A Digital Reflection

A Digital Reflection
Left to Right, Rudi Moore (Farrans), David Comiskey (Ulster University), Melanie Dawson (Chair BIM Regions), Stephen Henderson (RPS Group) and Simon White (Atkins Digital Director).

Following Digital Construction Live, how does RPS view digital growth in the last year?

As we are just back from this year’s Digital Construction Live, which saw almost 500 professionals attend; it is time to reflect on what we have learned and shared. The conference, hosted by broadcast journalist and the original UK voice of Siri: Jon Briggs, aimed to raise awareness of BIM and digital construction, and provide a collaborative platform for best practice to be shared.

Going further than exploring what digital means for the industry, this year’s Construction Live event had a packed programme featuring talks on Industrial Revolution 4.0, technology, practical uses of digital solutions, innovations along with Digital Built Britain and Digital Transformation.

“After last year’s successful BIM Conference hosted in Belfast, I was keen for our staff to be a part of that in 2017,” said RPS Managing Director Michael Shaw “especially with this year’s focus being Digital Construction - an area in which we have made considerable advances over the past year.”

One noticeable change from last year was the uptake of immersive technologies – including that of augmented and virtual reality – with nearly every company exhibiting in 2017 using this technology in various formats. The benefits of immersive visualisation technologies were being very well received, with an increased number of professionals visiting the RPS stand more knowledgeable about and engaging with its practical uses.

As Anne Kemp from the UK BIM Alliance working group described in her presentation on Open BIM “Our physical world is increasingly merging with the virtual world. How we, as human beings, understand and facilitate that is where the excitement lies.”

RPS Marketing and Graphics Manager Stephen Henderson spoke on how RPS is exploring the applications of VR for our industry at the event. Stephen and the Digital Transformation team in Belfast utilise their combined expertise in engineering and business strategy to help identify and utilise VR technology through collaborative cross-sector development programmes. RPS is exploring and applying the use of VR and AR across the fields of BIM, Health and Safety training, Asset management and many more fields where it is advantageous to visualise and understand a new environment before it is built or operated.

Speaking at the event, Melanie Dawson - Chair of NI BIM Regions Group, said: “The demand for Building Information Modelling (BIM) continues to grow across construction projects in the UK... This is partly as a result of the government mandate for BIM Level 2 in 2016 but also because public and private sector clients are increasingly understanding the potential value BIM can bring.”

Mrs Dawson continued: “The construction sector in the UK employs over two million people and contributes £100 billion in economic output. It is a key contributor to the UK economy. With the global construction market expected to grow 70% by 2025, digital transformation plays a key role in driving efficiencies and ensuring the ongoing competitiveness of the industry.”

Undoubtedly one of the biggest issues that the event threw a spotlight on was the digitisation of construction and the implementation of BIM, with the recurring message throughout the conference being the desire for implementation of BIM Level 2 to become ‘business as usual’. The Digital Built Britain strategy suggests that over the next decade we will become totally connected and BIM will continue to combine with the Internet of Things; advanced data analytics and the digital economy. This will allow us to plan more effectively, build at a lower cost and operate more efficiently. Fiona Moore from Digital Built Britain put it in context very neatly as she said “For every physical structure a digital twin would be created.”

RPS presented its use of Immersive Technologies at the event. This was not just for engineering projects, but for the purpose of creating a user experience that would allow those immersed in the virtual environment to move freely and really gain an understanding of the space available to them. RPS Marketing & Graphics Manager Stephen Henderson explains: “To move beyond a novelty in the Architecture Engineering and Construction industry, Virtual & Mixed Reality needs to shift from a platform of purely consumption, to one of a data rich immersive storytelling experience. The sector is changing fast. Advancements in virtual reality and the internet of things will continue to be major disruptors. At RPS we believe that collaboration and communication is fundamental to our industry’s future success.”

“Our clients now understand that we all use 3D models and expect the design team to collaborate and federate their information. As digital construction and BIM mature we must look beyond the clever technology and authoring platforms and truly understand our clients’ required outcomes and use the best tools to achieve these to be as efficient as possible.”

It is at events such as this that the myth about the construction industry being ‘conservative’ both towards innovation and diversity gets set straight!