Why Better Data Leads to Better Buildings & Can Save Billions

29 March 2022 Kingspan Group

Nobody would argue that the construction industry has been in the vanguard of the data revolution. The built environment and Big Data are uneasy bedfellows and it’s not immediately obvious how bricks and mortar translate into up-to-the-minute information.

But in fact, data integrity is a huge issue in construction, and one that urgently needs addressing. This is because the industry is project-based and transient.  Teams come together to bring a project to fruition, and then disperse. Much of the institutional knowledge evaporates as the project moves from one phase to the next.

As a result, it can be hard to identify the root causes of any issues once the building is in use. In the digital age, troubleshooting becomes very difficult when product information is unreliable and incomplete.  

It’s critical that there is an accurate and detailed record of what goes into a building, and that manufacturers manage their product data effectively. Data is often the missing piece of the puzzle.

After all, buildings are data – a vast array of interlocking pieces of information. Each component contributes to the integrity of the whole.
The more we understand a building, the better it does what it was designed to do. The more we know about each component prior to assembly, the more confident we can be that it will function as intended for its entire life.

According to Philip Bernstein, Associate Dean at Yale School of Architecture:

35 cents in every dollar invested in construction is wasted on avoidable mistakes, usually caused by poor data. In the US alone that equates to £140 billion a year[1]
[1] The Future of Making Buildings | Phil Bernstein | TEDxYale
The cost of poor data is more than just financial; it can lead to lower environmental performance,  impact safety, and even shorten the use life of a building.

Building the Data Revolution

The good news is that the solutions to this problem already exist. Digitalisation is allowing construction projects to connect workflows, teams and data to help build better.

This is in no small part due to the leaps that have been made in sharing product and design data, especially by software applications like Autodesk BIM360. Everything – from blueprints and product specifications, to the minutiae of a building’s internal systems – can be distributed and managed across multi-disciplinary teams. This results in greater efficiency, time saving, reduced risk, and fewer errors in construction projects. Welcome to collaboration fit for the built environment of the future.

This data revolution is helping to make manufacturers fully-fledged partners in the decision-making process. Kingspan teams can review external design models that have been uploaded to the cloud. Our technical experts can then bring their experience to bear on the model and advise on ways to optimise building performance, for instance through additional products.

Armed with comprehensive and accurate models of their products, manufacturers are better positioned than ever to add value to projects from the outset, driving out potential inefficiencies, minimising waste and avoiding costly mistakes which have to be fixed on site later.

In fact, Kingspan is taking the existing solution one step further, with the creation of a shared Kingspan digital library. We are in the process of representing all our products as digital assets: precise, three-dimensional models of a physical product with multiple levels of detail. Each digital product is enhanced with up-to-date product information such as thermal resistance, along with embedded links to technical specifications. These can then be integrated into architects’ designs.

Smart Buildings

This is only the beginning for digitalisation. The evolution of collaboration platforms like BIM360 is ushering in a new era. The next frontier in the data revolution is the digital twin.

A digital twin is best described as a data model which represents everything in a building or built environment – including the data produced when it is in use – and interacts with other systems. 

Digital twins provide not only a record of the specification, performance and origin of every component in the building, but also present a dynamic view of how the building is operating so that – with the right technology – its performance can be optimised in real time.

The potential benefits include the creation of buildings which cost less to maintain, have a longer use life, operate more efficiently and are more sustainable; all while making their human occupants happier, healthier and more productive.

Today only a tiny fraction of buildings have a true digital twin. In the future, intelligent buildings could automatically schedule maintenance services and order replacements as fittings wear out, or even deploy robots to repair themselves. They will also act as a bank of building materials for onward use at the end of the building’s life.

But companies must get the fundamentals right first. Manufacturers, architects, customers and contractrors must work together to ensure that every aspect of a project is integrated into digital models. The development of better data and digital product management is making this future a reality.

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