Nov 25 2015

Geospatial expertise vital in managing BIM and Big Data

“Integration of BIM and GIS is a good place to start connecting BIM and Smart Cities

Yesterdays CIOB International Inspiring Construction conference (hashtag: #CIOBInspire) in London heard a series of great presentations on a “Smart future”, from Arto Kiviniemi of Liverpool University, BAM Design MD Andrew Pryke, Sellafield’s John Robison and AECOM’s David Philp. Data – some of it open, some of it Big, some in BIM, some of it in need of security – was at the core of all four presentations, but it was also also clear from all four speakers that we still have a lot of work to do to get our data more joined-up and all-embracing.

Foresight report 2020

This point is also a theme in a new report (available here) published by the Association of Geographic Information (AGI) on Monday. With more and more data becoming available to the human race (according to IBM, each day the human race creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data – about the same as downloading half a billion new HD movies every day), the AGI says it is critical that we are prepared to understand it and to use it effectively to manage our societies, economies and the environment. Chief editor of the report Anne Kemp says:

Forbes predicts that over the next five years the number of handheld devices in the world will increase from 10.3 billion to 29.5 billion. This will mean a huge increase in data, and a phenomenal surge in the amount of noise we will need to sift through to find the information we need to make good decisions.

The role of the geospatial community in managing this data is vital. The management of big data through geospatial analysis helps us to visualise patterns of information, create better understanding and dialogue, and make more informed decisions.

AGI Foresight 2020 image(The geospatial community refers to specialists who gather, display and manipulate information that has a location attached to it, from an address or coordinates from a GPS. Geospatial specialists display this information in maps that help people analyse large amounts of information – from the damage done by a tornado to the total number of home foreclosures in a specific area.)

The report says a truly connected ‘Digital Earth’ can only be achieved through location intelligence. A common thread through the report is the need for the GI community, and location intelligence, to tackle issues of data quality and data management to enable enhanced decision making in today’s ‘Digital Earth’. The report highlights that to do this the industry requires a fundamental and deep understanding of its relationship with digital data.

Echoing a point made first by Arto Kiviniemi and underlined by David Philp yesterday – “integration of BIM and GIS is a good place to start connecting BIM and Smart Cities” – the report stresses BIM, Smart Cities and the Internet of Things are key areas where location intelligence is being used to underpin decisions and address key social, environmental and economic challenges. Anne Kemp says

There is far more to location intelligence than maps. It’s all about data, what you do with it and what outcomes you can provide that counts. We are seeing an explosion in the volume of sensors and mobile devices in cities, homes and workplaces which are producing torrents of data. The role of location intelligence in the management of these datasets is vital, with it becoming the glue to connect them.

The management of big data through location intelligence enables people, and technologies, to visualise information and draw out insights to inform better dialogue and make informed decisions.

The 2020 report consistently highlights the important role in which location intelligence is playing across a diverse range of markets. I am confident that the geospatial industry has the skills to shape the way in which information is managed in the future. To do this we need to ensure that the technologies, homes and cities of tomorrow are developed with location data at their core.

[Disclosure: I attended yesterday’s CIOB conference at the invitation of the CIOB. Anne Kemp is a fellow member of the ICE’s information systems panel.]

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Nov 23 2015

An SME AEC SaaS catch-up

I have a backlog of industry posts that I will be posting over the next week or so, but I’ve also been sent a couple of other news snippets….

1: Corecon updates

Corecon logoPitched at the small to medium-sized end of the north American market (“Run your entire operation for about $1 a day!”), Corecon Technologies recently updated its CoreconLink for QuickBooks Desktop and Sage 50 Canada accounting software, providing users of Corecon V7 construction estimating, project management and job cost software with increased efficiency between Corecon V7 and some popular accounting systems.  This streamlined functionality was already available in CoreconLink for QuickBooks Online, SAP Business One and Xero accounting software, but there are some updates of CoreconLink accounting utilities for the online software applications as well. Read Corecon’s news release.

Meanwhile, if you work in the southern hemisphere….

