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TechUK invite DCS Chair to “Build Fairer Society” (using Digital Twins)







The current socio-economic, political and environmental landscape has unearthed a global co-existence that continues to present many in our society with overwhelming and exhausting challenges, on a daily basis.


Across the globe, the inability of many citizens (through no-fault of their own) to positively contribute to society, has brought plenty of perspective and interest to the entire concept of ‘a fairer society’. Many citizens are being substantially or (worse than that), completely displaced by the ongoing transition that has mandated a wholesale moth-balling of huge swathes of the global economy and introduced working from home, as a necessity. Whilst the ‘lockdown’ has been positioned as a temporary solution, many of the unintended consequences will be permanent. Precipitated by the global pandemic and a direct consequence of constantly evolving (mutant) strains, many citizens have been forced into a home-life existence that has successfully exposed the intricate depths of just some of the more, opaque (and invisible) inequalities.



Economic inequality RICS (June 2020)



Maslow’s hierarchy of needs talks about the basic requirements, that every human being is (or should be) ‘entitled’ to. In his well-documented view, nothing has been defined as a result of ‘privilege’ but many would say that it is exactly because of the ingrained privilege(s) of those in society, that the true allocation of basic need(s) for all, has made and continues to make this ‘global’ challenge all the more worthwhile to pursue. But we must get it right. And to get it right, we must truly understand and call upon those with an authentic lived-experience, as that would simply be good practice. Addressing the imbalance between ‘the have‘s’ and ‘have not’s’ which has recently coined the quasi-political phrase of “levelling-up” is, rather conveniently, the U.K. government’s attempt to shed light, amidst a better understanding of the growing inequalities specifically in the U.K, but also relevant across the globe.




The Centre for Digital Built Britain



Following kind invitation from CDBB / DT Toolkit colleague and industry thought leader, Tom Henderson, DCS Founder and Chair, Bola Abisogun OBE FRICS has been invited to contribute and support the landmark launch event of their own report, ‘Unlocking Value Across the UK’s Digital Twin EcoSystem' an event to be held on 25 February 2021.


With reference, initially to Social Housing, targetting under-utilised and/or empty property assets across the public sector estate, whilst deploying stringent use of Digital Twin Solution(s) _ and referred to by Bola as “the Black Box in property Asset Management & FM” _ it is his own attempt to disrupt and shake up a sector, that he fully understands is desirous of both structural, operational and cultural change. Bringing improved visibility and better contract management to focus on an area of the existing asset register that will trigger the greater adoption of digital twins across the country, has been a work in progress for him, for well over two decades. His efforts on this topic, culminated in the giving of evidence at the House of Commons, back in November 2013.



Local Government Procurement; November 2013



Increased R&D activity will undoubtedly underpin and benefit the housing sector, which for such an important and moral effort (given the scale of the current and future challenge), will mandate the change being sought by Dame Hackitt’s intervention(s), particularly as the construction industry is being chastised to innovate and justify its own delivery processes. If the industry is to have any conceivable chance of meeting the enormity of the current sustainability challenge, then digital solutions likely to be implemented at scale, will form part of the industry’s solution.


Just as in the case of constructing new, social and affordable housing, a growing and well placed, though somewhat desperate attempt by U.K. government (principally charged to Homes England) to deliver the vast number of new homes required by deserving families and young people, so is the potential role of digital twins, ultimately to deliver ‘connected twins’ that facilitate better decision making and wholelife cycle cost. The unrelenting paradigm shift, that has (un)officially begun, could be compared to that of the arrival of computer-aided-design management (i.e. CAD) a process, historically led by the architect / architectural technician, and successfully infused into the construction management process, as far back as in the mid-1960’s.


Aligning the commendable effort of CDBB ‘s National Digital Twin [Change Stream lead], Sarah Hayes to the success of Data for the Public Good, published on behalf of the National Infrastructure Commission; the built environment and our responsibility for it has reached a pivotal point, many would say, of no return. An appropriate excerpt from the report, cites the growing consensus that central Government [at least in the U.K.] could achieve more and spend less – with nett benefits to the consumer / general public – achieved largely through better use of digital solutions. “The more information we have about the nations infrastructure, the better we can understand it. Therefore data is crucial. Data can improve how our infrastructure is built, managed, and eventually decommissioned, and real-time data can inform how our infrastructure (i.e. built assets) operates on a second-to-second basis.”



