As Partners of the ACCEPT Project begin piloting software on live construction sites across Europe, the International Conference on Engineering, Technology and Innovation 2017 (ICE) provided an opportunity for EC funded projects to come together and share experiences. Held this year in Madeira which is home, as Miguel Albuquerue President of the Government noted in his welcoming address, to a number of ICT based engineering companies.
EC Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas opened the event highlighting the Commission’s digital agenda, in place to support companies deliver ICT services across all member states and for the benefit of all citizens. When the EU first came into being its focus was on delivering a single market. Four decades later this has shifted to delivering a ‘digital single market’. Markets used to be dominated by large players who sold products to consumers. Consumers now demand products and services that offer choice, which is increasingly requiring mass customisation solutions. Individuals come into contact with approximately 5,000 products daily. Within the next few years, it is estimated that digital development will result in 25% of these having on-line capability.
So what does this mean for those of us involved in the construction industry and how are projects such as ACCEPT responding to the challenge? Research by EC Technologies and Systems for Digital Industry Unit, into the use of ICT across member states and industries, shows not unsurprisingly that the construction industry currently has the lowest take up.
The ICE Built Environment sessions brought together several EC funded projects that are developing ICT solutions for the construction industry. The EEBers project presented its review of 163 projects which found 82 involved ICT, 23 of which provide technological solutions. These were grouped into clusters that covered open architecture, energy management of buildings, BIM for commissioning and facilities management.
Luxembourg institute of Science and Technology is developing 4D BIM to enhance lean management of construction in order to enhance productivity. Its Last Planner System aims to support site management, scheduling of activities, just in time management and storage of materials.
VIT technology for business is developing a monitoring system that not only considers energy use but highlights what it terms as ‘hungry energy behaviours’; those that are excessive or unnecessary. Its visual platform displays the health status of a building in the form of a living tree and considers the series of factors, termed ‘recipes’ that result in high energy use.
This change in project approach from purely technical to social-technological was reflected in many other projects. Energy Living Lab uses open ecosystem in situ applied research, to generate innovative and disruptive ideas. The project is in the process of designing a Building Energy Management System and highlighted the need to involve stakeholders. It is using community based social marketing tools to focus on behaviours that need to change. Interestingly whilst their case study found stakeholders scored themselves as having a high interest in reducing energy use, all had a very low perception of their power to deliver change.
Development of agile methodologies for lean ICT solutions for Smart Cities highlighted the need for a common language between construction industry professionals and software designers. This set the stage for ACCEPT’s presentation titled “engaging diverse groups of stakeholders to generate useful technological requirements”.
ACCEPT is developing three software tools to support delivery of high performing buildings. Central to this has been the interplay between construction industry Project Partners and the software developers who are creating the tools.
The software developers needed functionality specifications, which were generated from user stories obtained from the wider construction industry. A SCRUM approach was taken involving 140 construction professionals across six member states. Several hundred user stories were obtained which were cross-validated to avoid repetition. Focus groups and in some cases interviews were used to whittle down and prioritise functionality for software developers to deliver. Standardisation was achieved by using a template to define the scope of focus groups for which participants were carefully selected.
The software designers were initially overwhelmed by over 300 user stories but were able to focus on the final list that was arrived at of 21 main priorities. User stories highlighted a difference in requirements between office and construction site based staff. Whilst architects and engineers wanted the capability to view BIM models remotely, construction operatives had much simpler needs, such as being sure they were working from correct 2D plans.