2: cloud-based construction software business, Small Builders was launched by a Sydney, Australia-based  building and construction lawyer and a member of the Master Builders Association, with the objective of helping its users run sustainable businesses (“Small Builders gets you paid, gets you compliant, and gets you organised” – all for Au$990 a year – the starter rate).

At first glance, the solution seems to be strong on contract management (so perhaps similar to the UK’s Sypro, only aimed at Australian SMEs) John Dela Cruz says he aims to help SMEs avoid poor business practices:

“The Small Builders building software has been built for the needs of home builders and commercial contractors. If you are good on the tools and managing relationships then Small Builders gives you the essentials you need to run a successful business. You don’t need to be good with computers, Small Builders has been built for you – the small business that needs a practical solution – it’s quick and simple to use.”

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Nov 18 2015

Notes from Viewpoint’s Field View user day

The Field View user conference in London has provided some useful updates on Viewpoint’s mobile development plans.

13:00 GMTViewpoint For ProjectsViewpoint For Projects (formerly 4Projects) has been growing strongly in terms of users during 2015, adding 5,900 users/month, EMEA managing director Alun Baker told the last* user conference for Field View (formerly Priority1, acquired by 4Projects in December 2014).

Back in its MCS/Priority1 days, Field View started out as a ruggedised PDA application, but it made the transition to Android devices a few years ago. Today, Gareth Cottrell, Field View’s mobile development manager, showed early designs of the first Windows and iPad versions of the Field View mobile application (the developers are using Xamarin to write native Android, Windows and iOS apps) and talked about the new web edition of Field View (a Beta version – “better, snappier, more adaptive across devices” – will be available to some test users shortly). The new web interface features a left-hand side menu (the current edition’s menu is across the top), fast search tools and filters to help users locate their key projects and tasks, multi-task status change and reporting tools, among other improvements.

A customer story

fieldviewCustomer Gareth Burton, CIO – Europe at Laing O’Rourke, gave an overview of the company’s adoption of Field View, which started back in the pre-Viewpoint MCS days. The company’s philosophy is focused on assurance, ensuring certainty in processes that are less construction, more advanced manufacture and logistics, he said, and they are using FieldView to get real-time assurance they are working on the right information in the right place at the right time. Example Field View projects included the Francis Crick Institute, Crossrail and the Leadenhall Building (all in London), and he echoed MCS founder Richard Scott’s view that mobile value was delivered because the application did far more than snagging (Burton highlighted health and safety, quality, and process automation – asset management trials are under way).

Steve Spark (Viewpoint commercial director, EMEA) talked about building information modelling, and other driving forces: demand for better project delivery, more integration, and technology (data, mobile, business intelligence) as an enabler. He highlighted UK industry KPIs showing the need for change, and noted how other countries are watching the UK’s BIM drive (complete with detailed policies, mandates and timetables), and its focus on whole-life costs. Visibility  and control of processes are key, he said, but we need to overcome the poor interoperability of point solutions and silo mentalities of conventional AEC working approaches – and integration of supply chains and technology is fundamental.


14:15 GMT – Another customer, Gary Doel, head of business solutions at UK housebuilder Crest Nicholson, has been working with Field View on an application programming interface, API, seeking to work with its predominantly outsourced supply chains and replace (or at least better support) largely paper-based processes onsite. Snagging was the starting point, but other processes were also mobilised, so that Crest could centralise information to produce summary reports for management at all levels (integrating with data from COINS and other Crest internal business systems). Doel said some subcontractors didn’t even use email, so Field View was used to provide paper-based handouts regarding snags, etc.


14:45 GMT – Ben Wallbank (Viewpoint BIM strategy manager) aimed to help raise the understanding of the Field View user audience of the UK BIM journey, where BIM deliverables are already required by £11bn-worth of UK projects (excluding HS2). He outlined the Level 2 BIM deliverables and the precedence of the model, talked about COBie (“our aim is for Field View users to do COBie with even knowing they’re doing COBie”) and the Common Data Environment (CDE), and the emergence of ‘Big Data’. This increasingly means that a company like Viewpoint is now working to support data needs throughout the asset lifecycle beyond design and construction.

