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March 2020

What will the Futurebuild?

I recently attended Futurebuild 2020 with my illustrious colleagues Alpesh Doshi, Richard Saxon, Andrew Lindsey and Abel Maciel. It was a fantastic event that brought together a breadth of the construction industry supply chain. Personally I was there to support the efforts of the Construction Blockchain Consortium (CBC) on the Digital Impact stage.

Digital innovation is a rich vein of potential development for future applications of technology in construction. We are already seeing the increased early application of technology, such as BIM, in the design stage. The consequence of this is that projects will be planned in more detail, with most manufacturing completed offsite, leaving only assembly specialists to attend site and complete the “build”. Certainly a win for health and safety, but also design and construction integrity. It also reminds me of lean or six sigma processes such as JIT (just-in-time) or GIRFT (get-it-right-first-time) processes.

In time technology will support dynamic project management, automate supply chain cascade payment mechanisms (assuming we can implement some form of true digital money should that be on a blockchain platform) and many other features in need of technological validation (supply chain materials provenance, Internet of Things proofs for deliveries and contractual elements such as weather incidents for delay claims, the list goes on). A colleague imagined drones flying through buildings taking LIDAR images to evaluate progress and detect defects. Quantity surveyors take note, the drones are coming!

For my own work at the legal end of construction, what could technology do? Certainly consistent and objectively recorded data would reduce the likelihood of disputes, or at least make them more straightforward to determine. Greater discipline in contract management and in-project ‘issue’ resolution, with the technology providing the tools and support to make such determinations, is also a possibility. Of course, the greater use of technology could also cause greater disputes if it were to go wrong. Coders and technologists may wish to consider insurance. Alternatively one could see multi-disciplinary teams incorporating tech personnel to support systems management, a “construction technologist”? Not a new term apparently, so I can’t claim coinage.

The permutations and possibilities are endless. But rest assured, the CBC are here to provide guidance, frameworks for implementation, discussion and debate throughout this journey into a brave new (technological) world. Sit back and enjoy the ride, we live in interesting times indeed.