This Post is by Christian Ehl.
The new year has just started, but people in the building industry are already worried. Many sense that their building project might go wrong, causing delays, costly revisions, or legal disputes. Already people are late, timelines are not being met and people are spending time arguing why things should be different. And the year has just begun…
And there is one single reason why architects, builders and owners alike are struggling in 2016 – they don’t have data competence. In the 21st century many industries have become data-driven. Financial services, health-care, and large-scale farming, just to name a few, have learned to rely on data for better transparency, optimizing processes, finding mistakes and better planning. Drive your new car to a repair shop and they will connect a data reader, analyze the data and likely find the issue instantly. In some cases, the issues are fixed with a simple software update that changes the way the car behaves. If you own a Tesla, this can even happen remotely overnight. You could wake up to find that your car has brand new features.
Buildings lag behind
Not so in building. 3D modeling, cost and project planning, task management, simulation software, and other new inventions have failed to lead to data-driven building. People have built dashboards, scorecards, and risk systems – but they all seem to come short. Yes, each project is different, employs new teams, embodies millions of objects and constantly evolves. But the core of the problem is that our industry simply doesn’t have data competence.
“But I am using Building Information Modeling, am I fine?” No! BIM is just a method for storing data in a model. It does not define which data to store when and what happens with the data. In analyzing the data of thousands of BIM projects last year, I found out that data is very chaotic and mostly incomplete. So it is hard to analyse, generate reliable forecasts, optimizations, benchmark, and so on. Currently, our industry does not create, value, analyse and leverage data nearly as much as we could.
Why data will save you from making mistakes
If you generate the right data during the right phases of your project and you are good at managing the quality of your data, your building project is much more likely to be successful. In fact, you can:
- Identify and solve clashes between different disciplines
- Calculate, manage and optimize costs in your projects early
- Create reliable and more detailed planning
- Monitor your building progress
- Predict what parts of the building need servicing, and when
- Simulate and optimize
- Identify and track issues and their resolution time
- Manage risks
- Build twice, once digitally, where you simulate and learn, then physically with all the learning being employed
- Monitor the team’s performance and reliability
- Be effective during renovations
- … and much more.
Perhaps you think our industry is special and too complex and too individual? Think again. Look at health care. Each tumor is different and so is the body that houses it. We go to different doctors, who often see patients for the first time. But modern medicine draws from countless data studies, measures, looks for patterns, reads, analyses, predicts, and monitors. Or self-driving cars: they drive in the utter chaos of day-to-day traffic. How do they manage to drive more safely than human drivers? Many industries employ data scientists and use predictive data analytics methods. They engage in education and standards, and in defining data quality, because they know how important qualitative data is to their fields. Why is architecture different?
The future is data-driven building
Most industries have become data-driven already. They have engaged specialists, built data-centric cultures, and developed the tools needed to leverage data, optimize their projects and avoid costly mistakes. I have no doubt that the building industry will follow. The move toward BIM provides a foundation from which to start leveraging data more effectively. The economic pressure and the need to build more, faster and more effectively will drive the data revolution in our industry. The tools are ready. There is a plethora of open source analytics frameworks, predictive analytics tools, and algorithms – and machine intelligence is on the rise.
Start building data competence today. It’s not too late. Don’t try to solve all of your problems and data issues at once. Finding the right data requirements for the right analysis is key for your success. Focus on simple benefits first and build towards larger and more powerful analytical tools. Always collect data with the end result in mind, then expand as you harvest the first benefits. For large projects, it is worth engaging a data scientist to help you leverage your data. It will be well worth it. Get experts to help you define your data requirements to help you obtain good quality information and use it to your advantage.
There is no doubt that the future belongs to data-driven building. But the data needs are complex and will only become more so. Especially in large scale projects, people are likely to be overburdened by the tasks of creating and managing data.
In the future there will be building bots, small software and hardware robots that help you create and manage your data and innovative services will help you get the most benefits from your data. Think of self-optimizing buildings. They are closer than you might think. So start building your data competence today. And have a great start in 2016!
Christian Ehl is an IT expert for the building industry. He created the Open BIM platform bim+ for Nemetschek. He is now CEO of BIMQ (www.bimq.com), a data-focussed start-up in the building industry and is consulting on large building projects as partner of Vrame (www.vrame.com).
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