Viewpoint for Projects now incorporates an EIR Writer and a BEP Writer in its project communication toolset, helping set up team responsibilities and workflows. The company has migrated to a non-SQL database to enable better searches in its BIM management tools, and these include COBie validation and reporting, and integration between the CDE and Field View.

The ‘Big Data‘ challenge comes when clients (plus contractors) need to look at structured data across multiple built assets, and Ben started to raise subjects such as the ‘Internet of Things’ and Smart Cities.

Immersive technologies

15:15 GMT – Dave Elliott of Lutterworth, Leicestershire, UK-based Holivis was a guest speaker at the Field View conference, talking about immersive technologies in construction (businesses such as Soluispost – are also active in this field; I also see and hear a lot about VR, AR and tools like Hololens and Visual-Wise via COMIT). Predictably, Elliott mentioned Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear and ‘caves’, and showed how AR and VR can be used to help train people and to visualise built environments – though he initially used aerospace and automotive examples. However, he also showed examples of VR use in civil engineering projects, and in visualising and sequencing construction processes such as concrete pours.

Field View and ViewPoint for Projects integration

16:30 GMT – With the only occasional mention of “4Projects”, Richard Scott demonstrated BIM integration between the mobile application and the web-based collaboration platform, using a COBie export to populate a model held in Field View. He also demonstrated how Field View forms can be used to capture and add handover information (eg: product serial numbers, installation dates, warranty dates and related files such as photographs) about model objects and then synchronised with the Common Data Environment.

Key project management capabilities17:10 GMT – Viewpoint product manager Jeremy Larsen talked about the company’s product roadmap, strategy and direction, building on Gareth Cottrill’s earlier presentation and stressing usability, mobility, flexibility and integration in the context of Field View (like some AEC SaaS competitors – eg: Aconex [post] – I noticed Viewpoint has cost control as a key project management capability). In the past year, Field View (as a business) has been rebranded and integrated into the Viewpoint company; Field View (as a product) has been integrated with Viewpoint for Projects, though it remains a stand-alone product; a fully-documented API has been created; and customer feature requests have been prioritised and incorporated. Hosting facilities in Australia (AWS in Sydney) and the US (AWS in Virginia) will come online in December 2015 and March 2015 respectively.

[* From 2016, the Field View user conference will be merged with the Viewpoint for Projects user conference – with the next one set to be held on 25-26 May 2016 in London.]

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Nov 09 2015

Is BIM the answer?

As a collaboration commentator and occasional BIM speaker, I was one of several bloggers recently asked to comment on the UK’s BIM push for a Microsoft technology blog. As often happens, 90% of what I wrote ended up ‘on the cutting room floor’ (read the full post – including other people’s contributions – here). Just in case anyone’s interested, here’s the rest of what I wrote ….

Is BIM the answer to stabilising the industry?

Construction is an information-intensive industry and has historically been reliant upon exchanging lots of paper. Word-processing, email and computer-aided design (CAD) have accelerated much of the production and exchange of information, but the sector hasn’t really started to work with data. BIM provides an opportunity to digitise many of our processes, reduce our reliance on exchange of paper (or electronic paper) and support more collaborative ways of working. The BIM push since 2011 has already involved much detailed work on industry information standards, workflows and supply chain relationships, and if we can maintain a three-pronged push on people, process and technology we may slowly start to see the industry transformed. I say ‘start’ as there are still large parts of the industry who are either oblivious to BIM or regard it as irrelevant.

Do you think BIM and ERP integration is the future?

Too many people regard BIM as just 3D design, but BIM adds time (so-called 4D) and cost information (5D) to the equation. By incorporating cost information into information models, we start to improve visibility of out-turn costs, and streamline the flows of cost-related information up and down the supply chain. For larger organisations which deploy ERP there will clearly be benefits. However, construction is very fragmented, with lots of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) which use more traditional financial management tools, and these also need to be tuned to the project-based nature of much construction work. BIM is helping digitise construction, but digitising construction payment and financial management will take longer, and many SMEs, particularly in the domestic repair and maintenance fields, will be relatively untouched by the BIM revolution.

