Talk digital this UK Construction Week

There’s a lot on the table at this week’s UK Construction Week, with data and digitisation, robotics and carbon, all topical highlights of the menu. Tim Clark offers a few choice recommendations

Major infrastructure projects hang in the balance, concrete collapsing in schools and hospitals, and an interest hike hanging over the UK’s housing market.

A lot has changed in the six months since the construction industry met at London’s ExCel in May for UK Construction Week. However with a plethora of issues and topics to discuss, the Digital Construction Hub will once more be a hive of knowledge for the budding digital construction connoisseur.

UK Construction Week returns this week to the Birmingham NEC, and with it so does Build In Digital.

Alongside a jam-packed line-up of speakers, Build In Digital is hosting a series of panels throughout the three conference days in Birmingham to unearth the latest trends, big issues, and underlying sentiment in the digital construction sector.

Digitise to decarbonise

The first panel discussion will explore the elephant in the room when it comes to construction: Climate change.

On Tuesday at 12:15 the Digital Construction Hub will explore whether the construction industry can and should digitise to decarbonise.

The session will include a panel of industry experts, including Kier’s James Franklin, who took his IT experience into the civil engineering world, and holds a passion for implementing digital technologies for asset owners.

Joining Franklin will be Mairead Gallagher Morgan, BIM mentor and BIM lead at engineer Buro Happold, who specialises in developing digital, computational and technological capabilities across several disciplines. Yasir Patel, principal consultant for sector strategy at sustainability consultancy Energise, who is working on cross-sector pathways for key sectors looking to decarbonise as well as provide the tools to achieve it.

Also attending the session is Ciaran Garrick, head of design technology at architect Allies & Morrison who leads the practice’s research in sustainable design, and Anna Galika, Gensler’s design technology manager who has guided the firm through its own digital innovation path.

Other sessions on Tuesday include how to save time and money when it comes to 3D scanning, which is hosted by Kevin Stephens from Canvas, who will be taking to the stage at 3:15pm, and Enable International’s Mark Gilham, who will be exploring how people should pay for performance, not promises, and how to successfully claim rebates on projects.

No digital stage would be complete without at least one reference to AI, and in the form of Galliford Try’s Christian Standage, and Dev Amratia from nPlan, the topic of how AI can deliver work and change client-contractor relationships will be explored at 2:15pm on Tuesday.

The rise of the robots

On Wednesday at 1pm Build In Digital will be hosting another panel which should entice the digital innovator and robotics fan alike. Is robotics in construction the next frontier, and what will the construction sector really look like in 10, 20 or even 50 years’ time?

Laing O’Rourke’s European learning solution’s owner Rob Claridge will be joined by BE-ST’s Fiona MacDonald, BIM Academy’s Andrew Johnson and SASI Studio’s Mattia Santi.

Claridge has overseen the transformation of Laing O’Rourke’s learning and development strategy, including immersive learning and augmented and virtual reality. MacDonald is responsible for a number of digital and data related projects at BE-ST, and has experience connecting both systems and people.

Matta Santi has previously worked with some of the biggest architectural practices in the world, such as Zaha Hadid, prior to founding his own studio. Armed with a degree in architectural engineering he is also co-founder and creative director of the digital magazine, Data Aided Design.

Also joining is Build In Digital favourite Henry Fenby-Taylor who, as head of information management for the Centre for Digital Built Britain, brings with him a breadth of experience from research to implementation that includes everything from getting his hands dirty on projects to leading programmes of work for large clients.

Build In Digital will be probing the panel for answers to the key questions of when, and how, the long-prophesied automation of the construction sector could become a reality.

Other notable sessions on Wednesday include Oris Material Intelligence’s Laura Traseira Pineiro’s in-depth take on how to future-proof the built environment. Pineiro’s expertise helps projects to identify alternative, and often more efficient designs by drawing on construction data knowledge.

Does the construction industry need to reinvent the digitalisation wheel?

With productivity still stuck at the same low levels it was a decade ago in the sector, has digitalisation really helped improve the sector, if not why not?

From the BIM mandate to digital twins, have contractors become confused on which digital innovation they should pursue? This session will delve into whether construction could benefit from turning a fresh page in its digitisation process.

The five panel members include GS1 UK’s Rachel Heaton, who has over 20 years’ experience at major construction firms, and has a career focus on driving greater efficiency, sustainability, and visibility for supply chains.

Joining Heaton is Adam Taylor, commercial director of GCF who has also spent over two decades in the business, previously working at St Gobain and Polypipe, and has a wealth of knowledge on product specifications and how this can interact with the digital world.

Chloe Donovan is managing director of Natural Building Systems & Material Research Limited. Together these ventures are working symbiotically to create an award winning carbon-negative and bio-based modular system which marks a major step forward in sustainable construction.

And lastly, Rob Barbour is group data and insights director for Travis Perkins. He leads data governance, data engineering, analytics and data science capabilities within the Group’s finance function.

Data data everywhere and not a drop to process

Closing off Wednesday is the last panel session of the day, which focuses on building trust in data in the built environment, and features SymTerra’s John Ryan, Gavin Summerson from the connected places catapult, Fiona Moore from Nima, Laura Bosworth from Real, and last but not least Paul Drayton from Laing O’Rourke.

Can developers make best use of the vast data they generate, and does simply holding more “data” really benefit the construction sector. Ryan will draw on his experience at SymTerra to state that consistency in data is an area where the sector is currently lacking, and can do better.

Fiona Moore, vice chair of Nima – the new name of the UK Bim Alliance – will also be joining the debate and bring her expertise in helping the UK as a whole adopt information management across the sector.

Since 2007 Laura Bosworth has worked on major construction projects, with notable schemes such as the Olympic Games. Bosworth will bring her knowledge of leveraging data effectively to the discussion.

Working on mega-projects such as Hinkley Point C comes as part of the job for Paul Drayton, who will share his experience at Laing O’Rourke as head of digital for Europe. Drayton has a background in delivering a step-change in the performance of complex engineering organisation.

As UK team lead at PlanRadar, Robert Norton is responsible for advising clients on meeting new building safety requirements. On Thursday at UK Construction Week, he’ll look into how to digitally deliver the Building Safety Act at 12:15.

A core topic for many in the construction industry, the Act has seen a raft of new regulations come into force on October 1. It requires developers, contractors and all those in between to brush up on their digital skills to ensure the golden tread of information (a document to accompany a building to allow a full information history to be accessed ) is met.

No construction conference is complete without a bit of evangelism on the final day. To provide the digital rhetoric, Simon Wharton from Pushon will recount his time served as a “digital evangelist” over a quarter of a century in online marketing and eCommerce.

He’ll serve to inform delegates on how they can develop a business strategy that can deliver exactly what clients need, when they need it. Check out Simon on the Digital Construction Hub at 2:15pm.


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