Three days, 60 speakers, 42 talks, seven panel debates, six conference stage facilitators, four networking sessions and two stages, now that’s a digital impact

New to Futurebuild 2020 was the Digital Impact zone, which delivered a three-day programme of talks by the very people who are leading the way in the unprecedented movement of increased innovation in technology, which is driving the future of the digital built environment.

While BIM and digital construction are not new topics to the Futurebuild agenda, never before had it dedicated a section of this national treasure of a construction expo to running a programme detailing the impact digital construction is having on the UK right now.

Digital Impact programme

The Digital Impact programme, delivered over two stages (because one wasn’t enough!), took Futurebuild visitors on a transformative journey, where they witnessed the changing face of the UK’s construction industry, addressing what have been the drivers for change, the results of this change and predictions for what is yet to come.

Unlike any other conference which covers digital construction, Digital Impact addressed real challenges business are facing today and offered the tools and solutions needed to move forward and embrace a technology-driven future.

The two stages were home to some of the digital built environments biggest names from 3-5 March, during which Alex Lubbock, managing director for BIM Object, said “creating assets that achieve value for money needs to be a key focus for UK construction”; Sam Stacey, challenge director for UKRI, proudly stated “the UK is a world leader in digital construction”; and Andy Boutle, head of BIM at Kier, expressed how “we need a consistent buy-in across the industry and this needs to be driven by legislation”.

Vicki Reynolds, head of digital for i3PT, who chaired the Centre Stage on day two, said: “I had a great time and learned so much, it was brilliant to chair such a diverse set of speakers and topics.”

Vicki’s sentiments were echoed by many other speakers and visitors, who found the Digital Impact talks the perfect blend of content for BIM beginners through to tech-veterans, the stages offered something for everyone, and covered pretty much everything you need to know about digital construction from Digital Twins to DfMA, Smart Technologies, Artificial Intelligence, ISO 19650, Big Data, IoT and the Golden Thread.

PJ Farr, managing director of UK Connect, opened his talk with “the digital world is igniting our industry” and Mark Enzer, chief technical officer for Mott MacDonald and digital director for Centre for Digital Built Britain, made the concept of a National Digital Twin seem accessible to all.

Bryden Wood director and head of global systems, Jaimie Johnston, said “the industry is in the process of real and profound change”, and “there is an eagerness across all sectors within the industry to transform the way we design and build, as clients are open to new ideas” came from Grant Findlay, director of business development for Sir Robert McAlpine and chair of the Impact Stage on day three.

Climate change agenda

Climate change was also on the agenda as Dr Oliver Jones, director of research for Ryder Architecture, stressed that “being more health-conscious will have a huge impact on the environmental performance of our buildings” and Casey Rutland, UK digital director for Royal Haskoning DHV and vice-chair for the UK BIM Alliance, explained the importance of creating a unified voice for what we want to achieve for the UK.

These industry influencers were joined by many others, including May Winfield, associate director at BuroHappold Engineering; Paul Shilcock, managing director of Operam; Scott Grant, CEO for Soluis; Dr Brenda Parker, director of MSc Bio-Integrated Design for Bartlett School of Engineering; Andrew de Silva, director at David Miller Architects; and BIM consultant Katya Veleva.

Futurebuild event director, Martin Hurn, spoke of the results he saw at Futurebuild after the introduction of the Digital Impact zone: “We knew there was a need within the industry to understand just what impact digital construction is having on UK construction and infrastructure, and Futurebuild is best positioned to share this with its 20,000-plus visitors. Imparting guidance on where to seek the solutions businesses and individuals need, not just for BIM adoption, but for deeper knowledge and what steps to next take.

“Not only is Futurebuild an unmissable experience, it is a catalyst for change, and Digital Impact was an essential part of the event as a driver for digital transformation, offering insight from government, developers, contractors and consultants, each of which had the commonality of seeking a unified digital built Britain.”

Futurebuild was one of the very last conferences to take place at ExCeL London before the UK government instruction to suspend mass gatherings due to the coronavirus was announced. Plans are now underway for the development of the Digital Impact stages for Futurebuild 2021, and it is certain to receive a warm welcome on its return next year.




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