The CIC’s new “Roadmap for Change” talks up the prospects of digital construction but gives very sketchy directions to its rosy tomorrow. Too much proptech, not enough BIM, and too little signposting to useful resources.
I went to FutureBuild 2020 at London’s ExCEL twice last week, visiting various exhibitors, taking in some presentations on the Digital Impact stages, and also participating in a BIM Open Mic event on the Tuesday evening, 3 March.
CIC’s Roadmap for Change
This latter event prevented me attending the Construction Industry Council‘s launch of its Roadmap for Change, “a new digital resource to promote industry best practice”, also held at Futurebuild at the same time. According to the CIC news release, the Roadmap for Change is “a digital platform designed to highlight the good work being done in the construction industry to bring change”.
The initiative was created by CIC’s Diversity and Inclusion Panel, chaired by Maria Coulter, and was developed following an industry-wide CIC survey (launched in November 2018) to celebrate the organisation’s 30th anniversary. It received over 1,100 responses and six key themes were extracted from the data: image, progression, procurement, inclusive design, leadership and technology. In the digital roadmap, key initiatives and examples of best practice are displayed in relation to each theme (the website www.roadmapforchange.org.uk is now live; I couldn’t find any detailed findings from the CIC’s survey).
At the launch, Coulter emphasised that, “as an industry we work in silos, the roadmap is a way of sharing the great work the industry is doing to bring change and help others do it too. This is not the end of the journey, but the start. We … hope that all companies will engage with it and contribute so that it becomes a first port of call for good ideas and shared practice.”
CIC chair Stephen Hodder said: “The Roadmap for Change not only celebrates CIC’s thirtieth anniversary, but represents arguably one of the most comprehensive consultation exercises with a whole range of people engaged with the construction industry. This digital tool seeks to encourage progressive change and continue the debate as what we need to address to make it the industry of choice in the next thirty years. …”
The Roadmap has been produced in collaboration with Building People, an online marketplace that connects people to opportunities across the UK built environment. Building People chief executive, Rebecca Lovelace,* also spoke at the launch and very warmly welcomed the dot-joining initiative.
Where is BIM?
Naturally, as someone involved with the UK BIM Alliance and other technology initiatives, I had a look at the Roadmap site to see what it had to say about “BIM”. The answer is almost nothing, nada, barely a word. The site’s search engine apologetically admits: “Sorry there are no results matching that search.” The technology section opens with some words about the needs of SMEs that comprise the majority of the industry, then has a five-slide presentation. Digital transformation is mentioned; five trends are outlined:
- Higher definition surveying and geolocation
- “Next generation 5-D building information modeling” (the only mention of BIM – and using an unexplained abbreviation)
- Digital collaboration and mobility
- The internet of things
- Future-proof design and construction
The presentation and example “Resources” seem to have been based almost solely on outputs developed by or with McKinsey. They are, in my view, sketchy to say the least, and over-dominated by ‘PropTech’ people and events such as James Dearsley and Unissu. These may be useful (read my November 2019 post: Is contech a subset of proptech …?), but there is far more to construction’s digital transformation than proptech.
There is no mention of any UK construction technology organisations – the CDBB, the UK BIM Alliance,* COMIT,* for example – or digital groups within CIC member organisations (such as the ICE’s information systems panel),* or Constructing Exellence’s digital group,* where industry volunteers are working hard to support change. There is no mention of the CITB’s 2018 report Unlocking Construction’s Digital Future, or the investments in industry change being made by the Construction Innovation Hub. Somewhat London-centric, there is no mention of local initiative such as Leeds-based ThinkBIM* or the network of regional UK BIM Alliance groups, the Scottish Futures Trust, or conferences such as BIMShowLive in Newcastle. AEC Magazine, Construction Computing and the CIOB’s BIM+ all provide lots of technology content too – and are not focused on proptech or BIM. Online resources such as the UK BIM Framework or the growing technology content in the Designing Buildings wiki (which is supported by several CIC members) are ignored (read my June 2019 post: Designing Buildings’ BIM Wiki: industry needs a better, wider, digital knowledge base). And, outside of ‘The Big 4’ (since when have they ever been an appropriate resource for SMEs?!), there are numerous businesses supplying built environment-specific technology consultancy services.
I appreciate this is only the start of the CIC’s Roadmap for Change and that I have mainly focused on just one of its six themes, but this isn’t an encouraging start (it reminds me of the CITB’s launch of its Go Construct website in 2015 – post – and another industry campaign launch, Construction United in 2016 – post). By all means talk up the prospects of a future industry adopting modern methods of construction, design for manufacture and assembly, digital twins, AI, etc – but SMEs and others need to be equipped with the foundations of digital working, and that means helping them shift from 2D analogue technologies to digital working, whether that’s using mobile apps or embracing collaborative approaches based on BIM processes. The Roadmap destinations may be exciting, but you first need to explain how to start the journey, and then help with signposts to help people find their way using the right resources.
Update (9 March 2020) – From a Twitter conversation with Maria Coulter, I understand the CIC survey generated a huge volume of mainly qualitative data from which the themes were distilled. At the launch of the Roadmap, speakers asked industry to help build the resources, recognising that technology and procurement particularly needed work. SMEs are a particular target, not always well-served by membership bodies, with owners sometimes having little grasp of what technologies exist, how they might benefit, and how they adopt them efficiently. Any #contech businesses targeting SMEs and which have some good technology adoption case studies should contact the team via the website – click on the Contribute button and fill in the form.
(By the way, this poorly joined-up CIC initiative follows the recent launch of the Royal Institute of British Architects updated digital Plan of Works (2020) which, despite claiming “nearly seven years of feedback”, fails to be properly aligned with international standards and terminologies used in the UK BIM Framework – much to the chagrin of many in the UK BIM fraternity, judging from the Twitter-storm!)
[* Disclosures: I am a member of the executive team of the UK BIM Alliance, deputy chair of the ICE’s digital group, and also volunteer with COMIT, Constructing Excellence and ThinkBIM, among other initiatives. While a partner at Ethos, I worked with Rebecca Lovelace on an Innovate UK-supported project called SkillsPlanner.]