GWPrime

More Technology Means More Opportunities

To make new technology popular in an industry, you have to run pilot projects, show its benefits, get key industry players to approve of that technology, and have them say that the hardware or software solution in question saved a lot of money and time for them, says Igor Starkov, Co-founder and CEO, EcoDomus.

Igor Starkov
By Snehil Manohar Singh

The Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry has traditionally been slow to adopt modern technology. Has the pandemic changed that, and what kind of new technologies are currently being used in the industry?

The AEC industry has been conservative in terms of technology adoption. That’s because several big projects take years, if not decades to build. So, it’s not like something where somebody says, ‘let’s do this thing’ and immediately everybody starts doing it. Technology does penetrate, but things cannot be rushed, and people cannot be forced into an unfamiliar territory. If they see others using something that is successful, they will start using it themselves. To make new technology popular, you need to do what others are doing: run pilot projects, show their benefits, get key industry players to approve of the technology, and have them say that the hardware or software solution in question saved a lot of money and time, or reduced risk. When that happens, people will slowly start adopting new technology. There is no magic bullet. But first, pilot projects must be run — sometimes for free, at other times for money — primarily to get early adopters, or the so-called ‘leading-edge users’, who can then start evangelizing the technology. Once this process begins, case studies are published, articles are written, and the company offering the technology becomes better known. Soon, money is invested or raised from venture capital, and the technology is developed further. That’s generally how it works.

The Covid pandemic definitely changed the pace of technology implementation as many clients realized they needed to work remotely, digitally. So, the concepts of Digital Twin and Building Information Modeling (BIM) came to be considered as the norm as opposed to a ‘nice to have’ option. Today, there are many different use cases for new technology being implemented: we see a lot of interest in mobile/ field technology for construction quality control, 3D visualization, sensors, etc. On the backend, the success of Procore’s initial public offer (IPO) shows the large penetration of project management technology.

Why is a common data environment important for modern-day construction?

In the AEC space, models are created by several consultants and specialists. Now, an electrician may not be able to model mechanical systems and a plumber may not be able to model electrical systems. There are dozens of specialists, and if all of them work in silos, there can be a lot of problems. Things might clash or there might be incompatibilities. That’s why common environments are needed to put all of this information together and validate its accuracy, both on the geometry and data sides. If an important parameter is missing, then reports cannot be run. That’s why a common data environment is useful. It aggregates all kinds of information into one place and ensures that there are no functional clashes.

The Covid pandemic definitely changed the pace of technology implementation as many clients realized they needed to work remotely, digitally. So, the concepts of Digital Twin and Building Information Modeling came to be considered as the norm as opposed to a ‘nice to have’ option

What benefits does the integration of BIM with Geographic Information System (GIS) offer?

GIS and BIM primarily target different virtuals and different types of data. If one type of analysis is mixed with another type of analysis, it results in more opportunities for the overall analyses. There are plenty of things that can be analyzed within a single domain — BIM or GIS — but when brought together, the range of opportunities become wider. Further, with the use of technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), there is an increase in these opportunities. All digital things in the AEC industry are done for analysis and decision-making — that’s what software is for. One either analyzes how something is supposed to work or whether or not it worked the way it was supposed to work. So, mixing BIM, GIS and other technologies increases the number of potential opportunities.

How have mobile devices changed the approach towards building management systems?

If you sit in the office all day and do not go outside, you might not be able to notice what you could have if you were on the site. To make a correct decision on-the-go, accuracy of information is critical. That’s why tablets and smartphones provide useful access to the things that would otherwise go unnoticed even with video cameras. Like I said, the more technologies are added, the more opportunities there are for analysis.

How is the Digital Twin technology helping in making infrastructure and construction projects more sustainable?

In the AEC industry, decisions are generally made using software. The more the penetration of the software, the more use cases can be applied. Sustainability is one of the use cases. There is always a bunch of constraints, one of which is cost. If cost is the number one concern, there will be an attempt to ignore all the other constraints. If sustainability is the number one concern, it might result in the cost going up. There is always a need to balance these factors. Hiring more expensive specialists may lead to better quality results, but it could also mean higher cost. So, if sustainability is more important for someone, its importance will have to go up in the Key Performance Indicators (KPI). If digital twins are employed to help with sustainability, they can provide more use cases to help achieve it.

More Prime Read