In the previous article we looked at how the construction sector has been undergoing a digitalisation process driven by such factors as Building Information Modelling (BIM), labour and skills shortages, catastrophic events such as the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the ongoing COVID-19 challenges. In this article, we look at what standards organisations are doing to facilitate the digitalisation of construction.
BIM is the foundation upon which the digitalisation of construction is being built. Because BIM Level 2 was mandated by the UK Government in 2011, stakeholders in public projects there have had to adopt it. Ireland’s ‘Roadmap to Digital Transition’, 2018-21, sets out how BIM should be adopted here. Implementation has been slower than anticipated but an increasing number of projects are being managed using BIM models. However, the use of proprietary software tools is a barrier to open BIM. Identification is the key to capturing, sharing and using data so products, locations and assets need to be identified using open standards which are globally unique, interoperable and independent of any one stakeholder.
In 2018 GS1 and buildingSMART International, two neutral, not-for-profit, standards organisations, agreed to collaborate to ensure that open interoperable standards are available in construction. They formed the Digital Supply Chain in Built Environment (DSCiBE) workgroup, consisting of industry stakeholders, standards organisations and solution providers, which has been working on achieving this. In parallel with this, the enabling ISO standards for BIM are being developed. These define the processes used to manage digital construction projects and show how to create data dictionaries and Product Data Sheets to enable data sharing.
These will enable digitalisation of processes such as tendering, procurement, site logistics, information handover, and facilities and building management.
Modern methods of construction (MMC) are utilising disciplines learned in the manufacturing sector such as automated ordering and replenishment, unique identification of the products produced and the sequencing of delivery to site to optimise handling, storage, and transport costs. GS1 standards have been used in manufacturing for over 40 years enabling unique product identification and electronic data interchange (EDI).
The Grenfell Tower tragedy, and several subsequent events, have highlighted shortcomings in tracing the systems and products used in construction. Regulators will want to know what products and systems were used in construction, how they are related to each other and how they were tested. This data will need to be retained throughout the life of the structure and beyond.
The EU Commission’s European Green Deal and the shortage of construction materials mean a heightened emphasis on the reuse of materials in construction. This means knowing exactly what is in a building at any point in its lifetime. Data from multiple projects will need to be retained by stakeholders in formats which will allow identification and analysis long into the future. It is highly unlikely that the proprietary identifiers from software systems will enable this.
Three years of organisational technological change has had to happen in a few months due to COVID-19. The threat of COVID-like events will persist so the shift to working online has happened and there will be no going back. For remote working and online channels to work, organisations need high quality data and insight into their supply chains.
All of the above examples call for globally unique, independent, persistent identifiers and traceability standards.
In the next article, we will describe how the members of Hardware Association Ireland, many of whom are also members of GS1,
can access our experience and expertise to ensure that they are ready for the digitalisation wave.
Seán Dennison is Head of Industry Engagement and Technical Standards at GS1 Ireland. He has over 30 years’ experience in the Construction, IT, Food Manufacturing & Distribution, Retail & Wholesale FMCG and Forecourt Retail sectors. He participates in standards development in GS1 and is a member of the NSAI BIM Committee and the DSCiBE workgroup.
This Business Support article featured in the September/October issue of The Hardware Journal.