Leaders in the construction sector are embracing technology to streamline processes, predict future trends and attract talent but this shift isn't coming without challenges. As we rely more on technology, we'll need standards and regulations adapted to current trends and opportunities.
Last week, stakeholders from the construction sector stepped up to discuss the challenges and opportunities on offer as industry leaders lean more heavily on technology on the job. RICS partnered with Columbia University on the Inaugural 2019 Construction Symposium where we held a series of panels that reimagined the construction industry through a technology lens without loosing sight of people and practices.
Keynote speaker, Denise Berger, Chief of Operations and Engineering for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spoke of the challenges of adopting new technology on major projects. She said processes can be significantly improved by leveraging technologies and data to make business operation predictive rather than reactive, but we have to think differently. "We have to be ready to embrace these innovations to remain competitive and attract talent."
Her challenge was for the sector to scale up what's working and look to innovate. Projects typically take longer than scheduled and are often over budget. Productivity in construction lags behind other industries and is amplified by a lack of investment in modern and digital technologies. The fragmented nature of the industry compounds these problems. Moving forward requires a reduction of silos and a move toward transparency.
Maureen Ehrenberg FRICS, Americas Regional Board Member and Global Head of Digital Facility and Asset Management for WeWork stressed the importance of considering how technology tools will impact operations. "Planning is important," she said, "taking the time to build out a strategy and using data standards to ensure the data that's collected can be used."
Anil Sawhney FRICS Ph.D. FHEA, RICS Infrastructure Sector Director said the excitement, challenges and opportunities are the same around the world and similar activity is happening in most markets. What's new is the understanding of what technology offers in terms of lifecycle thinking and how others, like building owners and facility managers, can harness it once construction is complete.
"We're building an asset that will be used by an end user," he said. "With this in mind, can we do things in a better way?"
We have to be ready to embrace these innovations to remain competitive and attract talent
Chief of Operations and Engineering for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Sawhney also stressed the importance of mainstreaming international learnings and standards to reduce the sector's fragmentation. RICS is taking a leading role on developing international standards and ensuring professionals are trained and able to apply them on the job.
Ehrenberg agreed with the value of international standards to ensure everyone is on the same page. "Ensure the data that is being collected can be used for a long time – the only way we'll be able to do that is through shared platforms and standards," she said.
The challenge here is to change the way the sector sees data and to open it up. "The idea of being closed, proprietary, when everyone needs something unique to share, that's short sighted," said Ehrenberg. "Not being willing to share your data or partner with others may help you win in the short term, but things need to be open and shared, so that I can take the data and use it how I want - that's really important. We need to look at it from end to end and the learnings will flow back into construction. Sharing is the key."