What do you think will encourage the adoption of BIM?

One reason we have seen extensive interest in, and take-up of, BIM has been the push from the UK government. With public sector client bodies responsible for around 40% of the industry’s turnover, the BIM mandate cannot be ignored, and it has accelerated the pace of adoption. Several private sector client bodies have also jumped on the BIM bandwagon, increasing the momentum. Another factor in adoption will be the sharing of case studies; we have growing evidence that BIM can help deliver projects faster, at lower cost, and exceeding clients’ initial expectations because it helps teams collaborate and innovate. And the development of industry-standard approaches to information creation and data-sharing also reduces a major headache – we are becoming less concerned about the applications and file or data formats we have to use to share asset information.


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Nov 04 2015

Site-based AR – connectivity still a challenge

Soluis logoSoluis was the official technology partner at the recent Digital Construction Week in London, and has been pioneering approaches to virtual and augmented reality. I asked Martin McDonnell, Soluis’ chairman about how these technologies could enhance collaboration, particularly on-site.

“Immersive ways of conveying information”

Martin McDonnellInnovation within the construction industry is creating a broad range of opportunities to plan, execute and record projects more accurately, efficiently and cost effectively.

Some of these innovations in visualisation which include virtual and augmented reality are benefiting from an increased willingness by those within the industry to embrace and apply them and this is presenting new immersive ways of conveying information to both internal and external stakeholders.

The direct commercial benefits are relatively obvious. Projects managers now have access to tools that allow them to walk clients through unbuilt environments virtually heightening levels of collaboration and understanding and mitigating a large part of the financial risk attached to changes and alterations once a project is built. Companies themselves can also use these new technologies to elevate their sales and marketing activities to clearly articulate yet-to-be-built environments to sell/lease floor space.

The benefits internally are slightly less obvious, but present huge opportunities which have the potential to transform the way a construction site looks and works.

With a shift towards data-driven construction now already very much under way, there is an opportunity for mass adoption of innovative visualisation technologies throughout the workforce to make the workplace safer, easier to navigate, more connected and more efficient.

A world where experts can clearly and effectively communicate with colleagues on a construction site instantly and virtually is now quickly becoming the reality. A world where the vast majority of training can be provided off site, avoiding the risk and cost attached to operating in volatile environments is becoming possible with a shift towards a digitally-enabled construction industry.

My view: “Need for connectivity …”

Immersive VR environments – whether in ‘caves’ or ‘domes’, by use of high-tech headsets such as Oculus Rift or combinations of smartphones and Google Cardboard (Visual-Wise, for example) – into which a client or project worker can step and visualise his or her project surroundings virtually can certainly be powerful when it comes to planning design, construction and future operation and maintenance activities. But when it comes to work on the actual project site itself, mobile augmented reality, AR, perhaps offers the most potential.

Workers cannot risk being distracted or disconnected from their surroundings, but if their view (and perhaps other sensory perceptions – sound, touch) can be enhanced by additional information, completion of routine tasks might be accelerated and completed more seamlessly with fewer steps. At present, this tends to involve conventional tablets or smartphones, which can use the device’s camera and then superimpose additional information over the camera image (contractor Costain used this in planning its upgrade of London Bridge station more than two years ago, and looking even further back, Woobius Eye was a potentially ground-breaking collaborative tool).

Yet wearable technologies eliminate the need even to hold a device, and might be incorporated into existing site-wear – for example, safety spectacles might incorporate smartglass technology that can be gesture controlled (like Bridgit’s Close-out).

However, the opportunity for site-based personnel to access and even update information in real-time remains constrained by one critical factor: connectivity. Current 2G/3G/4G and wifi communications technologies are rarely 100% reliable on a live construction site, and 5G remains something that may be rolled out sometime in the 2020s, helping to deliver the potential of the ‘Internet of Things’ or even the ‘Internet of Everything’ if we are lucky. In the meantime, we may perhaps have to continue relying on mobile tools that capture interractions with our surroundings and then synchronise these once a reliable data connection is established.

