The various attempts to industrialise building activity throughout the 20th century were intimately related to a grand narrative regarding the necessity to adapt architecture to the age of the machine.4 One of its interests was to enable its proponents to occupy a middle ground between overt and thus disputable techno-optimism, the fictional mode suspending questions of immediate feasibility, and the opposite sceptical attitude… although the grand industrial narrative of the 20th century never came fully to fruition, its legacy was considerable, from new materials like plastics to key techniques of dry assemblage. The robotics narrative will probably have equally enduring effects on the built environment, and this is all the more feasible given that the digital age is marked by the multiplication of autorealising fictions
Construction is the last bastion of the analogue world
Well....that's our future all sorted then! I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I guess I am. It's great to have vision, and a picture of the future. I have no doubt it will and much more will come to pass than we haven't even imagined yet. BUT what I'm not hearing from anyone is HOW do we bridge the gap?
The vast majority of the industry are still untouched by BIM and honestly, haven't got a clue?
What is being done to deal with that? Great piece of work, but it's going to take more than a few glossy reports and some conferences...
A return to vertical supply chains will facilitate greater collaboration and joint ventures, with special purpose vehicles created for mega projects. At the micro level small teams will encourage autonomy and empowerment as more responsibility is provided. This will lead to the end of traditional sub-contracting practices and a move towards the return of the master builder… Currently the industry is archaic, non-transparent and lacks innovation, in both technology and process. A culture of integration is fundamentally reliant on the acceptance that most, if not all, construction professionals are interdependent. Fragmentation, exploitation and egocentric behaviours are a detriment to a culture of integration… Design consultants and principle constructors will be appointed simultaneously, early in the life cycle, to enable concurrent working at the outline business case stage. Higher levels of vertical integration will reduce sub-contracting, removing horizontal interfaces, which restrict the flow of information. The reluctance to share information further down the supply chain due to a strong selfish mentality will cease, as organisations are enabled to conduct business as a single entity, working simultaneously with minimal barriers, sharing resources and creating common objectives
This is evident is emerging innovative practices such as SHoP where architects assumed a broader role similar to what was historically considered a master builder. These new practices not only take responsibility for building design but also are aspects of fabrication and oversight of the overall construction delivery. Furthermore, their contribution toward a project goes beyond design intent and often involves industry research and technology/tool development. These practices are the next step in the evolution of the traditional integrated team delivery (ITD) project with much closer collaborations between thinkers and makers.
Immaginiamo di ricostruire a posteriori la Visione del Settore delle Costruzioni al 2014, ancora nell’Era dell’Analogico.
Essa appare contraddistinta da:
• diffusa illegalità;
• forte contrapposizione tra le parti in causa;
• disintegrazione tra gli Attori della Progettazione e tra questi e quelli dell’Esecuzione e della Gestione;
• scarsa qualificazione e polverizzazione della Committenza (Pubblica e Privata);
• insensibilità al Ciclo di Vita delle Opere in termini culturali;
• elevato contenzioso tra le Parti;
• difficoltoso accesso al credito;
• modesta competenza degli Acquirenti nel Settore Immobiliare;
• inesigibilità del credito;
Si tratta di uno scenario assai familiare che difficilmente, pur nella sua inefficacia, si è mai seriamente pensato di modificare, nonostante la crisi finanziaria e industriale del Settore non avesse carattere congiunturale, bensì strutturale, in nome di una Crisi da risolvere con le categorie antecedenti a essa e di Operatori impossibilitati, proprio a causa della stessa, a evolvere.
Vediamo ora come nel Regno Unito, per tematiche, si immagina la Digitalizzazione del Comparto al 2050.
The construction sector is undergoing a tremendous technology-led revolution, and is moving towards the world of digital transactions and queries. This transformation of the construction industry to a digital and innovation based sector will have profound changes.
If we aim for a performance based predictive data industry based on telemetry and social interactions – our future digital built environment will have unbounded potential.
