24th May 2016

The Internet of Things: Revolution in the Construction Industry

Over the last few days, two articles have grabbed my eye. Both articles address the digital revolution that’s underway in our construction industry and suggest some pretty fundamental changes that will need to take place if we are to fully realize the potential of digitization.

In his article ‘The Internet of Things in Buildings will need to Disrupt Contractual & Tendering Procedures (published in full below), Memmori’s Jim McHale highlights the issues currently preventing digitization and the delivery of intelligent buildings. Jim sees BIM (Building Information Modelling) as the ‘great white hope’ of the construction industry that will drive the level of collaboration and integrated system design necessary to deliver truly intelligent buildings. Jim has clearly identified that in order to achieve this goal, the traditional procurement methods must change and that the design silos, fixed in our old analogue world, must be broken down as they are no longer fit for purpose and do not realise the opportunity for optimising efficiency throughout the entire building lifecycle.

Whilst I fully support everything Jim says, my only gripe is that perhaps he doesn’t go far enough. Jim does elude to this when describing the enhanced level of digitization within the hotel (and I’d add the uber-residential) market, where the occupant or guest experience (both analogue and digital) means everything.

This draws me on to the second articleThe Built Environment at the eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, written by Paul Fletcher (again published in full below). Paul refers to the fourth revolution, which we’re experiencing now, as being “characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres – into a vast connected system of complex and dynamic interaction”.

Like Jim and Paul, I can clearly see that buildings will only truly become intelligent when they enable seamless interaction with their occupants and also allow occupants to seamlessly interact with one another. Sure, having a digital building that is efficient to operate makes a great contribution to the bottom line but this financial contribution pales into insignificance when measured against the productivity gains and brand image benefits associated with providing a great occupant experience.

Providing an exceptional occupant experience will be the battleground of the next industrial age of the built environment.

Currently, the construction industry within the hotel and uber-residential sector is in a different league in terms of adopting an integrated, digital approach to the procurement, design and build of intelligent buildings; although we are now starting to see many corporate owner/occupiers taking the same level of care and consideration over the workplace experience of their staff and customers when designing their new buildings.

Owner/occupiers that truly understand the business benefits associated with providing an outstanding digital experience are designing their new intelligent buildings from the top down. Rather starting with specifying and designing the ‘Things’ residing in the building’s IoT, they start by storyboarding their desired staff and visitor experiences and subsequently use these to drive the acquisition of the technology and fabric of the building.

Fig 1: Visitor Experience Storyboard


Finally, should delivering intelligent, digital buildings really be so hard? Of course not. If I could ask the construction community for just one thing to make this easier it would be to create a single, integrated design & build package that incorporates all BIoT (Building Internet of Things) and/or SELV (Safety & Extra Low Voltage <50v) elements of the construction project and tender it separately from the traditional M&E package. This would minimize cost and risk for the main contractors whilst enabling building operators and owners to provide both high levels of operational efficiency and an excellent occupant experience.


 The Internet of Things in Buildings will need to Disrupt Contractual & Tendering Procedures

Written by James McHale

May 17, 2016

Smart Intelligent Buildings are the result of a targeted and more holistic design process. They make use of technology and processes to create a building that is safer and more productive for its occupants and more operationally efficient for its owners.

The technology drivers to achieve this are now in place, but the challenge is how to determine which technologies are most appropriate and which will bring the best value to the greatest number of stakeholders.

Sadly, the present design and contractual procedures in construction are deeply entrenched in the industry and operate in a series of “Silos” which prevent a more holistic design approach to Smart Buildings.

The construction industry has never been at the bleeding edge of innovation; Combined with a resistance to change this further complicates the willingness to introduce design procedures that encourage integration across Silos at all levels.

Project feasibility planning for a new building today is based on the history of the last few similar projects and the cost will be based upon a gross cost per square metre. There will be very little thought on the impact that new emerging technologies could have on the budget. In particular high level costs of procurement packages such as the building environmental controls, lighting controls and physical security will also be estimated on past experience.

These packages are then tendered separately often without supplying a detailed specification that could identify cost savings or alternative solutions that benefit from new technology and communications across all the functions. The emphasis on this approach is based upon delivery costs and not on the lifecycle costs of power, water, gas and other utilities as well as ongoing maintenance and operational costs.

The good news is that things are changing and the introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is helping to promote a holistic design approach because it forces each design and engineering discipline to co-ordinate their design, which will hopefully make the Building Internet of Things (BIoT) a practical proposition. BIM is by no means perfect but Level 3 is a big step in the right direction.

Despite the fact that holistic design standards are still far from being common, BIoT systems are being installed quite frequently in a number of vertical building markets. The leading Hotel and Retail operators investigate thoroughly every single aspect of the customer experience and in some cases they are putting in place processes & procedures linking all the building services that will result in better customer experience.

If this is a retrofit project then the specification is unlikely to be technically detailed but the successful tender will have to deliver against all the customer value propositions and meet a challenging time schedule. A significant proportion of this work is being won by system integrators from an IT networking background.


The Built Environment at the eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Written by Paul Fletcher

May 17, 2016

This article explores the built environment at the eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, how buildings are likely to change, and the impact on both new and existing buildings, infrastructure and urban space. It also touches on the inevitable disruption of the Property, Construction and Facilities Management industries and the wider consequences and potential benefits to society at large.

This article is inspired by – and based on – an article by Klaus Schwab, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

What is the fourth industrial revolution …

The Built Environment as it exists today has evolved throughout the previous three Industrial Revolutions. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production and power buildings. The Second used electric power to create mass production and illuminate buildings. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production and operation, heralding Building Management Systems and Building Information Modelling. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres – into a vast connected system of complex and dynamic interaction: from a room, to a building, a street, to a city, country and ultimately globally.

The possibilities created by billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are infinite. Demand, and an expectation that buildings and cities embrace and support this, is rightly to be expected. This is multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing. All of these will transform buildings, the spaces between them and the infrastructure that connects them.

We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. This will include how we use and interact with the buildings and urban spaces that comprise the Built Environment. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society. The Built Environment is essential for every aspect of all of our lives, so inevitably the Built Environment must evolve to be an integral part of the transformation…