Further to The Economist’s claim that the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data, we dig deeper into how a boom of available data is impacting the construction industry.

Mark Greatrix, Head of Digital and Technologies at Waldeck, explains:

Taking a step back several years, the construction industry was a late adopter of new and emerging digital technologies which posed the potential for a data driven revolution. During this time, industries such as the manufacturing industry very much stole the march. Through their drive to improve and optimise, businesses within this industry have evolved into data-centric organisations which produce and consume data at an ever-growing rate.

Moving a few years forward, and after taking heavy criticism for the monolithic approach to progress, the construction industry looked at shining examples of other industries, such as manufacturing, to plot a course for betterment.

In May 2011 and through the construction industry strategy, the UK Government challenged the industry to start using collaborative Building Information Modelling (BIM) on all publicly funded construction projects by March 2016. Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, went on to outline how the sectors adoption of BIM would put the UK at the vanguard of a new digital construction era. This move created a ‘spark’ and was the catalyst the construction industry very much needed. Whilst the journey is far from over, a huge step-change in the way the industry produces and harnesses data has since occurred.

Looking at current-day activities, it is clear that within the construction industry, the focus has shifted onto the life-cycle use of data and how it can be of benefit for a construction project from inception, to design, construction, handover and operation. Data is now a prime consideration, with each project stakeholder looking to capitalise on project data to reap benefits and efficiencies for their activities.

Similar to online tech data titans such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, this thirst for data has seen a boom in the use of technologies which both produce and leverage data. Working with our clients from project concept phases, we see first-hand how their focus on data and its value to them for post-construction handover and operation has grown, giving clients the ability to harness data rich Building Information Models of their assets.

At Waldeck, our designs are now informed by rich 3D reality capture data sets, giving us measurable and contextual information of an environment. 3D modelling and analysis has become intrinsically linked with users leveraging manufacturers component data alongside the plethora of geographic data sources to optimise designs, build sequences, logistics, and choice of building fabric.

This ‘spark’ has certainly changed the way the construction industry now thinks, and we are already seeing how a boom in data has spurred the progression towards generative design and the adoption of advanced tech such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Looking into the future, trying to predict how far data will allow the construction industry to evolve is becoming limitless. ‘Smart Construction’ is a huge part of the Government’s 2025 vision, and with advances in wireless technologies which will draw benefit from a 5G network, it is clear to see how the boom in data will become even more abundant.