At GeoBusiness 2017 in London, Simon Rawlinson of Arcadis, argued passionately for improving the efficency of the construction industry, which is 8% of the UK's GDP. Digitalization, in which BIM + geospatial play a key role, is essential to delivering on making construction attractive for private investment. In the UK construction productivity has not improved in 25 years and right now the construction industry is so unproductive that it can't attract top labour talent, wouldn't attract an Uber or Google and is a drag on the rest of the economy.
Clients/owners have a big role in the transformation of construction. One of the practices that is responsible for the low level of motivation for construction productivity improvement is procurement. Lowest bid based on CAPEX does not encourage innovation. But there are signs that this procurement policy is being replaced in some government procurements by lowest OPEX or TOTEX. For example, the competition to provide rolling stock for the Crossrail line was based on lowest OPEX and resulted in an important innovation, smart, sensor-equipped trains. One of the goals of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), one of several Leadership Councils in the UK, is to lower construction costs by 33% and to deliver projects 50% faster - providing clear benefits to owners.
Another problem is that the construction industry doesn't collaborate very well. Collaboration needs to be encouraged among folks who have traditionally competed or not collaborated. There are signs that this is changing too. Large projects like Crossrail have driven more collaboration, in an industry that historically discouraged collaboration and created employment for the legal profession. To increase collaboration the construction industry needs to develop common ways of working with shared data by adopting common standards, which will work to increasing innovation by enabling competition based on a common platform. Much as a BIM model is a digital twin of a building or linear infrastructure, a 3D map of underground and above ground infrastructure is a digital twin of a city or town. To make this accessible to all requires shared standards for spatial data - BIM and geospatial.
The entire UK economy is moving towards becoming data-driven and construction is lagging behind. Simon's recommendation is that the new government needs to keep to the existing program and deliver on the goals of Digital Built Britain and Construction 2025 including better management of data and information, digital fabrication instead of on-site development, procurement based on TOTEX, and using regulation, through ofgem and ofwat, for example, to drive digitalization of the construction industry.