The built environment: Putting the future in the frame

built environment disci­plines

A new Digital Capabilities Framework from the Construction Innovation Hub aims to support and nurture the digital capabilities of early career professionals across built environment disciplines. Henry Fenby-Taylor, information management delivery lead, explains

Our recently published Digital Capabilities Framework underlines the vital importance of digital ways of working and how these can be used to transform the built environment sector. It is the latest tool delivered by the Hub as part of our integrated programme consisting of the Value Toolkit, Platform Programme, International Programme and Information Management, as we co-develop solutions that enable better decision-making, drive digital transformation, improve delivery and accelerate sector recovery.

By clearly setting out what all early career built environment professionals need to know, and be able to do, to work digitally after around two years in their profession, the framework gives them both the tools and aims to develop a shared and consistent vocabulary that is needed to hasten the pace of transformational change in the sector.

It was this hunger for change that drove the framework’s development as we sought new ways to support the government’s Build Back Better agenda and to meet the increasingly complex challenges we face.

Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030 highlighted the pressing need for a fundamental shift in the culture and make-up of the built environment to make the sector a top choice for young people and called for a focus on anticipating the growing need for competencies in areas such as digital, automation and sustainability, rather than simply filling current gaps.

The Construction Leadership Council’s Industry Skills Plan for the UK Construction Sector 2021–2025 aims to tackle these issues by setting out plans for high-quality training and development to build an industry that is a great place to work, with clear routes of entry and progression to attract and retain talented people. Our framework aligns with and seeks to support the report’s Challenge 2.3: Routes into industry – Higher education.

Exemplifying the collaborative ethos that underpins our work, the framework was developed in partnership with 150 industry experts, early career professionals and academics. It was also shaped by research and insights from a series of workshops with recent graduates and their managers from a range of built environment disciplines, as well as a series of roundtables with academic course leaders, professional institutions and industry representatives.

We consulted with recent graduates and their managers, senior representatives from across industry, professional institutions and course leaders from BA and master’s degrees in the built environment to develop and test the framework. We also built on prior research and undertook stakeholder interviews and internal consultations. An initial framework was then presented to the project’s Advisory Group, along with a plan for development which included a series of workshops with early career professionals.

The framework is designed to stimulate discussion and action by enabling industry, built environment undergraduate and master’s course providers and professional institutions to provide a common language and structure around which all professionals and disciplines can unite to support the development of the digital capabilities the sector needs.

the built environment

Core digital capabilities

At the heart of the framework are six built environment core digital capabilities identified as essential for all built environment disciplines:

  • Data collection and instrumentation. Data is the under­lying resource that improves decision making, measure­ment and insights across the built environment.
  • Information management. For early career profession­als, information management is involved whenever they produce digital work that forms part of a larger project or activity. The work they produce needs to be coordi­nated with other information and assured effectively.
  • Data interpretation and analysis. As well as working with IM as detailed above, early career professionals will need to be able to work with data and analyse it to gain insights.
  • Data governance. This relates to understanding relevant data laws and policies, as well as working within identi­fied regulations, ensuring data is accurate and reliable, and that sensitive data is consistent, secure and is retained for the relevant purposes only.
  • Data visualisation. Creating effective ways of sharing work, making it understandable to a wide variety of stakeholders is essential across built environment disci­plines. This can be achieved in many ways, including 3D modelling software and databases.
  • Software development. This is a key skill for early career professionals, although the environments and lan­guages used will vary between organisations and disci­plines.

Ultimately, digital ways of working will drive the shift to net zero, which is an increasing priority for early career professionals. Data is how we look at the carbon footprint of projects and technologies like Building Information Modelling (BIM) help us build a whole-life picture of the project and evaluate its true impact.

However, the framework is only the first step in a process of further engagement and refinement, and we are keen to develop a cross-discipline, sector-wide agreement on the Built Environment Core Digital Capabilities. We will continue to work closely with the Construction Leadership Council People & Skills Network and other sector organisations to ensure that the digital capabilities of early career built environment professionals are appreciated, nurtured and aligned to helping us achieve a truly effective digital built Britain.


Henry Fenby-Taylor

Information management delivery lead

Construction Innovation Hub


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