Matt Wheelis: Building bridges, not fences
Matt Wheelis, VP industry strategy at the build & construct division of the Nemetschek Group, discusses the importance of open standards for the construction industry.
The construction industry accounts for approximately 13% of the world’s GDP. However, it is an even bigger contributor to climate change, with the building sector estimated to generate over 40% of the world’s total carbon emissions. With this figure more than triple of its GDP contribution, it is clear that the construction industry needs to change in order to become a more eco-friendly sector. Yet with productivity growth lagging far behind other industries – such as manufacturing and utilities – achieving the efficiency levels needed to drive down carbon emissions and reduce waste is difficult at best.
To meet these goals, the construction industry needs to adopt new technologies and find ways to work smarter. There are many answers to be found in digitalization – using digital methods and technologies to remove manual, error-prone, and wasteful activities. According to McKinsey, whether through employing rapid, higher-definition surveying techniques, using advanced, 5D Building Information Modeling (BIM), implementing digital collaboration and mobility tools, improving asset management with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and advanced analytics, or using ground-breaking new construction materials and methods, digital solutions can make a significant impact on construction productivity.
Many of these solutions have begun to be incorporated into existing processes. However, often they are implemented ineffectively, keeping work activities in silos rather than sharing information amongst the project team. For example, Building Information Modeling (BIM) software often aims to keep the modeling and analysis within a proprietary ecosystem, or IoT-enabled equipment is disconnected from broader workflows. This siloed approach makes collaboration and information exchange incredibly difficult.
One of the biggest challenges to progress in this area has been the inherent conflict between proprietary software – which focuses on the task of a single project participant – and the dynamic nature of construction – where all professionals and trades must work together temporarily to deliver the end product. This requires software that supports open data and communication interfaces that prioritize interoperability and supply chain flexibility over protecting one software provider’s competitive advantage. An open approach enables accelerated innovation by allowing specialized software to do a task exceptionally well and feed the result back into the whole – it is about building bridges, not fences.
We believe that open standards are key to the AEC industry successfully adopting BIM, and to improving workflows and collaboration for all those engaged in the building process. The transparent communication and data exchange that open standards provide are critical for teams to work together effectively and innovatively, enabling them to address the sustainability challenges that face the industry. This approach implies building bridges - between our own solutions, but also across the entire design and construction ecosystem, including established rivals and start-ups.