Digital innovation in asset management and construction

At last year’s Homes UK event in London, a panel was asked to present the case for digital innovation in asset management and construction. They offered solutions that would enable digital innovation.

Dr Gemma Burgess, Acting Director Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, University of Cambridge, set the scene. She used a graph that reappeared in many presentations across the two day event, which demonstrated the UK’s housing crisis.

house building completions

The UK government has frequently made the point that the country needs 300,000 new homes to be built every year. The graph illustrates that, in 2017, new house building completions reached just over 150,000. Burgess put forward three key issues surrounding the challenge:

    • Lack of supply
    • Few house builders
  • Lack of innovation

The construction industry’s reluctance to embrace technology’s potential is linked with its low productivity levels. The industry’s ageing workforce, collaboration issues and lack of culture of innovation all contribute to these challenges.

Thinking differently

Burgess’s presentation moved on from presenting the familiar problems to talk about positive change. She highlighted in particular the growing governmental support for modern methods of construction. The way forward is to move away from traditional building methods altogether, so that digital transformation will be inevitable.

This fed well into the Kreo presentation on how AI and BIM disrupt the construction planning process. The UK government has been pushing for increased use of BIM since 2011, with varying degrees of success. BIM adoption excuses range from “this is how we’ve always done it” to “our leadership are close to retirement; they won’t change things”. The solution to this problem is to make BIM easier from pre-construction planning stage. Advanced technology makes this possible.

The Kreo presentation went on to show how quick and easy it can be to start a project with BIM with artificial intelligence (AI). What was before impossible, such as creating several building designs in minutes, becomes possible. Kreo simultaneously creates a 3D architectural model and structural model that are dynamically linked to a host of building reports. The creativity comes from the human expert but the calculations and technical detail are filled in by AI.


Another example of turning traditional methods on its head came from Yusuf Muhammad, co-founder and design director of Plumis. Muhammad presented the modern fire sprinkler: Automist Smartscan technology. Since the 1880s, most fire sprinklers have hardly changed. While Muhammad conceded that the original design was actually very good, he told the audience that modern technology enables far more impressive outcomes.

Plumis' technology solution reduces the amount of water needed to put out a fire, making installation of devices much easier and reducing water waste. Putting out fires with mist instead of water has been proven to be more effective with concealed fires, meaning even more lives can be saved. The new Plumis technology also reduces water damage to a building after putting out a fire.

digital innovation in asset management

What’s next for digital innovation in asset management and construction

Kreo and Plumis are being adopted in the industry already. Burgess pointed out that the government already supports modern methods of construction. But the change is happening slowly. Burgess’s presentation made it clear that we still have a long way to go with public attitudes, the planning system and trust in innovation. She pointed out that a third of the Private Rented Sector (PRS) homes in the UK are considered “non-decent” (DCLG, 2017). Poor housing conditions are the source of 70% of NHS costs (NHBC, 2018).

The benefits to embracing innovation in asset management and construction are clear. The momentum needs to increase and everyone has a part in enabling change. When companies share innovation success stories more openly, we’ll have more examples to follow. When technology companies work with their stakeholders in the industry to improve access to innovation, we’ll see even more rapid adoption.

Many have high hopes for the futuristic feeling of 2020. This will be the year that digital innovation in asset management and construction speeds up and the sectors change for good.


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