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Housebuilders can no longer afford a low-tech approach

by BDigital_Admin
Construction technology helps UK housebuilders remains safe and productive. Most of all, writes Ben Wallbank, of Trimble Viewpoint, it ensures they stay competitive

Construction technology helps UK housebuilders remains safe and productive. Most of all, writes Ben Wallbank, of Trimble, it ensures they stay competitive

UK housebuilders today face increasing pressure to manage projects and business operations more efficiently, productively and profitably.

Considering the challenges business owners face – material logistics and availability, accounting for project-specific labour hours, new government regulations, and the rising rate of cyber-attacks – it’s more important than ever to increase efficiencies and manage budgets throughout the project life-cycle.

Luckily, there are a number of innovative technologies available to contractors to help them stay on track.

New construction technology solutions offer a connected, real-time construction management experience where data, workflows, and the complexities of projects can easily be shared, analysed, discussed, communicated and understood, resulting in meaningful action across every phase of the project.

Here are a few of the advantages housebuilders achieve by adopting modern technology to embrace a connected construction approach for their project management.

Collaboration among stakeholders

A single platform for all project documents, with customisable workflows, ensures the right information is shared to the right people at the right time.

UK-based housebuilder Bellway Homes recently adopted a new construction management platform to “improve the efficiency of construction management on our sites and help our teams ensure they are able to keep a close track of build processes on site on a plot-by-plot basis”, said Tony Atkin, the company’s group production managing director.

By centralising and digitising all processes, project stakeholders see a single real-time version of the truth, and can quickly access and view documents regardless of the software programs in which they were created. Expansive communication gaps that often result from manual processes are eliminated.

Bellway Homes realises the value of a ‘golden thread of information’ that is vital in completing projects to a high standard, with quality control records readily available.

“Now, we are able to keep accurate records during construction phases which can be used to ensure compliance with Building Regulations and bring further improvements to quality standards,” said Atkin.

As soon as information is entered via mobile apps from field workers, the project data is automatically updated across all relevant departments and functions.

This means that a general contractor is working off the same information as the subcontractors, which is being funnelled to project managers for auditing, quality control and handover purposes. It also means that the CFO of a company can understand the health of the project at a quick glance, while a project manager can drill into the weeds and get data regarding things like quality reports, labour hours, equipment management, and much more.

Having a connected construction management system in place also enables contractors to bring everyone together more easily, particularly early in the process, which can help identify potential choke points later that might not have been noticed if working in silos.

Results can include fewer change orders and less wasted time and materials, as well as lower project costs, which means more profit for the bottom line.

Accessibility and transparency through digital audit trails

An accurate digital audit trail should facilitate better decision-making and improve accountability across the built environment. Project stakeholders have real-time visibility into project records, status and budget, all at their fingertips.

Events like the Great Fire of London in the 17th century showed us what could happen when we didn’t take adequate precautions to prevent catastrophic fires. The Grenfell Tower tragedy opened eyes, and we now have comprehensive and detailed building safety legislation like Building Regulations UK Part L (BRUKL) and the Building Safety Act of 2022 that creates a framework for building safer structures, and ensuring that the people doing the construction are safe while they do.

Eden Facades, a 70+ year old UK-based building facade company, moved to a cloud-based quality and defect management solution to help meet the requirements of the Building Safety Act and increase operational efficiency.

The company chose a solution that “will give us valuable insights into the performance of projects, allowing us to increase ROI, mitigate risk and increase productivity”, said Paul Michaelson, construction director at Eden Facades. “We’re not just adapting to change; we’re actively embracing it.”

Rather than changing how it works, Eden digitised its processes, providing full data accountability to eliminate ambiguity about when a change was made.

Whether it be a health and safety form, a snag list, or project communications, it’s captured within the system. This granularity is invaluable in a sector where timings can directly influence project costs, timelines and safety provisions.

In addition, the range of project data and documentation accessible through digital construction management solutions allows contractors to largely avoid and clarify misunderstandings with other contractors.

For example, a subcontractor may confuse payment terms or amounts, but all details are stored in the cloud-based system. This means there’s a record of the original payment agreement, as well as a record of the sub receiving and signing off on those terms.

Protection of valuable data

One reason the construction industry is a top target for ransomware attacks is that many contractors still rely on a dangerous mix of manual processes, and disconnected, on-premise hardware and software solutions to maintain business operations—making them easy targets for attackers.

Even the most technologically innovative companies can fall victim to a sophisticated cybercrime attack, which continues to proliferate in our daily lives. Moving to a cloud-based data storage system offers the following safeguards:

  • Enhanced protections that include encrypted, user-level permission controls, single sign-on and multi-factor authentication
  • Secure access to data and workflows that can be accessed at any time and from anywhere thanks to the mobility offered by cloud solutions
  • Consistent data backups—ensuring that even if an attack or other business disruption occurs, business continuity is not affected

Housebuilders that don’t adopt modern construction technologies will soon be outpaced, as competitors with updated technology win more work, leaving disconnected contractors behind.

Main image: Ben Wallbank is BIM strategy and partnerships manager at Trimble Viewpoint

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