BILT Europe 2019
As the final BILT conference of the year comes to a close, we reflect on the key themes and conversations of last week’s event in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Here’s what we learnt…
As a built environment technology conference, “by users, for users”, the sessions were unashamedly technical with specialists from all over the world sharing their knowledge.
BILT is clearly the place to see what’s going to disrupt the market next, evidenced by the number of senior industry figures in discreet attendance.
There were more infrastructure projects on show than on previous occasions, especially in developing countries where they are using infrastructure to grow the national economy and raise the standard of living. It’s governments and public bodies rather than private developers who are pushing for ways to design, build and manage the built environment more efficiently.
Collaboration and project teams was a consistent theme through almost every session. Efficiency, standards and ways to work together featured heavily in the Q&A. And the ever-present conversation about naming conventions.
Demonstrating value is key. New approaches can reduce construction time or build costs but more thinking and design time is often needed, bringing the expenditure forward.
Issues of collaboration and flexibility cropped up often with teams needing to bring in specialist expertise or rapidly scale up at short notice. This is where the BILT network comes in, with team leaders needing the right contacts at their fingertips.
Notably, ideas and approaches that were theoretical three (or more) years ago have now been tested on real projects, with practitioners openly sharing their successes, failures and lessons learnt. Adoption is happening ever faster.
AI popped up in many sessions with people taking advantage of tools that can predict user behaviours and analyse different scenarios, processing large amounts of data and providing good solutions in seconds rather than days or weeks. For example, algorithms that can place doors/windows/trunking, analyse user behaviour or predict construction schedules based on what’s been done before.
Technology that’s being used in other industries is appearing up all over the place. RFID tags and QR codes are tracking construction materials and building assets as they do in retail. Scanning of manufactured pieces and comparing with the model to check for defects – as they do in the automotive industry – is improving the quality of offsite manufacture.
More data means more processing power. People always need more bandwidth (never mind the poor WIFI in most conference venues) to transfer data between platforms and work with it quickly, particularly in the modern world of flexible working and multiple devices. Does the software help you to work remotely (in different offices or on site), to demonstrate ideas or progress to the client and the wider project team?
And from a quick straw poll of people on the exhibition stands, the most asked question of the conference was, “Does it work with [insert software package here] and Revit?”.
Fluency is key with people, platforms and software needing to communicate and share data in many directions all at the same time. Seamless, automated, multi-directional integration.
Many BILT Europe delegates talked about connecting the real and the virtual worlds; about safer and more efficient ways of building out a design once it gets on site. With the right mindset, an as-built model can be created as construction progresses: iterative modifications are added to the model as they happen rather than retro-fitting the information at the end.
There are ever more rich layers of data to work with, coupled with more knowledge resources, and more of it is open source. This is a brilliant industry advancement. People are becoming better at working with complex data and interrogating it efficiently.
In the words of Atlas Industries BIM specialist Duc Huynh, “technology is an enabler with humans the drivers.”
Looking after our people is essential, particularly as there aren’t enough clever technical minds in the industry. There were mixed reactions to the yoga and wellbeing elements of the conference but general agreement that we need to take more care to encourage people and brains that function well, that don’t burn out, that can be creative. Diversity of thought – seeking out people who think differently and approach a problem in news ways – moves the gender issue a step forward.
A few mentions of drawingless projects caught our attention. Led by pioneering public sector organisations that are delivering major projects all over the world. We’ll be watching this one develop.
Tech-savvy people are getting better at presenting data and communicating the value of their work, which in turn is making it easy to engage less-technical professionals. A good dashboard can make all the difference to a project as we enter the era of agile evidence-based decision making.
We were particularly delighted to take another step into the BILT community. We found them open and welcoming to newcomers; an energetic bunch of like-minded people moving forward together. We are looking forward to being even more involved next year by supporting the full series for 2020 and will be with the team in Singapore, Sydney, Singapore and Valencia.