The blockchain could be the future of BIM, and can be leveraged today. Arnaud Gueguen of BIMCHAIN explains how
Hailed as the new internet, with the potential to transform many industries, the blockchain can be a real game-changer for construction – and can deliver real value immediately.
For at its core is the power of incontestable proof, eradicating potential disputes down the road. Long term, this can transform the operational culture of construction. Right away, it can make collaborative processes more efficient and friction-free.
And that’s why the world of BIM needs to take its potential seriously. I firmly believe that blockchain technology will prove to be the decisive turning point in the Building Information Management revolution – a more accurate term than Building Information Modelling – and to make it happen, we need to start exploring these possibilities on live projects now.
How does blockchain work, and what can we learn from how it is currently being deployed?
Blockchain is a shared register in which transactions between users are stored in a secure, verifiable and permanent way. It is based on peer-to-peer technology coupled with electronic signature principles.
When applied, this revolutionary technology builds trust between heterogeneous stakeholders without the need for a centralised authority. It makes processes completely secure by giving indisputable value to data exchanged via a system of proofs.
These proofs are perennial, unfalsifiable and easily accessed.
Up to now, the main application for this already 10-year-old technology has been in finance. It emerged as a cryptocurrency (think Bitcoin) and then the banks got interested, with the outcome principally being in ways to cut operational costs.
For example, the Letter of Credit. An expensive system based on paper documentation used to facilitate international trades for many parties, the “letter” proves a commitment of payment once certain documents are validated. Going paperless in a distributed environment involving many stakeholders in different locations was not feasible before. But the blockchain makes paperless proof possible, saving all parties time, money and environmental impact.
And a very recent example provides a more instructive lesson for the immediate benefit of this technology. The Spanish bank BBVA has successfully piloted using the blockchain to offer a corporate loan transaction. If you imagine how much paper a €78m loan transaction traditionally generates, you can grasp the implications for construction, where paper and a fundamental lack of trust throughout the supply chain makes operational efficiency a day-to-day challenge.
The most important lesson from the BBVA pilot is you don’t have to spend years putting together a consortium to build the perfect backbone system fit for your industry. Plugged into existing systems, the blockchain can provide quick wins of efficiency today. How?
Blockchain as a legally binding source of proof
The blockchain is immediately applicable to the contractual space and we can now build and deploy blockchain-based applications that manage legally binding, electronic timestamped proofs. There are many signs that this future is already emerging in diverse areas around the globe. This can give us real encouragement and confidence.
- In the US, Tennessee, Arizona, Nevada and Delaware passed new laws to make records legally binding – and other states such as California and New York are exploring the possibility.
- A precedent has been set in China in Hangzhou, where a court accepted blockchain proofs of copyright theft.
- France ruled in favour of accepting blockchain as an official ledger recording mini-bonds trading on the blockchain.
- Estonia, a whole country that leverages blockchain for its administrative registries, especially for their e-residency programme.
- At the European level, blockchain technology contains three out of four criteria to be recognised as an ‘advanced signature’ receivable by a court – with the fourth implementable by an extra layer developed on top.
So, what can this mean for BIM?
BIM, as a digital collaborative and distributed process, is the perfect candidate to leverage those proofs.
You can inject proof of publication and anteriority, proof of acknowledgement of someone else’s data, proof of context for your work, proof of handshake.
This will greatly help when solving issues raised around copyright, responsibility and insurance. Such changes, if embraced, go beyond the structural to impact on time-honoured culture of construction, where a fundamental lack of trust involves disputes, delays and expense that can be avoided.
Is the industry ready to collaborate for the success of the project to the detriment of one’s own interest? No magic technology will help here, but allowing them to trust the data they share is the starting point: “I can safely share my data because I know my copyright is protected and my responsibility is precisely scoped.” “I know I can rely on the data I receive since the publisher stands behind it by signing it.”
Once the 3D model supports all legally binding handshakes, why bother wasting time and paper on 2D extracts and signature meetings?
Finally, the 3D model being contractual, we can remove the sort of “use at your own risk” disclaimer of BIM protocols that it is the one and only reliable dataset. It is certain that the engagement of stakeholders and the quality of BIM data will grow, for the benefit of all involved.
BIMCHAIN.io was founded to make all of this and more a reality. Uniting blockchain with BIM, to help accelerate and actualise BIM’s full potential immediately.
We think big, and study how contractual automation through smart contracts can improve BIM processes. We start small and provide a “Proofs of Contribution” solution – an indisputable traceability system, reducing frictions, enhancing efficiency, lowering paper footprint.
The blockchain has the potential to complete the BIM revolution. It can be deployed on live projects immediately, measuring its benefits on site. The blockchain is the future of BIM. That future can start today.
CEO of Lutecium, Builder of BIMCHAIN