Introducing DigiPLACE: The Digital Platform for Construction in Europe

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DigiPLACE, digital construction,

DigiPLACE represents an unprecedented collaboration between European construction bodies, owners, architects, research institutes and ICT firms to create a platform for the integration of different technologies, applications and services in digital construction

The idea of using computers for the drawing/design phase of a construction project is now nothing more than a distant reminiscence of the beginnings of digitalisation in the European construction sector decades ago. Indeed, since then, the construction sector has been progressively dealing with the constant improvement of digital technologies, notably Building Information Modelling (BIM).

By placing building data at the heart of all operations, digitalisation in the construction industry offers potential benefits such as an upgrade of data and information sharing, improved communication between different actors, greater predictability by facilitating the implementation of test and monitoring methodologies, and a reduction of project risks.

In addition to the potential for technological progress in the different phases of the building’s lifecycle, digitalisation can have a significant impact on the decarbonisation of all buildings, especially regarding energy efficiency. In other words, optimising our buildings and infrastructure thanks to the use of specialised techniques and methods can improve energy performances and, crucially, contribute to the environmental efforts of European society as a whole.

However, characterised by a high presence of SMEs, low capitalisation, a low rate of higher educated employees, low investment in innovation and a long supply chain, the construction sector is lagging behind in its digital transformation. Moreover, in the EU market, different languages, taxation and regulatory frameworks are obstacles to synergies.

In order to address these challenges, several initiatives have been developed at national level to improve the innovation in the sector. At the European level, some projects have been devoted to facilitating the exchange of information, practice and knowledge, including the EU-funded project DigiPLACE, the Digital platform for Construction in Europe.

Initiated in Brussels in early September, for 18 months, DigiPLACE is a Horizon 2020 project with a budget of €1m aiming at assessing the feasibility of a European Digital Platform for Construction. This digital industrial platform would be an operating system that integrates different technologies and various applications and services; it will create a common ecosystem of innovation, standardisation and commerce with the aim to collect the achieved results to increase the productivity of the sector and the quality of its end products (building and infrastructure).

Could digitalisation help the sector to solve these historical issues – and future ones? What kind of digitalisation, what kind of market, what kind of production and supply chain we could imagine? What kind of consumers do we have for our products and services? How do these worlds work together?

DigiPLACE aims to investigate all these themes with a strong analysis of markets, actors and barriers.

DigiPLACE is an ambitious attempt to enable the creation of a digital platform that could integrate the different technologies, applications and services currently existing in digital construction. This project aims at creating a Reference Architecture Framework (RAF) for a future digital platform, allowing the coherent development of future initiatives and projects in the field of digital construction. Involving a large community of stakeholders and the expertise of selected key players, DigiPLACE will also result in a strategic roadmap for successful implementation of this RAF. In a nutshell, DigiPLACE has the ambition to mark out the path for the digitalisation of the European construction industry, under the headline of Construction 4.0.

Under the lead of the Polytechnic University from Milan, the DigiPLACE project relies on an EU-wide consortium made of 19 partners from 11 countries, composed of an unprecedented collaboration between EU construction industry representatives, a strong academic partnership and the support of three national ministries (Italy, France and Germany).

DigiPLACE will rely on a large set of partners, linked third parties and an advisory board representing leading European entities, companies and/or associations of industry, builders, owners (private and public), architects, research institutes and ICT firms (for digital production, services and knowledge).

More concretely, we, the European Builders Confederation (EBC), as the representative of construction SMEs and craftsmen, are going to deeply collaborate with our fellow European construction representatives – the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC); the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE); the European Federation of Engineering Consultancy Associations (EFCA); Construction Products Europe (CPE); the Committee for European Construction Equipment (CECE); and the European Construction, built environment and energy efficient building Technology Platform (ECTP) – to provide political guidance and expertise, as well as disseminating the developments and findings of the project.

This project is the first-ever proposal targeting the digital transformation of the construction industry to receive funding from the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (DG CONNECT) of the European Commission. This project is also unprecedented because never have such a wide and representative cooperation of construction stakeholders taken part in the same EU-funded project. This means that the sector wants to accelerate its own digital transformation to further improve working conditions on construction sites, attract young people to the sector and make construction projects more predictable.

If you want to know more, you are more than welcome to the upcoming DigiPLACE Launch Conference that will take place in Bologna, Italy, on 22 November. More information is also available on the DigiPLACE twitter account and soon on www.DigiPLACEproject.eu (now under construction).

This project has received funding from the European Union’s H2020 programme under Grant Agreement No. 856943.

 

Eugenio Quintieri

Secretary General

European Builders Confederation

Tel: +32 (0)2 514 23 23

secretariat@ebc-construction.eu

www.ebc-construction.eu

Twitter: @EBC_SMEs

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