Welcome to the Digital Estate - David Philp


From BIM Journal. Click Here to Read Issue 5

In a look at the trajectory of how our digitally enabled assets will transform over the coming months and years, not least in the field of Prop-Tech, here is David Philp (AECOM - Global BIM/MIC Consultancy Director, Digital Built Britain – Core Team) to enlighten us accordingly.

Whilst construction is traditionally perceived as being a conservative and slow-moving sector, over the last half decade we have genuinely witnessed a positive narrative forming around our built environment. One that builds upon the two central planks of digitisation and collaboration. Undoubtedly there is a mutualism between these two themes and when they do converge, and together they apply a powerful lever for reform and modernisation - not just in how we create our built assets but in how we care for them too.

Central to this shift had been the United Kingdom’s concentration on Level 2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) and other associated central government requirements. Where the client now becomes very good at buying a physical asset that matches its digital requirements, complete with the ongoing curation of these data rich models to then support better outcomes in the operational stages. In turn this leads to better briefing of maintenance activities, better and more complete asset management or indeed modification or replacement strategies. Each being suitably facilitated by a now up to date accurate asset information model.

The key to Level 2 BIM success is the integration of a “Soft Landings” process. Where identifying required outcomes, defining performance targets, prescribing all required operating data, fine-tuning, testing actual performance and structured feedback from end-users are underpinned by BIM reality checks and collaborative working practices. Arguably the soft landings process not only ensures a better and more rigorous briefing process, but also fuses together the operational and capital delivery teams from the earliest stage. With BIM promoting a common understanding between all parties (especially where the use of Virtual Reality and other immersive techniques occur).

Early BIM projects are seeing the project information models (PIM) feeding into the asset information model (AIM) and unlocking real benefits especially for the owner operator clients. Make no mistake, creating a digital twin for a portfolio takes time and effort, particularly as it needs to integrate with and pull data from other often home-brewed legacy databases. However, the benefits of a digital estate will subsequently deliver significant savings and reduced risk. Being able to run a plain language question (PLQ) across an entire estate to inform an investment decision or respond to a trigger event, such as a component or system failure. This has a massive benefit for a client in order to inform better enterprise level decision making with greater accuracy and speedier outcomes.

As Clients increasingly want more with the assets that they already have (not just using technologies to build for less) there is an ever-growing need to blend legacy databases together, analyse it and run joined up queries that uses data from many sources. This brings big-data and analytics very much to the forefront and data management is becoming an essential skill for all of our built environment professions. Indeed frictionless data that can move circularly around an end to end life-cycle will underpin the digital estate, which is already becoming the ambition of many organisations that are looking to improve the service provision.

Whilst the lines between Capex and Opex are blurring, there is still a habitual demarcation in the procurement of these stages. However, enterprise data, systematic feedback loops and the opportunity that distributed ledger technologies offer could see new outcome based forms of contract, where we start to see the provision of space as a service that is aligned with customer demand (especially in the backdrop of an ever-growing activity-based gig economy). Leveraging the value of both real-time information and probabilistic algorithms will also tend feature here.

Early adopters of advanced Prop-Tech (Property Technology) are demonstrating how the market could be disrupted by such a service provision model, one that focuses on improving client productivity. Indeed the role of an asset being recognised in organisational and workplace performance is becoming increasingly important and is central to the ambitions of the UK Government’s Digital Built Britain (DBB) programme, and its creation of a Centre Digital Built Britain at Cambridge University.

Using data to constantly monitor and refine how clients use their space is essential to any pay-per-use on-demand new model. Connectivity is obviously a key enabler, with the Internet of Things (IoT), being the network of connected “smart” devices that communicate seamlessly over the Internet, helping us understand how assets are used and how end-users interact. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also set to harness and process all the terabytes of data being collected by these ever ubiquitous technologies among other telemetry. So deployed in order to analyse data in real time, whilst running countless iterations of scenarios to optimise how the asset is performing, which can also be used to automate insightful investment decision-making.

This is an exciting time for those in the world of Facilities and Asset Management as we find ever more innovative ways to use data, and assets become ever more responsive and self-adapting. Whilst these changes will be profound, it is essential that a solid foundation will be established from which to build from, so ensuring that Level 1 BIM (with indexable and searchable information) is a must already.

History has taught us that culture trumps technology every time, so make sure that any behavioural changes are made well in advance.


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