The future of the construction industry, and the value that is created, will be based around behavioural economics and the ability of construction professionals to integrate collaboratively, create knowledge and contribute to positive organisational cultures. Economic rewards will exist for those behaving in a collaborative manner, from macro to micro-level integration teams with shared risks and rewards. This culture of integration will lead to the removal of exploitation, reward collaboration and encourage leadership. Motivation will improve due to smaller teams, increased empowerment and more equitable work arrangements. This will be based around fairer payment mechanisms due to increased transparency, and earlier engagement that leads to improved knowledge creation.
Data sets of information relating to the entire life cycle and stakeholders will identify the most appropriate member of the supply chain to undertake tasks. This will be based on continuous performance measurement to finite detail; not just cost, time or quality.
There are two sides of behavioural intelligence. The first is a base set of assumptions and data used in the assessment and evaluation of future projects, by incorporating the behavioural elements of the built environment into net present value calculations and design processes. The second is the behavioural management of labour.
We recommend organisations first consider the behavioural intelligence of their end-user workforce as they will be unable to design with behavioural intelligence in mind without the appropriate orientation. They will then be able to build behavioural bases to their organisational and production processes.
We recommend that organisations conduct a review of their supply chain strategies to analyse the interoperability of technology and their redundancies including physical connections and associated interface protocols. Academics must consider the impact of their innovations and ensure that the considerations for future use include the integration into globalised networks extending into microbiological impacts.
Ultimately supporting an environment that is inclusive of end-users and utilises machine learning techniques to enable social and economic infrastructure to deliver the best outcomes.
Designers and constructors will be appointed simultaneously, early in the life cycle, to enable concurrent working at the outline business case stage. Higher levels of vertical integration will reduce sub-contracting, removing horizontal interfaces, which restrict the flow of information. The reluctance to share information further down the supply chain due to a strong selfish mentality will cease, as organisations are enabled to conduct business as a single entity, working simultaneously with minimal barriers, sharing resources and creating common objectives.
A focus on relational contracting supports this recommendation using multi-party contracts to discourage legal disputes and costly litigation.
The breakdown of traditional disciplines and the amalgamation of pre-construction activities will negate the requirement for large disparate teams within a single organisation. This will lead to more responsibility and increased motivation. Early engagement, and the appointment of design consultants to enable collaboration and knowledge creation early in the project life cycle, will become the norm at the back end of this wave.
This will encourage and foster the growing nature of the SME and digital start-up which will flood the industry at this time.
This wave exists in the midst of a radical change in the industry, with the adoption of BIM Level 2 and the transition from manual analogue processes to the automated input and management of outputs in a digital environment. However, this will be based on static rule sets, governed by existing processes and procurement, and project delivery strategies.
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The industry should be moving beyond traditional analogue methods and working with structured and related data as a standard. We will see integrated processes and technology platforms in place that allow the efficient collation of design, construction and operational data, and a work force familiar with their application and delivery. This will enable the progressive development of predictable data sets and for other technologies to integrate more readily as a consequence. This should liberate a wave of value-added and more efficient and accurate decision making.
A return to vertical supply chains will facilitate greater collaboration and joint ventures, with special purpose vehicles created for mega projects. At the micro level small teams will encourage autonomy and empowerment as more responsibility is provided. This will lead to the end of traditional sub-contracting practices and a move towards the return of the master builder.
Applications for mobile technologies and personal devices such as tablets and phones that allow the user to interact with the virtual design to read and capture asset data, and execute tasks, are on the increase. Mobile systems will continue to evolve and be well on their way to becoming a workplace standard and a technology requirement as we reach 2020.
Intelligent 3D modelling is becoming more commonplace in 2014 as the industry continues to develop its standards for an integrated digital approach to design and construction, and employer demand is also increasing for integrated operational data at handover.
