Digital Built Britain
With reports that arch-disrupter and BIM tour de force Mark Bew is planning to engage with the industry early in 2017 about Level 3 BIM, it’s well worth dusting off the document that ensures Level 2 is seen as a wayfinding point instead of a destination; Digital Built Britain (DBB).
Published way back in February 2015, DBB is an aspirational document which maps out the UK construction industry’s strategic importance in the emerging digital economy, as well as moving the BIM diagram typology from wedges to pyramids. If you still believe BIM isn’t fundamentally changing our industry, then there are wake up calls aplenty waiting for you in DBB.
Reading the full ‘Strategic Plan’ and all of the further reading it links to is quite an undertaking, but it is an enlightening and entertaining way to spend a day or so. However, if you can’t chalk off a chunk of your calendar, here’s a breakdown.
In a nutshell, DBB is the UK plan to take advantage of converging technologies and agendas. It will cement a position as the world leader in construction and management of built assets across the globe by capturing and exploiting rich data in ways not yet possible. This might sound bold; that’s because it is.
The easiest way to understand most documents is through the diagrams. The diagrams here are initially impenetrable, and out of context, they remain that way. However, consuming the report and the referenced texts brings the shift to pyramidal diagrams into focus. The issues addressed by the Level 2 documents were very much about the construction industry alone; a complex yet flat world with a mainly hierarchical supply chain… wedges sufficed and even became quite iconic. But DBB tries to add structure to a collision of worlds. BIM as a construction industry initiative meets with the Smart Cities Agenda and the IoT or ‘Internet of Things’ concept, with the data and analytics being combined to create a ‘Big Data’ set for the built environment. Trying to draw this multifaceted diagram before we’ve built any smart cities and whilst the IoT is still its infancy was never going to be easy or especially successful. Truth be told, the next phase of digitising the construction sector cannot be distilled into a single diagram yet, and probably never will be.
DBB describes a transparent construction industry, with paperless contracts based on open-data information exchanges. This seems a long way from our current industry in which Level 1 is a long way from being broadly adopted and the claim in this document that ‘BIM processes are now mainstream’ will be dismissed by many. Again, out of context this seems incorrect, most of the industry are not delivering Level 2 projects. David Philp recently told the ‘Digital Construction Week’ audience that no Level 2 projects have been delivered yet. But in the context of DBB, the process for Level 2 is very much in the mainstream, with many people outside of the document authors now well versed in what it means. Level 2 is firmly in its delivery phase and is no longer aspirational as a concept. In the eyes of the bleeding edge, Level 2 has fledged and they must move on in their quest for world leadership as the rate of acceleration is far too quick to stop and wait for the bulk of the industry to catch up.
“The big data trend will affect all industry sectors over time. The Digital Built Britain strategy takes the momentum created by Level 2 work to accelerate benefits realisation in the construction and asset management sector.”
You could be forgiven so far for thinking that DBB is an academic fancy without any actual call to action, but the more you read the more it becomes clear that it lives up to its billing as a strategic plan. Boxes full of actions under the headings of Delivery, Commercial, Technical, Research, Growth, and Leadership, displayed in order of how to achieve Level 3A first before moving through 3B & 3C and eventually the ‘Become World Leader’ section of Level 3D. Somebody has to be the world leader, and only those who try are even in the race.
There are a lot of actions, too many to list here; but now you know where they are you can follow the link at the end of this article and have a look for yourself. What is more important than the list of actions is that the delivery mechanisms are clearly identified, if not named, and an iterative approach using the best of the ‘successful formula developed for Level 2’ is also called out. The delivery of the DBB programme will be managed by a Project Management Office with a focus on three themes, Departmental, Processes and Standards, and Market engagement. The further you read through DBB the more it become clear that this is the start of a genuinely intriguing and innovative plan that is trying to change our world because the vast opportunities of taking the lead are outweighed by the risk of not changing fast enough.
With the urgency stressed in DBB in mind, why has it taken from February 2015 until now for the Level 3 conversation to get going? The Level 2 mandate, the announcement of the validation ‘stretch target’, and the Scottish BIM programme have all taken plenty of effort and resources, but despite these factors, there has been quiet progress. The IPA released the Government Construction Strategy 2016-20 which highlights that the government have been reorganising to be ready to deliver on the DBB actions. The work is far from finished but the signs are looking positive that we’ve reached a point where we can really start building on the success of Level 2 and work towards defining and delivering a digital construction industry which take on the world.
John Adams, Head of BIM Services, BIM Strategy Ltd