As the construction industry becomes more reliant upon technology, we must follow the proven examples of other industries and adopt standards for exchanging information.
It started with CAD. All of a sudden there was a way to create drawings electronically that could improve the precision of the design process and reduce the repetitive labor associated with manual drawing/drafting. As software developers saw the opportunity for creating CAD programs for the AEC industry, a bunch of different options sprouted up, each with its own unique file format. Quickly it became apparent that it was in the industry’s best interest to standardize those file formats to make it easier for design teams comprised of multiple distinct entities to collaborate.
Internet of Things, Building Information Modeling and Robotics — Oh My!
The so-called Internet of Things (or IoT, as the cool kids call it) simply means devices that are network-enabled and therefore capable of exchanging information with other devices. An example we see of this a lot on job sites is the pole-mounted cameras that stream live pictures and/or video to secure websites, or more recently, streaming directly to smartphones or tablets. But, the technology is rapidly expanding to include tools (never lose another one again), people (for safety, not at all in a Big Brother kind of way…), and even building components (sophisticated green roofs will alert you when a leak occurs and tell you where it is).
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a means of designing buildings and other 3-dimensional inventions. Building components and assemblies added to a design carry over rich information about that component that helps the software (and user) understand how that object relates to other objects. What that basically means is that if you select a specific US Gypsum Association assembly for a fire-rated floor-ceiling, the software knows what products that assembly consists of, the dimensions of the various materials, and will even alert the user if that assembly conflicts with other elements of the design.
Robotics are the future of the construction industry for many — but certainly not all — of the skilled trades. Regardless of economic impacts, and the shifts in the workforce expected as a result, at the end of the day a robot is only as useful as it is programmed to be.
What’s the Point?
Our industry is on the precipice of massive change, and a good deal of that change is involved with technology. Therefore we as an industry must work hard to develop standards for the technologies we rely upon so as to facilitate further collaboration and exchange of information.
The consequences of not maintaining an open and free exchange of information during a project’s design and construction are well established in the thousands upon thousands of claims filed each year.
Peggy Smedley, writing at Constructech, shares the news of an initiative that Constructech is championing to this end:
One of the simplest ways construction has changed forever, as a result of connected devices and the IoT, is the reduction of paper processes. In the past, a lot of workflows were handled by hand—on paper. Bids, drawings, jobsite progress reports, timecards, the list goes on and on.
There are apps, BIM (building information modeling) solutions, and other software tools for all aspects of project management to handle these processes in the cloud now. Many construction companies are at the point now of realizing that in order to take full advantage of these solutions and the data they provide, the industry needs some standardization…
The initiative is called “A Baseline to Build On,” and the development of a standard will set expectations for technology providers regarding the need for integrated, collaborative solution sets. This includes the ability to access facility asset data and visualize potential problems, track equipment, identify assets, and access data for managing facilities and infrastructure.
Constructech is hosting four events in August to kickoff the initiative and if you are interested in learning more, I highly encourage to check out A Baseline to Build On.
Image courtesy Wikimedia