(Such challenges will no doubt be discussed at the forthcoming COMIT/Fiatech conference in London on 10-11 November 2015.)

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Nov 03 2015

SpecifiedBy raises further funding

UK construction product data start-up SpecifiedBy has closed a second seed round of investment of £350,000.

specifiedby.comSome 18 months after securing an initial round of seed funding (post), Edinburgh & Newcastle based startup, SpecifiedBy, has closed a second seed round of investment of £350,000, led by existing investors IP Group Plc and Northstar Ventures, with plans to transform how building products are researched and selected for building projects.

The company, founded by architectural technologist Darren Lester in 2013 and which has now raised over £500,000, will use the money to add to the current team and develop new solutions aimed at simplifying the research process carried out by architects and designers in order to make informed decisions about the building products and materials used in a particular project. It now provides information for over 15,000 building products and materials available in the UK and Ireland.

By structuring otherwise unstructured data about products and materials, SpecifiedBy says it provides the only advanced search and comparison engine for this market. Lester explained

Darren Lester

“There’s this huge problem in the construction industry where the majority of our information is still analogue. So in the example of building products, all of this data about technical performance, dimensions, sustainability criteria and standards, is locked up in PDFs and Word documents, making it very time-consuming to extract and make use of this information.

We’ve taken on the significant task of structuring all information about all building products and materials into a standardised, queryable database. By doing this, and by making this data open and accessible for everyone, we’re not only able to provide advanced search and comparison filters, but we can improve decision making and stimulate more frequent use of sustainably responsible products and materials.”

SpecifiedBy is working with industry organisations including the Chartered Institute for Architectural Technologists (CIAT) and the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products (ASBP) to ensure its platform has the desired impact on the industry. The company is a product of the Ignite startup accelerator programme, based in Newcastle.

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Nov 02 2015

Bentley extends ProjectWise adoption

Bentley Systems’ Year in Infrastructure conference (#YII2015) has seen a host of product and corporate announcements, with an enterprise deal with AECOM involving ProjectWise a headline item.

Bentley-advancing infrastructureLondon: 3pm GMT – CEO Greg Bentley opened today’s press conference with a brief mention of the US company’s declared intention (July 2015) to float on the stock exchange, but quickly dampened speculation by saying that Wall Street sentiment towards IPOs had chilled in recent months. Instead, therefore, he focused on the company’s acquisitions over the past year – including that of EADOC in March 2015 (see also April 2015 post: Law expands on Bentley’s EADOC deal) – and then a series of recent announcements.

ProjectWise CONNECT Edition now generally available

Bentley highlights ProjectWise’s extensive adoption in the infrastructure sector – its 2014 Annual Report (tabled at the conference) shows 45 of Engineering News Record‘s top 50 design firms are ProjectWise subscribers (and 283 out of the top 641 design firms). Historically, this has been mainly delivered as an in-house, on-premise hosted service, though ProjectWise Essentials, a SaaS option for smaller businesses with insufficient in-house IT resources, was launched a year ago (post).

Bhupinder Singh presenting at YII2015Now, with ProjectWise CONNECT Edition, this “workhorse for work sharing”, “the ‘gold standard’ for AECO collaboration worldwide” (Bentley’s words) is now available to the entire supply chain, taking advantage of Bentley’s Microsoft partnership using the Azure cloud-computing platform. Senior Vice President Bhupinder Singh highlighted the company’s cloud services as core to the triple challenges of increasing complexity of devices, software and data.

The YII2015 conference also has an awards programme, and two finalists presenting tomorrow are international companies seeking to deploy ProjectWise to, respectively, enable collaboration across their enterprise (AECOM) and develop consistent approaches to building information modelling (Arup).

AECOM enterprise deal

The conference has also coincided with an announcement that AECOM, which has named Bentley as a strategic partner for project delivery technologies, has extended its ProjectWise corporate commitment to fully include the new Bentley Cloud Services Subscription Program.

