Govt competition to bring construction into 21st century

Attempts to “digitise construction” with software that could make every stage of creating and operating a building cheaper are to receive a £6m funding boost.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is looking to fund the creation of digital tools that use large amounts of data to simulate how buildings and infrastructure are used in the real world, in order to improve the way they are designed, constructed and run.

Such tools could improve almost any aspect of the building process, from designing rooms around specific types of furniture to simulating the best way to put together a structure with pre-fabricated elements.

They could also allow information to be more easily shared between different companies working on a project, encouraging more collaboration along the supply chain.

The concept of using such software, which is typically known as building information modelling (BIM), has been around for several decades, but its practice has been limited by a lack of demand from customers, an absence of common standards and insufficient IT systems.

The UK government now wants to accelerate the takeup of BIM and plans to require all centrally funded public construction works to use it by 2016, which it believes could yield savings of up to 20 per cent per project.

The TSB is offering grants of up to £2m to help develop BIM tools, in particular those that allow greater interaction and data-sharing between companies in the supply chain.

There is also a need for more tools to help customers determine what they need from buildings before they commission designers, and to help capture and digitise data from the real world.

‘This is about value for money by taking the waste out of an operation in procurement and construction through smarter more collaborative ways of working,’ said Prof David Philp, head of BIM at construction firm Mace and for the government’s BIM task group.

‘At the same time we’re also using that open, sharable data to try to improve carbon performance and get better operational efficiency.’