Dec 10 2014

2014 construction, real estate and infrastructure industry roundup

As we near the end of 2014, it is worth reflecting on the advances we’ve seen in the UK construction, real estate and infrastructure sector during the year, covering both technology and market changes.

UK Construction 2014

Information Technology becomes integral to the construction sector?

If you work in the UK construction industry, the conversation has been almost all about Building Information Modelling (BIM).  With just over a year to go to the UK Government’s BIM deadline of 2016, this has been a pivotal period, during which we’ve begun to see more detail fleshed out regarding the requirements of ‘Level 2’, and a growing realisation that the BIM challenge is not something that just affects designers and those involved in construction.

As we have long argued, information should be an intrinsic part of the asset handover process, with data about the built asset capable of being updated and augmented throughout its operational life-cycle.  This was recognised by the publication of the final version of PAS1192-3 at the end of March 2014, and we now have a code of practice for the operational phase, specifying how an asset’s information model (AIM) should be created, and how that model should be used and maintained through the life of the asset up to final disposal.  Owner/operators and facilities managers now have clear responsibilities in managing data throughout their assets’ life cycles which have been codified in the Government Soft Landings (GSL) initiative.

Knowing that other markets are watching the UK BIM adoption process closely, we have our own asset lifecycle management approach to incorporate the latest thinking, and the final parts of the UK government’s “BIM toolkit” (due in April 2015), into our BIM platform for all our target markets.


Mobile solutions

Somewhat overshadowed by BIM, but no less important for its impact – particularly during project delivery onsite – is mobile technology.  CONJECT started 2014 by announcing its acquisition of a specialist mobile construction applications developer, WAPP6, and we launched our first mobile inspection tool in London in May.  As a member of COMIT (Construction Opportunities for Mobile IT), we are heavily involved in anticipating and providing for the trends in mobile adoption throughout the AEC and real estate industries, as evidenced by our mobile applications for facilities management and project management.


UK Economy buoyant, Europe at risk

Prospects in the UK construction,  property and infrastructure markets have continued to improve in 2014, but the recovery has been patchy.  As we identified in our October market outlook post, you only have to look at the number of cranes working across some of our urban horizons to see how buoyant some cities are, but the picture isn’t universally rosy.

During the recession, many firms bid for work at low margins in order to maintain cash flow and retain resource capacity.  However, as the market has picked up, skills and materials shortages have been identified, and subcontractor and supplier costs have climbed, squeezing many projects’ margins.  As a result, we have seen several firms issue profit warnings, and it will be many months before we can genuinely say the worst is over.

But there will not be a return to pre-recession levels of work and margins.  Particularly in the UK public sector, clients are looking to get more for less, and the Government’s Construction 2025 strategy has set some tough targets to accelerate project delivery, while cutting costs, improving energy efficiency and making the industry safer.

And looking into the Eurozone, there is talk of the possibility of slipping back into recession, and with Japan, the world’s third biggest economy now officially in recession, the economic forecast is far from clear.

So to recap, technology – including BIM and mobile – will play a key part over the next 10 years, but the fundamentals are more about adapting our people, processes and practices to become more lean, efficient and collaborative.  As an industry we need to continue increasing our focus on what the client needs and how we can deliver better solutions in the built environment and better outcomes for the client.


The industry holy grail?

Once we start every project thinking creatively about the owner/operator’s needs, whole project teams can begin to mould their information creation and delivery processes towards those objectives, adding value through innovation, rather than creating waste by adhering to outdated and inefficient practices.

About the author

Steve Cooper

Steve Cooper is Managing Director of Conject Ltd. He has spent over 25 years within the construction and engineering software markets, successfully running sales and marketing teams. He spent a number of years at SAP within their E&C practice, set up and managed a distribution channel in Asia Pacific for a division of Misys and ran a sales and marketing team within CSB COINS. In 2000 he gained an MBA from Henley Management College.

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