Digital and data in construction

How digital methods and data analytics are improving construction projects

The use of digital methods and data analytics are increasingly contributing to the construction industry’s growth and sustainability goals.

Around two-thirds of businesses have increased their use of digital and data to overcome challenges. According to McKinsey, Covid accelerated digital adoption at both organisational and industry levels.

From simple apps for video conferencing, to using big data to optimize construction activities, the benefits of digital adoption are broad.

The Digital Construction Report from NBS, set out five key segments for digital and data in construction. These are cloud computing, BIM, off-site construction, immersive reality, and digital twins.


Optimising projects using big data


BIM (Building Information Modelling) is a process supported by online tools and technologies used to create a 3D model, or digital twin, of a construction project. It has created a wealth of valuable big data, thanks to around 70% of construction companies adopting BIM.

BIM allows information on a project to be collated, communicated and managed in one place. It supports collaboration and, by collating and learning from data, it can anticipate challenges or suggest modifications or efficiencies.

During construction, data is being used to inform optimal programme sequencing, planning logistics and ongoing productivity. And on completion of a project, data can be drawn from the day-to-day operations of buildings to monitor and optimize energy efficiency, or inform on maintenance requirements.

Applying the same principles of data collection, planners and developers already use data analytics to predict what construction projects will be required and how and where to site them. Identifying trends in population growth or movement, indicates requirements for public facilities or infrastructure, for example.

The pandemic saw growing use of cloud computing and remote access technologies for project continuity in the face of lockdowns, while a smaller but growing number of professionals use immersive technologies, like virtual reality for project walk-throughs.


Improving ‘back office’ functions with data

Construction firms are also increasingly using data to improve procurement, logistics and waste management.

Data analytics is reducing reliance on ‘just in time’ materials procurement. It allows businesses to order strategically with an eye on fluctuating materials prices or blocks within their supply chains.

Those same data tracking methods are also being used to monitor materials in use across sites to reduce wastage or identify where alternative material streams can be used in the face of shortages.

Data tracking in transport and logistics is supporting businesses to meet net zero targets too. With comprehensive information on vehicle loads and weights, as well as driver behaviour data captured directly from vehicles, firms can make small changes to improve transport efficiencies and reduce carbon emissions.

Using historical data with artificial intelligence (AI) analytics allows for forecasting and cost predictions for materials.

BIM software companies have started using AI to improve efficiency and potential of their programmes. It uses machine learning to learn from data, detect patterns and identify potential clashes. From this, it helps people to assess and analyse the impact of a minute change on the overall project.

Digital and data in construction has a wide range of advantages. Digital methods and data tracking and analysis, support construction projects right through design, build and operation.

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BIM model on laptop screen

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