Procurement will be automatic with the use of adaptive rule sets based on a Bayesian approach. Whilst technology and education will evolve due to improvements in science and teaching, the procurement models will simplify, with a change back to simple appointment processes as risk models shift, due to the huge increase in transparency and risk allocation strategies.
Open supply chains will be paired to their most appropriate peers based on the aggregate of data on performance, inter-personal suitability, availability and specialism.
The breakdown of traditional disciplines and the amalgamation of pre-construction activities will negate the requirement for large disparate teams within a single organisation. This will lead to more responsibility and increased motivation. Early engagement, and the appointment of design consultants to enable collaboration and knowledge creation early in the project life cycle, will become the norm at the back end of this wave. This will encourage and foster the growing nature of the SME and digital start-up which will flood the industry at this time.
When reflecting upon Building Information Modelling in its context to a sustainability race, one realises that BIM is not just about modelling or intelligent design, but ultimately represents our emerging digital capabilities as an industry, and our future potential to meet these demands.
This means that new build construction in developed countries will continue to slow down whilst in developing countries will still experience a level of growth, they will need to employ sustainable building techniques and learn from the developed economies.
The ‘hard skills’, such as engineering will remain a core activity of construction but it appears that the sector’s inefficiency manifests from a lack of soft skills and poor cultural integration of education and skills, such as interdisciplinary teams and emotional intelligence. The premise Building Information Modelling becomes unimportant in the light of the change needed to effectively deploy true value adding processes and technology.
As modularised construction and ICT intensifies, the need for skilled labour will reduce by approximately 50%. This is in line with the Government’s strategy for 2025 and is based on 2004-2013 UK Construction employment data (ONS 2013). Conversely, there will be a rise in information management and computational design role.
50% reduction in skilled labour for construction is the basis of jobless growth in construction. Skilled labour will be needed to maintain autonomous systems and will see the field population reduce to a minimum level. This should see the risk to site operatives be removed from the construction process but a rise in the risk of people plant interfaces in complex operations. Organisations should consider automation and design for manufacture strategies as early as possible in the asset lifecycle, and how algorithmic methods can be used to determine the exploitation of mechanisation.
As construction becomes less labour intensive, the skill base will need to be agile and feature strong links to academia as the nature of working in construction becomes precise, and the level of definition required to deliver self assembled projects is down to the molecular level.
Education and learning within the built environment remains primarily siloed, with lacklustre attitudes to collaboration incorporated within curriculum programmes. The education system itself is still distinctly removed from professional practice, with courses being developed to fill interim skills gaps.
New entrants and existing construction workers/ professionals look beyond existing institutional educational courses provided, to open, mostly free, educational resources.
Skills remain firmly within their disciplinary silos, but employers will look to sub-contract these skills requirements to individuals best able to meet their needs. Company capability assessments will be created and openly published. This will aid those organisations that are not embedding digital workflow and process into their daily process. With the decentralisation of the traditional professional institutions, construction workers/professionals will seek to broaden their knowledge and skills beyond their trade/professional background, due to unobstructed fluidity of learning. Career paths will become more flexible and interchangeable, due to a digitally-enabled construction industry.
The tradition for education to cast learning by role, will diminish in favour of developing a wider understanding of processes and the relationships and interdependencies between different roles. Course curriculums will adapt to offer more ‘T’ shaped learning (where the horizontal line is breadth of knowledge and the vertical is the depth).
Construction roles will be diluted/hybrid versions of their previously heavily-siloed forms. There will be a significant focus on up-skilling the existing workforce. The emergence of T-shaped professionals who are able to understand data and its transfer process, starts the development of a knowledge based profession within the construction industry. Employers will also begin to look at ‘non-cognitive’ employees who bring new skills and processes to impact existing ones positively, possibly managed by an agile form of project management. Computational and analytical skills will emerge as a valued area of knowledge by employers, to aid in the analysis of the data produced from our virtual information and help in the future development of smart cities, which will start to emerge and develop within the next wave.
