By Andrew Skudder, chief executive officer at RIB CCS

As a major source of global CO2 emissions, the construction industry needs to take heed of digital solutions like 6D BIM to drive sustainability efforts and build a net-zero world for future generations.

According to the World Economic Forum, the infrastructure, construction and urban development industries need to embrace the possibilities that come with digitalisation should they want to be sustainable in the future.

As such, the adoption of building information modelling (BIM) is an important step towards achieving this, and a crucial element in keeping pace with innovation and being more productive in future endeavours.

At the recent BIMHarambee.Africa Conference, it was highlighted that several challenges are facing the construction industry today. This includes the lagging of productivity growth, so much so that the construction industry has recorded a mere 1% annual productivity growth over the last two decades, in comparison to an average of 2.8% across all other industries.

As an industry synonymous with high risk and often low profit margins, enhancing these margins is challenging as we are not protecting them, even when they are high. Furthermore, we are not managing change effectively, not managing the different resource types to get to a more efficient type of construction, and trying to manage unstructured data which ultimately provides poor insight into an overall project.

This results in low client satisfaction, with research indicating that as many as 75% of major projects exceed predetermined deadlines by more than 10%. Additionally, large construction projects typically go over budget by as much as 80% and are often delayed by up to 20 months from the original construction schedule.

It is often the contractors themselves that bear the burden of this additional expenditure, and more needs to be done to improve construction process efficiencies, and ultimately, enhance the satisfaction of clients.

Construction projects are incredibly complex ventures, with the number of stakeholders involved resulting in multiple moving parts. Often, the stakeholders do not possess the right tools to deal with this complexity, and instead, adopt a toolset mindset, where each stakeholder focuses on their own individual tasks and tools to perform their functions. This results in all functions not being connected, leading to data silos across the project and the entire value chain. Furthermore, this adds to the lack of collaboration, even though collaboration is known to be one of the best ways to enhance productivity.

The construction industry is one of the least digitised industries in the world, second only to hunting and agriculture. This is because much of the data used is unstructured, with many in the industry continuing to use tools instead of platforms and integrated solutions. This means an immense amount of time wasted by construction workers, evidenced by FMI research that suggests that 13% of construction teams’ working hours are spent looking for project data, with 90% of generated data being unstructured or disorganised.

According to McKinsey, Covid-19 has accelerated the digital transformation, with 50% of one of its survey’s respondents acknowledging that they have increased investments to adapt to the next normal.

To meet these challenges, two categorical solutions can be addressed, namely industrialisation and digitalisation, the latter of which comprises BIM technologies and integrated technology platforms.

Interestingly, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Construction Survey claims that integrated BIM has the highest likelihood of being successful and to have a high level of impact. This is where solutions such as cloud software are leading the charge, notably in the 5D and in future the 6D BIM space.

Data lies at the heart of the software solution and sees a strong focus on how it is effectively obtained, analysed and shared to make people and processes more efficient. The conventional siloing of information has resulted in data often being mismanaged, and consequently, some data may be missing, outdated, or error ridden.

“The construction industry is one of the least digitised industries in the world.”

Enabled with advanced technologies such as BIM, artificial intelligence (AI), and business intelligence (BI), construction cloud software provides a compelling solution to these challenges by allowing organisations to manage the plan, build and the operational phases of a construction project with all stakeholders having access to manage the project’s life cycle on a single cloud platform.

In doing so, it provides stakeholders with real-time transparency into all levels of the information at their disposal, allowing for greater analysis and more appropriate decision making. Furthermore, adopting such a solution not only eliminates silos, but streamlines workflows and automates processes to maximise productivity. In this way, project outcomes can be optimised through simulations and intelligent control to meet the end goal of saving time, reducing costs, ensuring optimal quality control and minimising risks.

Here, clients can gain insight into the information and data they have at their disposal through the cloud control tower – a business intelligence solution that enables clients to drill down into their data, be it cost, schedule, resources, business partners, quality and safety, and carbon information across all projects.

Construction cloud software enables end-to-end 6D BIM project management by bringing together all components that make up a 6D project lifecycle, including 3D modelling, 4D that considers the impact of time, 5D that focuses on cost and in the future 6D which focuses on carbon. The latter is increasingly important, given the construction industry’s impact on the environment, accounting for 38% of global energy-related CO₂.

In the construction industry, 6%-10% of global anthropogenic CO₂ emission derives from concrete. Additionally, as much as 10% of construction materials go to waste, while 30% of construction activities are the reworking of tasks.

Construction cloud software will support decarbonisation throughout the building lifecycle, and aids stakeholders in optimising their designs, schedules and carbon emissions while reducing rework and the wastage of CO₂ intensive building materials. This means less concrete, and steel being used, less reworking, and overall, less waste and energy.

Sustainable building investment represents one of the biggest global investment opportunities of the next decade, with USD24.6-trillion being estimated by the year 2030. As little as a 1% reduction in construction costs could save as much as USD2-billion globally.

5D and 6D BIM solutions such as our MTWO solution are the future. They help construction projects achieve significant reductions in carbon dioxide. This presents a valuable asset in achieving the next level of decarbonisation and building a net-zero future for the next generation.

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