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Lettre du Président de CanBIM 2020

Welcome to The Age of Constant Technological Transformation

A decade of rapid change will be followed by a decade of non-stop acceleration; try and hold on.

Over the past decade we have seen significant changes to our world. There have been incredible breakthroughs in science, such as gene splicing enzymes that can cut and paste our DNA, the emergence of new digital ecosystems such as voice controlled computing, the creation of the “gig economy”, and, notably, there have been massive advancements in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We have had to come to terms with the fact that the idea of privacy is now a historical concept. We are grappling with how to regulate the advertising industry, which has transformed into a surveillance economy, selling the data and tools to herd human behaviour. And, as the mercury rises, the debate regarding climate change has shifted from “is it really happening?”, to “what to do about it?” and “who should fix it?”.

The 2010’s  saw the massive disruption of existing mature market sectors. The impact of technology has completely disintermediated industries — retail, taxis, food-delivery services, and cable television to name a few. The automotive industry is just starting a new phase of massive disruption; the maturity of the electric car market will completely reset the supply chain, reducing the number of parts needed for manufacture and usher in a new age of self driving cars. Automotive will continue to be disrupted as ride-sharing displaces the idea of vehicle ownership, likely resulting in the consolidation of manufacturing and ride-sharing platforms. The coming decade will see the same level of change for insurance, retail banking, residential real estate and, of course, construction.

The building and infrastructure industry has seen its fair share of technological disruption; and it is intensifying, with the biggest changes on the horizon. Like other industries we are facing massive change from both social and technological pressures. CanBIM was formed to create a community to both respond to and shape the digital transformation of our industry. As we are propelled into the ether, we will continue to gather the leaders of our industry to share the technological knowledge to inform the digital strategy that shapes our civilisation. The end of the decade is a good time to reflect on our progress and make some predictions about the future:

Design & Virtual Engineering

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has moved into the mainstream with most major design and engineering firms in Canada standardizing their production drafting process on a BIM platform. Although the small to medium sized entities are still catching up, it is apparent that this trend isn’t slowing down. The focus for the future will be on design and production drafting automation. Expertise in computational, parametric, and generative design, and soon AI are in high demand as firms work to push digital tools to the limit, streamlining — if not completely delegating — repetitive tasks to a bot workforce.

Design is being influenced by the capabilities of the tools as the relationship between the end product and advancements in the technology that create them are becoming synchronized. For this reason leading firms are both partnering closely with the vendors that create the tools, as well as developing the ability to create their own custom applications. The next decade will test the existence of traditional design guilds as a combination of factors threatens to displace their function. This is especially true with automation which will narrow design flexibility and shift control of intellectual property to the supply chain.

‍Construction & Digitization

Over the past decade, contractors have aggressively moved to embrace technology. This is in part influenced by the deluge of new gap filling products flooding the market and in part due to the hyper competitive nature of the industry. Project management systems to manage the excessive approval and communication processes have become an absolute necessity of doing business. Trade integrated 3D coordination processes have also moved into the mainstream, with cloud based products managing the flow of data and communication. The challenges remain in the supply chain, where only the top trades in each market are able to detail their work in a 3D environment in advance of construction. Builders have also embraced Lidar for Scan-to-BIM, which has moved from only the most sophisticated companies, to relatively common practice, especially for asbuilting non-green field work.

As margins in the traditional services of planning, procurement, and management have become razor thin, builders are transforming vertically and horizontally. Construction managers are not only self performing across a number of areas, but they are now offering financial services, maintenance, and asset management services. The future builder will need to develop the ability to create and manage data; digitize their business from the field to the CEO’s office and harness real information to eliminate assumptions and guesswork (as a result, the process of  “Estimating” may have to be rebranded). Leading firms will seek to exchange data with their competitors and act as venture capitalists, investing in the startups who create their digital tools.

Project Delivery & Productization

We have also seen a massive shift from Design-Bid-Build to construction management, Design/Build (including P3) and a renewed interest in true Integrated Project Delivery. The next decade will test these new procurement methods as market demand shifts predominantly from project delivery as a service, to project delivery as a product. Builders, designers and the supply chain will become integrated, if not merged, to offer a less bespoke, but customizable catalogue of predesigned/manufactured solutions vs. a design & risk management service.

This productization of our industry will reshape the relationships to be centric to the supply chain of the product. The designer will manage the process to refine & digitally assemble from a kit-of-parts. The builder will manage the process to physically assemble the elements and a new player will emerge to manufacture or manage the international supply chain. The standardization and definition of how a building, bridge, or transportation system is broken down for manufacture will be shaped over the next decade as industry forms around these concepts. Design decomplexification will further advance the AI enabled engineering, as well as, the mechanization of construction both offsite and in the field, leading to a possible boon for those who want to supply the future robotic workforce.

Development & Asset Management

Challenged with the rising cost of land and a demand for mixed use projects, developers have also recently moved to embrace technology to find solutions for less than ideal land parcels. New digital tools enable the analysis of a prospective site in mere minutes (compared to weeks), giving deep insights into the surrounding area, including real time data on traffic, neighbouring building applications and beyond.

The coming decade will see developers beginning to trust algorithms to develop and test thousands of potential models for a site until the ideal proforma that maximizes the best yield emerges.

The emergence of the Internet of Things (Iot) strategy and the SmartCities movement created a new line of services promising to allow asset managers the ability to understand the performance and control their buildings like never before. A new class of digital twin platforms, combining BIM and IoT,  is emerging that will host an owner’s portfolio to manage all aspects of lifecycle. By the end of the decade, owners will have a command centre to manage millions of square feet of tenant space with a handful of resources.

The 2020’s will be a decade of disruption for the industry with the old silos competing to stay relevant, while a new class of integrated firms emerge. CanBIM is staged to help influence this transition and will stay focused on helping our members reach tangible business outcomes as well as connecting with the whole industry, ensuring that Canada maintains its leading position as a force of global innovation.

I look forward to these challenges and helping our members work together to shape the future of our industry.

Thomas J. Strong
CanBIM President, CEO &  Co-Founder
Principal, Wired.Construction

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