AECOM is a longstanding user of ProjectWise. As a finalist in the “Innovation in Project Delivery” category it has documented 80 percent savings in project startup from the capabilities offered by Bentley’s Cloud Services Subscription Program. Some 20,000 AECOM employees already use ProjectHub, a hybrid ProjectWise system developed in-house at AECOM, which uses seven identical “hubs” placed globally, allowing users to access the system from anywhere in the world and have a consistent experience across projects and geographies.

I will be learning more about both AECOM ProjectWise programme and Arup’s ProjectWise BIM project template in their finalist presentations tomorrow (Tuesday). EADOC is also featured in a finalist presentation relating to HDR’s Los Osos wastewater project in California.

[Disclosure: I am attending the Bentley Year in Infrastructure conference as a guest of Bentley Systems, who have paid my hotel expenses. I am also a juror in the BE Inspired Awards.]

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Oct 30 2015

Progressclaim targets Aussie CPM market

A Google alert brought me news (reported in BRW, and Dynamic Business) of an Australian construction technology start-up, founded in 2011, that is competing in the same kind of market as Textura. logoLincoln Easton, CFO of a Melbourne, Australia-based contractor, was apparently only too familiar with the poor book-keeping, arguments, paperwork and threats that resulted from slow payment due to poor progress claim documentation – often based on manual processes. A 2009 industry report suggested contract disputes added an average 6 per cent to the cost of each project. So, in 2011, Easton established, a software provider whose product connects the systems of contractors and subcontractors – replacing spreadsheets and email – so that they can generate, process and track cost claims arising during projects, and ensure they are are correctly formatted and compliant with the relevant legislation.

The first prototype software was tested on commercial projects in 2012-13; customers have included Built, Decmil and Victorian builders Buildcorp Commercial and Winslow Group; and the now 11-strong business claims annual revenues of about Au$1m (“Easton says it could potentially reach $30 million in four years’ time”). The BRW article also positions Progressclaim as potentially competing with near Melbourne neighbour Aconex (who announced they were acquiring Worksite in August 2015 – I don’t think BRW is correct: Worksite is a broader offering than just construction payment management, CPM) as well as offering a locally-developed alternative to the major niche player, Textura.

Founded in the US in 2004 to expedite CPM processes, Textura is now well-established in the north American market and has been gradually expanding overseas, opening an office in Australia in 2012 and – since July 2014 – beginning to expand in Europe (post). Other niche players in this sector include UK-based OpenECX (post).

[Disclosure: I have undertaken consultancy work for Textura Europe.]

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Oct 28 2015

Collaboration 2025 – Worst and best case scenarios

constructing excellenceIn a piece of action research, Constructing Excellence’s collaborative working champions (CWCs – I have been a CWC for 10+ years) recently collaborated on some future-gazing, developing two differing views of the state of collaborative working in ten years time.

Building a discussion

At a 10 September meeting, we used the UK government/ industry strategy Construction 2025 (downloadable here) to provide some context. Broadly, this sets three strategic aims:

  1. Smart construction and digital design.
  2. Low carbon and sustainable construction.
  3. Improved trade performance

… and suggests six drivers of change:

  1. Improved image of the industry [again].
  2. Increased capability in the workforce.
  3. A clear view of future work opportunities.
  4. Improvement in client capability and procurement.
  5. A strong and resilient supply chain.
  6. Effective research and innovation.

The CWCs extended their discussion via a series of questions shared on Twitter, with the resulting ‘tweetchat’ captured in Storify. With Martin Brown, I then sketched out two contrasting scenarios which we posted on Google Docs for comment. We got some feedback, and tabled updated versions at Constructing Excellence’s members’ forum on 14 October.

Currently, use/misuse of terms such as ‘collaboration’ and ‘sustainability’ feature strongly; the optimistists considered ‘whole life costing’ and social cohesion, but pessimists feared continuation of short-termist, lowest price, adversarial approaches, partly because clients rarely measure value other than financially. From a technology point of view, BIM gets a grudging mention in the pessimistic forecast, while the optimistic view sees data (not files) as core to how we work….

We are now opening up the conversation even wider. You can either:

Depending on the scenario, please be as appropriately pessimistic or optimistic as you can. The CWCs will be meeting again in early December, so we will review the responses then.

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Oct 23 2015

Dwindling construction week

Digital Construction Week 2015 has ended. DCW15 officially opened with a (for some) Guinness-fuelled flourish at a packed Irish Embassy reception on Tuesday evening and petered out at London’s Business Design Centre at 4pm yesterday afternoon.

DCW2015 logoAutumn is a difficult time to run any event – perhaps doubly so for an ambitious new multi-day event and its attempt to build a fringe programme (post). It was just two weeks after the UK Construction Week show in Birmingham, and had competition this week from the ICE’s BIM conference (now in its, I think, fourth year), the second MIPIM UK property show, and a steady stream of autumn industry awards events. Bentley and Autodesk also have major customer events in the next six weeks. And, of course, the industry is booming and many busy employers will be reluctant to release already over-stretched staff from ongoing project commitments for a day or two.

DCW attempted to move the industry conversation beyond building information modelling (did any conference session not mention BIM?). It attracted a broad mix of both established AEC IT business exhibitors and some more recent start-ups. Familiar collaboration faces (to me) included Asite, Business Collaborator, Union Square and Newforma, and major AEC players such as Bentley, Autodesk and Trimble, but also several newer faces (expect some new posts on some of these….).

DCW: dwindling construction week

However, an Autodesk leadership conference planned for Tuesday 20 October was cancelled, as was a concluding DCW awards event, the ‘fringe’ was sparse, and I was told major keynotes from the CEOs of Autodesk and Bentley were cancelled (an article by Autodesk VP Phil Bernstein was published in the DCW blog). Yesterday’s main conference sessions seemed thinly attended. I chaired a conference breakout session on Big Data, with a three-strong panel of Kim van Rooyen from Turner & Townsend, Rolf Jerving of dRofus, and Patrick Mays of Dassault Systemes, and we had an audience of around 30, but some breakouts got half that.

In recent years, BIM conferences have been crowded affairs, but perhaps this was one event too many in a crowded month, maybe some ‘BIM fatigue’ is setting in, or conferences have to be priced more attractively (the full DCW delegate rate for a two-day conference pass was £395, plus VAT; £225 for public sector employees), with some concessions to attract SMEs.

Sadly, the exhibition reminded me of past construction IT events (Construction Computing Show, for example, which finally died in 2007; the Construction Computing Awards programme continues). Islington’s Business Design Centre was hardly bulging at the seams. Several exhibitors told me the event was poorly attended in terms of overall footfall, though some were pleased with the quality of the contacts they’d made (and I certainly found it good for networking). As an industry marketeer, I’ve long doubted that construction IT buyers attend such events, but perhaps exhibitors build or maintain brand awareness by their presence – I talked to a handful of exhibitors that I hadn’t previously encountered.

My saddest reflection relates to post-show views expressed by a small group from one IT vendor’s sales team in a nearby pub. I was told: “BIM is not going to attract many people”, “They’re just preaching to the converted”, “Digital construction and BIM mean nothing to most construction businesses”, and – perhaps worst – “if they renamed the show ‘Build stuff cheaper’ they’d get more people through the doors”. It seems even some AEC IT salesmen aren’t confident about the current digital push, and believe most customers are just interested in delivering projects at lowest price (attitudes sadly redolent of most of the industry currently known as construction, TICKAC).


The DCW team has tweeted its intention to run the event again, slightly later in 2016 in mid-November (16-17th) instead. This may avoid date clashes with some of the previously-mentioned events (though there will probably just be different competing ones), and I am sure the team learned from this year’s delivery. I think they were right to look beyond BIM (the UK government BIM mandate comes into force in April 2016) and with almost 13 months to plan next year’s DCW they will hopefully build a stronger event that reaches out to a wider audience yet to encounter, let alone cross, the digital divide.

[Disclosure: I was on the DCW15 steering group, and had a free conference pass.]

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