As Josh explained, there are many things that the machine did not understand, which means at present, machine learning cannot replace architects. 

Without a doubt, machine learning is going to become a standard design tool that we will see more of in the future, but none of us need to worry that it will be replacing our jobs just yet. 

Building Information Modeling is Growing

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a 5D process that provides engineering, construction and architecture professionals with the data and tools to plan efficiently, design, and construct buildings and infrastructure. 

BIM is already being used across the UK by businesses and government agencies who plan, design and construct infrastructures. Although the technology has been around for decades, there has been increased adoption over the past few years, as improvements have been made to the systems available. 

During Digital Construction Week, leaders in the arena of digital construction revealed their collaboration to create a framework that sets out how BIM should be used in the UK. 

The UK BIM Framework has been set up by the UK BIM Alliance, BSI and the Centre for Digital Built Britain to outline how BIM should be utilised to manage information and data. 

As highlighted at the conference, the ultimate result is for more organisations to adopt and implement BIM systems to reduce costs, waste, and improve the operation and maintenance of buildings. 

Drones Are Rapidly Changing the Way We Work 

Many of the exhibits at Digital Construction Week could have entertained you for hours. But aside from being fun to try, the number of drone technologies available in the industry is growing. 

More tech organisations are utilising drone technology to provide the construction industry with data and insights that were once impossible to collect without huge expenses. As drones are reaching commodity status, construction firms are using them to improve their approach to plan, design and build infrastructure.

According to a survey, 55% of UK and Irish construction companies now capture information from drone technology, compared to only 33% in 2017. 

Leading construction company Kier, are currently using drones on key projects to help them capture progress, complete 360 photography, and photogrammetry. 

Although more drone systems are becoming available, again, a lack of education around the technology is what was highlighted the most during the conference. 

Construction companies often use drone technology for photography or video footage, but few are using the technology to add value to their services. For example, utilising digital terrain models, 3D modeling or thermal imaging. 

Once again, the technology is flying ahead, while skills and knowledge are still far behind. 

From reviewing the insights gathered at Digital Construction Week, the obvious concerns are ever more present. Technology is available to the construction industry, and it’s excelling at an extraordinary pace, but the people in the industry are still not catching up.