Panel: Tackling global construction challenges from the North East
Rebecca Strachan, Northumbria University; Rob Charlton, Space Group; Tom Jarman, Waterstons andDr. Kay Rogage, Northumbria UniversityDigital Construction
The construction sector is at a critical turning point. Decades of low investment in research and development has stagnated progress in the industry. Today it is one of the least efficient and most wasteful sectors, experiencing just 0.4% growth in productivity year on year (8x less than manufacturing), and accounting for almost 60% of waste generated and 40% of CO2 emissions globally. Failings across the industry don’t just have a financial and environmental cost – there is also a human cost. The Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 saw 72 people lose their lives, with subsequent reports highlighting this was an entirely preventable tragedy.
Facing intense scrutiny and impending legislation associated with the Hackitt Review and global climate emergency, transformation and innovation across the entire construction supply chain is ‘no longer optional’. Leaders across the sector disciplines, are already leveraging digital technologies such as data science, Building Information Modelling and blockchain to address these challenges. With consulting firms estimating the increased adoption of digital technologies could save up to $1.7trillion across design, engineering, construction and operations of global non-residential developments alone by 2025, there are far reaching benefits to this approach.
In this session, partners from the International Centre for Connected Construction (IC3) will explore how digital innovation can address three critical sector issues, the wider behavioural change that is required to ensure these technologies fulfil their potential and how IC3 in helping to address these global construction challenges.
Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Group, will begin the session by unpicking the events that led to the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017. He will examine the fragmentation and lack of accountability across the industry that led to Grenfell Tower and 500 other high-rise buildings across the country, being clad in the same highly combustible materials, putting thousands of lives at risk. Crucially, Rob will set out what is needed to prevent further tragedies through changes to commissioning behaviours and the role of technology in underpinning a holistic way of working, delivering assurance to asset owners, the construction supply chain and the public.
Picking up from the context of Rob’s discussion, Tom Jarman, Chair of Constructing Excellence North East’s Procuring For Value working group, will explore fundamental changes needed in the way buildings are procured – an area specifically highlighted in the 2017 Farmer Review as a key driver for change. Tom will set out the need to move on from current procurement decisions based on lowest capital cost to an approach based on whole-life performance. Tom will define the factors that contribute to ‘value’ – financial, environmental, social etc. – and how technology can underpin more holistic procurement processes.
One point of value the industry urgently needs to address is sustainability, improving the performance of buildings, reducing energy and water consumption, minimising embodied carbon and maximising occupant wellbeing. In the final session, Dr Kay Rogage, computer scientist and senior lecturer in Digital Living at Northumbria University, will explore how data from building models, IoT, sensors and building occupants can be integrated and analysed to improve understanding of building performance and support improvements in building design and operational management.
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