Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Is blockchain technology set to shake up the construction industry?

The pace of change in the building trade is famously glacial. Construction professionals are always open to new ideas, but most of the industry’s advances have been evolutionary and implemented very slowly. Revolutionary advances, historically speaking, have been few and far between.

However, in recent years, digital-age IT advances have caught the eye of a large range of forward-thinking builders and architects. For example, drones and IoT tech, if used correctly, could speed up building projects dramatically, boosting safety and reducing risk. But some are starting to think beyond such hardware solutions, and are now investigating the way that blockchain technology might shake up the profession.

Construction-based developments and pilot initiatives are nowhere near as commonplace as they are in the worlds of finance and logistics, for example. But some are now positing that construction’s early blockchain adopters could well reap a range of long-term benefits.

One fairly intuitive use for blockchain technology can be found in the relatively new field of BIM (Building Information Modeling). BIM first emerged in around 2002, and is a catch-all term for a range of software that allows multiple parties to access digital representations of projects’ physical and functional characteristics.

BIM is not just a 3D blueprint – it captures a project’s geometry, spatial relationships, light factors, building materials data, time and even costs. As such, it involves data input from not only engineers and designers, but also landscapers and other experts.

An increasing number of clients are now asking contractors to incorporate BIM, as they feel it gives them more control. This, in turn, means more and more contractors have to incorporate it. And this is where the blockchain could come in.

The nature of blockchain’s decentralized ledger system means that multiple parties could contribute to BIM models with ease. In doing so, clients could rest assured in the knowledge that the platforms they access feature immutable and tamper-proof blocks of time-stamped data.

Although many are excited by the potential for blockchain-powered BIM, some analysts claim not enough is being done to integrate the new technology. “The potential for [blockchain] use in the construction sector, especially in conjunction with BIM has been overlooked,” writes former Leeds University professor Jeremy Barnett.

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