We hear a lot about the benefits of digital transformation and BIM in the construction industry – but in order to truly realise the benefits, we must first accept the cultural and behavioural changes necessary, argues Andrew Carpenter of BIM4Housing
When I last wrote, I linked digitalisation with productivity. In this piece, I’d like to link it with behaviours and culture.
Since the groundbreaking Latham and Egan reports of the mid-1990s, I’ve been involved with the UK construction industry change agenda. During that time, I’ve facilitated numerous workshops on several subjects such as health and safety, sustainability and recruitment and retention of staff. In almost every case, once you’ve carried out the required ‘Post-It’ note exercise and evaluated the answers, the results are nearly always the same: that we need a collaborative culture and integrated supply chains to achieve whatever it is we were talking about.
Digitalisation, or BIM4Housing in our case, is no different in my view. It is for this reason we have aligned ourselves to Constructing Excellence, the guardians of the work carried out since Latham and Egan, as our secretariat.
Constructing Excellence is a platform from which to stimulate debate and drive much-needed change in the construction sector. Its thought-leading members from the entire supply chain – clients, industry and users – share a vision for change through innovation and collaboration.
Indeed, Constructing Excellence has its own Digital Construction Group, recognising the impact that all things digital are having on the industry. It is joined by the Big/Open data team from G4C (Generation for Change for 35 and under), who are challenging and supporting their work. Please visit http://constructingexcellence.org.uk for more information.
Since the Hackitt Review, in which BIM4Housing was mentioned throughout chapter eight, The Golden Thread of Information, I have been disappointed by many comments we’ve received from housing sector professionals. Some saying, despite the cry from Dame Judith to incorporate it, that “BIM isn’t for us”.
I put this down to a culture of not wishing to change and hence my strongly held view that to achieve the results set out by Dame Judith, a huge shift in culture is required.
Anecdotally, one of the main blockers is those involved in asset management – the very people who will benefit most from BIM adoption.
This year, we have been holding a number of half-day conferences throughout the UK to introduce BIM4Housing and have had a mixed response. Whereas in London, Birmingham, Exeter and Glasgow the response has been positive, in other areas, which shall be nameless, the response has not been so good.
The need for change is also emphasised with the industry’s acute shortage of labour. If we are to encourage young people into our sector, with so many competing industries from which to choose, we must have a digitalised offer, as this is what they will expect and indeed how they will have grown up. We are way behind other UK industrial sectors and even in our own construction industry, housing is five years or so behind the rest.
So before we can really absorb the changes necessary to the adoption of BIM, we need to accept the cultural and behavioural changes we will need to make along the following lines:
- Selection on best value, not lowest cost.
- The early involvement of the supply chain.
- Modern commercial contracts that espouse collaborative working.
- Longstanding relationships that enable continuous improvement.
- KPIs that benchmark our performance.
- Common processes and tools, ie BIM.
In addition to my role as chair of BIM4Housing, I’m also a director of Constructing Excellence and chief executive of the Structural Timber Association, which looks after the interests of all those involved in the UK structural timber frame sector.
Interestingly, I talk about the six headings above in all my roles as they are imperative not only for the successful use of BIM but also the successful use of offsite construction. In other words, BIM, offsite and collaborative working are inextricably linked and I would encourage everybody to adopt all three if we are to make our industry relevant for the 21st century.
Please visit our website for more information.