Shifting Perceptions to Transform PropTech

Shifting Perceptions to Transform PropTech

We see ourselves at a pivotal point in the construction space. The existing methodologies, systems, and hierarchies are integrating with modern technologies and ever-increasing automation parameters. The generic narrative that says ‘we have done it that way—so why change?’ —has been challenged by the ideas from digitally native generations, which are unencumbered by historical practices and philosophies. It turns into an exciting scenario for organizations that thrive on dynamic changes and provides an opportunity to elevate the industry as an inspirational career choice for the best global talent pool.

Consider one of the emerging concepts that gain more excellent traction in the industry, Digital Twin. This is an idea that generates a digital clone of the physical infrastructure–there emerges an opportunity that helps to transform the perception gap in the sector. We can enable to create a virtuous arena for talent, as the construction space gains credibility as a technology-enabled career pathway. This is great for the industry, but what about the clients, end-users, and the broader society? If we look at Digital Twin, we are just scratching the surface of what might be possible. This stretches far beyond Building Information Modelling (BIM) and the provided flythrough. We are now accustomed with and moves into the territory of a new mindset from both contractor and client.

We are evolving at implementing technologies at the pre-construction as well as delivery stages of the projects, but post-occupancy is where all that enormous volumes of data get junked due to the collective failure in identifying the vast opportunity that exists. This is where Digital Twin offers a snapshot of the future.

If we are ready to change our mindset and embrace a technology-enabled perspective, we can create more value. How many projects do recognize digital ecosystem and connectivity of the built asset at the initial stages – developing a powerful digital platform that operates effectively with every element in the building? Think of ubiquitous smartphones – you wouldn’t design an App that doesn’t run for an iPhone? Routinely we install elements that need ‘workarounds’ to sit within a sophisticated Building Management System (BMS). 

Why not simplify the building’s operating system and utilize components that work together harmoniously, and more importantly provide operational data 24/7 that is readily interpreted and acted upon – more on this later.

Now BIM is the industry’s significant dataset, the asset register and one source of truth. So, let’s supercharge the data we add in at the primary stages of a project. During that process, let’s carve a way where we only enter information once. This is through a dynamic linked form, which is as infinitely updatable as the elements in the building that are either changed or replaced. More importantly, let’s do educate clients and end-users about the importance of maintaining the accuracy of this database. Additionally, we can add information on the material composition of elements in the building. This includes details on sourcing and compliance – a material passport – but also, we should add how materials can be recycled or reused as a part of circular economy principles.

Following these ideologies, we have a 100 percent accurate data record of what components make up the building and how components can be recycled or reused when the building has fulfilled its purpose. If we need to remodel a building shortly, we possess a comprehensive model asset to digitally manipulate and redesign before we set foot in the physical space. This is going to be valuable as well if we share the digital twin building material data along with floor layouts as well as virtual schematics for wayfinding with emergency services if there was a future incident in the building.

Coming back to the theme of building elements that offer accurate data on performance and usage, most of the large building services items today rely on sensors that can measure and monitor. However, we should be looking to get the same communication from our most smallest elements: e.g., switches. Once we have a wholly integrated and monitored building, we can go on creating a real Computer-Aidedd Facilities Management (CAFM) system. This is a golden standard for FM systems, with automated maintenance regimes based on manufacturers’ specifications, computerized parts ordering and intelligent scheduling with maintenance teams. Therefore, we do not have to fix the broken-down components reactively. We optimize efficiencies throughout the product’s lifecycle by pre-emptive maintenance, in the same way of servicing cars. This is an essential consideration as building services move toward servitization operating model, where building owners buy lumens of light for the designated duration, but not the physical light itself.

The Digital Twin concept is well achievable today. Technologies exist for every element outlined above. What we haven’t gained is to bring this philosophy in its entirety within a building. There has been a corruption of the concept of smart buildings over the past few years – the term has dramatically been used as a catch-all for the latest technology that claims to solve a new problem. The biggest issue with our clients is that the adoption of the newest gadget doesn’t solve a problem, and often creates a host of new challenges because the technology has been applied without context.

What a so-called smart building is incredibly difficult to quantify and even harder to explain, as it means different things to different audiences. For us, we focus on building spaces that are tailored to our client’s requirements, both now and in the future. Technology and automation are transforming the area, but it’s important to stress that it is people that are our most significant opportunity or our most challenging impediment to this change. What the key is changing the nature of conversations with clients, getting involved earlier in the decision-making, diversifying our workforces, and appealing to demographics that would previously never have considered a career in construction. This is how the construction industry will become more productive, technology-enabled, and deliver better spaces that help us all to thrive.

 

Weekly Brief

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