The use of augmented reality tools, with digital tutors and global classrooms creates a learning environment that is 24/7, with year-round access, and across multiple education platforms. The requirement of institutional-approved will adapt to, open access and ready availability of learning initially created through MOOCs within the analogue and digital decision waves. Whilst education has become less restricted by immediate surroundings, virtual communities and support still exists to ensure access is maintained to relevant learning and institutions remain as certification and research centres.
This leads to a paradigm shift in commercial environments where new forms of contract and insurance will be needed in response to an integrated horizontal and vertical business models and supply chains that transacts in real-time.
Moving from an analogue world to a world where decisions are driven through emergent information (via computational support), it is important to keep in mind that a human interface is always required for sense making of data and final accountability in contracts.
We base our decisions on historic information, and information is not instantaneous, its ‘sticky’. This means we are deciding our choices now with information that is actually out of date. This is one of the reasons why construction is risky and in most cases, requires large organisations to manage risk and uncertainty.
Ambient intelligence and smart cities can only be constructed if technology is interoperable. The specification of products will become critical and opportunistic substitutions (swapping for cheaper and poorer quality intentionally) will be detrimental to the end users of smart cities.
Improved connectivity will have supplied new data during the converging information performance stage of 2020-2030, and the learning derived from real time building use will continue to be systematically embedded into artificial intelligence. This embedded learning will provide opportunities to develop almost instantaneous reactive decision making, and will also provide intelligence that can forecast and predict requirements for intervention.
This wave exists in the change period from Level 2 to Level 3 with reactive digital transactions creating a collaborative model. This wave will still be governed by the principles of analogue decisions, however, collaboration and data transactions become the driving force throughout the industry at all levels of the asset supply chain.
Behavioural intelligence management will set the foundations of the demountable organisations already seen in mega-projects. This will impact the business practices of top to middle range supply chain members.
Procurement will become almost instantaneous and will shift the paradigm of procuring construction projects. Mobile capital will also impact the way we transact with the construction supply chain.
Clients will introduce self-procurement, which makes use of a standard kit of digital parts (a digital version of Lego), and integrated real-time data sets, an example of this is the real-time data from public transport that powers the apps on our devices today. As the integration of rule-based design processes increases, nano-second procurement will become possible (transacting in real-time). It will be supported by automated regulatory checking, enabling the faster delivery by 50% as envisaged by the construction:2025 Strategy. This will require incumbent supply chains to think about their business.
It would look much like the rental service based market for consumers. Robotic and autonomous systems will enable service models for lower tier supply chain members and specialist contractors, fundamentally changing the labour market in construction.
Additive manufacturing techniques are redefining the supply chains of other sectors and how products are procured and delivered. As these manufacturing techniques become mature and traditional logistical paradigms break down, it is likely that skill and sector migration will occur. Migration meaning both geographical and sectoral. This is a direct effect of globalisation, which has already seen the homogenisation of culture; and boundaries of sectors must follow.
Talent will soon be a fierce battleground for organisations and as clients currently assess the behaviours of their supply chains, larger tier 1 supply chain members will need to address their business models and management of human resources.
The group’s ambition is for an industry which positively embraces technology and the potential of data transaction, in order to help improve performance of our assets and meet client expectations.
The group’s vision of the future integrates both technological and digital advancement, filtered through the sociological impacts of our industry, such as employment and wellbeing of labour.
Che cosa ci indica questa lunga sequela di previsioni e di osservazioni?
Che sostanzialmente occorra ragionare più in profondità sul Settore delle Costruzioni, anche in funzione di alcune Strategie Industriali recentemente definite da Francia, Germania e Regno Unito, così riassumibili:
Se uniamo quanto sopra all’elenco dei temi espressi in un recente bando di ricerca del Governo Federale Tedesco all’interno del Programma Zukunft Bau, riportati appresso, possiamo iniziare a trarre qualche considerazione sugli orizzonti che sono caratterizzati da Digitalizzazione ed Efficienza Energetica.