DECONT: Digital Enablers for Construction Transformation

DECONT – Digital Enablers for Construction Transformation – is a Loughborough University research project looking at ‘Industry 4.0’ technologies.

Dr Robby Soetanto from Loughborough University’s school of architecture, building and civil engineering was at FutureBuild last week (I first met him when I was industry examiner for an EngD candidate at the university a few years ago). He told me about his current project: DECONT.

DECONT is an industry-focussed research project conducted by Loughborough University as part of the UCL-led Transforming Construction Network Plus initiative. The DECONT project is investigating how transformative technologies known as ‘Industry 4.0’ are shaping the digital technologies that could fundamentally redefine traditional delivery processes and business models for construction.

Industry 4.0

IIoT Architecture‘Industry 4.0’ relates to an extension of automation and data exchange beyond what is currently achieved by by the ‘Internet of Things’ sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies. The terms ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ (IIot) or ‘Smart Factories’ are sometimes used, envisaging factories where machines are augmented with wireless connectivity and sensors, connected to systems that can visualise the entire production line and make decisions on their own. The term originated in Germany a few years ago (and I have heard it used by executives at thinkproject and RIB Software, among others – see October 2016 post, for example).

The Transforming Construction Network describes the project’s remit:

    • “Imagine the future of construction where the connections between components of a building fit seamlessly like that of a car seat belt (clunk/click) or Lego blocks.
    • Imagine every component having a unique digital identity (tagged with smart sensor), enabling it to be tracked wherever it is in the construction process from factory to storage, to final installation in the building, with through-life information being captured.
    • Imagine wireless sensor networks allowing components to communicate with workers, roving as-built BIM compliance data capture robots, and cloud-based BIM models, enabling real-time simulations of the build process.
    • Imagine automatic digital data collection, enabling real-time visibility/traceability of all stages of construction activity. Imagine building owners monitoring daily progress of the construction via a visual 3D model on their laptop or mobile wherever they are.

DECONT aims to identify the opportunities for such transformation and then channel these into future scenarios and a technology roadmap for practical applications, which are driven by a hype-free clear vision of the future. Future scenarios will show inter-relationships between cutting edge digital technologies and construction business models. DECONT establishes a vehicle to stimulate the imagination of participants, to share and test these ideas with others, and to collectively turn them into realistic propositions for transforming the nature and culture of construction.”

DECONT survey and workshop

Soetanto has organised a survey to determine the current and future level of adoption of Industry 4.0 Technologies in construction, and the perceived added value of Digital Enablers within these technologies. Clients, architects, consultants, construction managers, contractors, subcontractors, manufacturers, suppliers, and all professionals working for the construction industry are invited to participate. This survey can be accessed at https://lboro.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/decont-survey and should take no more than 10 minute to complete.

A DECONT workshop at Loughborough’s Olympic Park campus in London is also being organised, on 31 March 2020. Soetanto says this will discuss future scenarios, the technology roadmap, and construction business models. A special interest group is also being formed to bring together experts and interested parties. If you are interested in attending, please register here.

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