Digital Life, BIM Level 2 and the Third Industrial Revolution

30Jan16

John Eynon FCIOB

The UK BIM project is nearing its first major milestone of 2016 Level 2 adoption for public sector projects. The “8 pillars of level 2 BIM” are now established and in place. The classification and digital plan of work elements will be issued as a beta version online toolkit later this month.

Globally other countries are looking at the UK processes and adopting them.

So within the AEC industry we are moving to a digital information environment. However we have to recognise that we are probably the last major bastion of analogue working. We are following in the footsteps of aerospace, manufacturing, automotive , petrochem, music and the rest.

However I would suggest that the drivers for AEC to move to digital lie more outside of the industry than within. If we chart the progress of both consumer technology and society we can see that we already live digital lives.

The more compelling question might be “why did AEC take so long to do this?”

Indeed the recently launched Digital Built Britain Level 3 strategy points the way beyond our industry to something much broader and richer.

The Construction 2025 strategy already has put down a marker on this, as the contribution of the BIM programme to UKPLC was flagged up for the first time.

BIM and associated technologies provide the missing links that join up AEC with the rest of our lives. In the cloud, Smart Cities, smart lives and the rise of the Digital Information Economy. It is in this much broader vision that the place of AEC and BIM truly lies. Level 2 is/was ever only a bridgehead , a gateway to what lies beyond.

Whilst the early industrial revolutions were about mass production, the Third Industrial revolution is about information and connection on a global scale. The DBB Level 3 strategy and the Dot Everyone initiative by Martha Lane Fox, are about the UK being a leading player in the digital information economy.

The Gen Zs, Millenials, already do this stuff intuitively, it’s in their DNA, and is as natural as breathing. They will bring this home, the rest of us just need to try to keep up!

BIM, AEC, Level 2 , Level 3 are just elements of a much bigger picture, of the way that our lives will be within the space of a generation.

Evolution, big data, Generation Z, and why for our industry the drivers for going digital and adopting BIM lie more outside than within.

The Pace of Digital Evolution

I am perhaps your typical Baby Boomer, born in the late 50’s. All this technology stuff? I’ve seen it happen within my lifetime!

Calculators, fax machines, mobile phones, and personal computers; I’ve seen the first versions come out and rapidly become obsolete. I got up early to watch the first moonwalk on our black and white TV in 1969. Do you remember the ZX Spectrum? Commodore 64? Amstrad PC? Apple Macintosh? Betamax and VHS? O2? V odafone? Well I remember Mercury 121! (An early mobile provider in the UK, now long extinct).

And then there is the internet, email, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and the whole plethora of media and information channels we consume daily. Facebook at over 1.5 billion users and only founded in 2004 is vying for largest nation in the world with China and India. Twitter at over 500 million is still larger than the USA.

Feel the speed of change: frightening, exciting!

And then there’s the technology. Computers once filled a football stadium. The first Apple Mac I bought had 4MB RAM and a 40MB hard-drive (that was 25 years ago. Ouch!). Nowadays I carry 64 GB in my pocket on my iPhone. The Apollo 11 command module computer had 64KB. And then of course there’s the whole migration to mobile from static PCs. Increased use of tablets, smartphones and wearable/implanted tech, the latter which in time will surely catch on. We are no longer tied to our desks or offices, or anywhere in particular even. The world is our oyster thanks to 4G and smartphones, and online information 24/7.

And my point is? The pace of this evolution.

It’s getting faster. Transforming our lives as communities, nations, the whole world, not only just as individuals or industries. Perhaps music is the most recent example where the advent of MP3s, iTunes and the like transformed how music was produced, distributed, accessed and sold. Economic models were changed as suddenly musicians were brought much closer to their audience. The middleman could be easily bypassed.

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