Lakanal House, London Borough of Southwark _ July 2009



Relevant, structured, ‘real-time / right-time’ high-quality data has never been more important, particularly within the context of Social Housing. With the ongoing government inquiry, in light of the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, which continues to unearth a number of systemic and structural failures, the U.K. property sector and construction industry have much to contend with, as we begin to reimagine how we stay relevant and ahead of the curve. Digital transformation, governed by an appropriate information management framework and the decisions drawn from and predicated by such processes, have increased the demand for better, data-driven, agile business models, all of which will begin to reshape the entire sector [and built environment professions]. Both Clients, Consultants and their procured / adopted Supply Chains have a critically important and collaborative role to play, which at the very least must ensure that as in the case of Lakanal House in 2009, we (as an industry) must never repeat or become complicit in, the catalogue of errors that have led to such a huge, (and further) loss of life, now characterised by the remaining, burnt out edifice called Grenfell Tower. The social housing sector, prioritised for its ‘moral compass’ must do better and ensure that it’s notable purpose and growing customer focus, improves incrementally over time.




Grenfell Tower Inquiry



Make no mistake, the demands from various client groups, stakeholders and project funders, foisted upon the industry, has never been greater. It’s time to stand up, and step-up to the challenge, that many in our industry still misunderstand and fail to deliver in any meaningful way.





The ‘business-case’ and wider commercial / social-value opportunity


According to many, and rightly so, the UK public sector is both a major Client and consistent contributor to the construction industry (and wider built environment). Citing recent ONS statistics [published Jan 2021], amidst the Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey, the public sector procures in the order of £8bn worth of R&M public sector contracts, every year [note: this figure has not been adjusted for any component(s) of inflation]. The delivery of this mammoth and hugely important _ annual _ economic opportunity is now desirous of material change, if nothing else to successfully innovate, drive out waste and many of those glaring, structural and systemic inefficiencies. In fact “much more for even less”, is all the rage now and this is the strategic back drop that gave birth to the current research project into “BIM in Asset Management” that social housing provider and G15 member Optivo, has set itself via the SEC Framework, led by Marc Baines, (MD of SEC Framework).




Futures Report by RICS



Skills development [everything from representative school’s engagement, effective & inclusive apprenticeship delivery, under-graduate, post-graduate and longer term career development, i.e. CPD/LLL for all] will feature greatly in this sector wide, national pursuit. And, in his own small way, Bola will attempt to challenge his own profession to become much more critical of its own outputs and contributions, regarding the relationship between cost and value in the construction process. Working with the industry it is Bola's firm, but wider aspiration – solely inspired by the Latham, then Egan, followed by the Farmer Review and more recently, the presence and publication of the Construction Playbook – to standardise the delivery process, whilst seamlessly reducing cost and simultaneously increasing social-value, within and across social housing. The principal and collective aim is to positively contribute to the multi-faceted and demonstrable efficiencies, achieved via economies of scale and other performance instruments / metrics – afforded by the use of digital twins – to achieve cumulative savings to the public purse [by up to five / 5% per annum]; by 2030. The current Green Paper on Transforming Public Sector Procurement will go some way to ensuring that all of the above remains possible.


Demonstrator projects are now sought across the country [and currently being discussed] with a number of UK (central) govt departments, local authorities and social housing providers _ all of which will be championed and further explored via industry initiative #PQS2030; with longstanding support from the team at RICS.



RICS Policy Report - Net Zero 2050 [Housing]



Conclusion:


Framed within the context of a better understanding of the breadth and depth of many of our societal challenges, is the structural and evolving technological disruption piece, which fundamentally, have been highlighted by the global pandemic and exponentially exacerbated by ‘simple' requests such as social distancing. With the parallel and global pursuit of Net Zero 2050 upon us, it is time for us all, as construction industry [and built environment] professionals, to raise our game and deliver for those in our society who are in many ways, completely reliant upon our ethics and professional judgment.