(Author; Malachy Mathews, Dublin School of Architecture)
Building Information Modeling Technology and Blockchain
There is evidence all around that we are witnessing a digital transformation in the design and construction industry. The technologies of this transformation are disruptive to the existing procurement process. This is a good thing. Because it is from this disruption that new innovation can spring forth and enable the AEC industry to work towards a multidisciplinary collaborative procurement process that has the potential to be a leaner, efficient and more cost effective process. Up on till now, there have been well researched reports calling for a more collaborative process in building procurement while these have been accepted by industry as correct and viable but the recommendations have been difficult to implement. This is because of a number of factors, one of which and is essential is: TRUST
There are three factors which are common to digital disruptions, 1/ it knows no boundaries 2/ it disrespects existing hierarchies and 3/ it regularly slays sacred cows. One only has to witness the music industry, the publishing industry, the travel industry, the financial services industry and on and on. The design, construction and building operation industry is perhaps the last surviving major industry that has not yet felt the full force of a digital transformation. But that is no longer the case and at the heart of this digital transformation is BIM. Building Information Modelling technologies and process are enabling virtual design and construction, solving problems and generating data prior to the real construction for the benefit of the client. The “culture change” that is called for as a mantra of BIM is actually a call for more trust among the stakeholders in the design and construction industry including clients, designers, contractors and FM. In traditional building procurement the industry has developed systems which are heavily reliant on contracts which often pit the client against the contractor in a lowest tender scheme and are administered by a third party. Often the third party has “skin in the game” and walks a fine line in between acting on behalf of the client and in the interest of the contractor. Nothing new here.
However what is new is that the nature of the building information is changing, because we are moving from representation to simulation.
The AEC profession needs to address the problem of “Trust” in an industry that has a very poor history of trust amongst its professionals. Blockchain technologies have provided a solution to problems of trust in the financial world where virtual value is traded, however AEC professionals operate in a world where virtual value is realised in the reality of buildings and infrastructure. BIM+ Blockchain technologies can provide the AEC industry with a reason to re-evaluate “Value” for the client in the design and construction process. Blockchain combined with the database properties of a BIM model can provide a vital, visible and immutable chain of “evidence of trust” which in turn can lead to a new value proposition for the AEC industry and the clients its serves. When you move Blockchain out of its natural home of cryptocurrency it can become somewhat of a solution looking for a problem.
There are many problems right through the planning, design, construction and building operation of buildings and infrastructure and if disruptive technologys like BIM + Blockchain can allow innovation to evolve and challenge the boundarys, hierarchies and sacred cows in the industry and provide solutions to some of these problems we are set for a very interesting decade ahead.
Dip Arch Tech, NUI Dip Computer Studies
PG Cert 3rd Level Teaching Learning,
Lecturer, Dublin School of Architecture,
College of Engineering and Built Environment,
Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland.