Construction Tech Takes Humans, Too

Achieving Interoperability Between Information Systems: ICE roundtable speaks to technology and the role of people in bringing the AEC industry up to speed

Leaders in the UK’s AEC industry recently gathered for a roundtable discussion at London’s Institution of Civil Engineers. The theme of the discussion was achieving interoperability, an issue that’s at the heart of the tech revolution currently transforming the way we plan, design and build. Greater interoperability, use of a common data environment (CDE) and open data formats (like PDF and IFC)— when applied together—can deliver significant efficiency savings. And in today’s data-heavy environment, companies just can’t afford to operate the old way, with data silos, too much repeat work, and inefficient workflows and collaboration processes.


Don Jacob – CTO, Bluebeam
James Chambers – UK Country Manager, Bluebeam
(Chair) Dr. Tim Broyd – Professor of Built Environment Foresight, UCL
Jonathan Jarritt – Director, Strategic Consulting, Amey
David Owens – Design & BIM Programme Manager, Costain Group
Douglas Young – Asset Information Manager, High Speed 2
Tom Deacon – Global Head of Digital /Director, Turner & Townsend
Jeff Stephens – BIM Expert
Sir Nic Cary – Director, Wayshere I Transport Intelligence
Mike Turpin – Director & Digital BIM Consultant, Innovating Futures
Andrew Gamblen – Digital Manager, Willmott Dixon
Ian Gill – Information Manager, Mott MacDonald
Michael Bartyzel – UK BIM Lead/Associate Director, BuroHappold Engineering
Maria Donatella Fiorella – Senior Engineering presso, VINCI Construction

Defining the Data

Participants in the roundtable spoke to these issues with the benefit of long careers in the industry. Jonathan Jarritt, director of strategic consulting and technology at Amey, made a key point about achieving progress: all too often the various parties involved in a project simply don’t speak the same language. “Civil engineers, operation professionals, maintenance technicians,” not to mention building owners, often don’t speak what Jarritt calls “the language of software requirements,” so there’s a possibility that the wrong kind of data or too much data can get collected and disseminated. One way to solve this is facilitating communication between parties and having a clear idea going into the project of what type of data will be most important.

Interoperability Doesn’t Just Apply to Systems

Ian Gill, information manager at Mott MacDonald, echoed these sentiments. As examples of lessons learned from past projects encompassing high-speed rail to hospitals were discussed, Gill reiterated that no matter the specifics, so much of the success involved in data sharing is ensured at the human level. The software and technology are ready. “I would say around 70% of all of this is about culture and behaviors and the human aspect. Actually, the rest of it is relatively easy, the technical parts are the easy bit, because everybody has a sort of willingness to cooperate and collaborate and share information.” Lack of simple communication, he added, “is really the failure here most of the time.”

Using Technology to Fuel Sustainability

Sir Nic Cary, founding director of data consulting firm Waysphere, sees additional benefits arising from progress in data utilization such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), the use of which is now becoming popular in the UK on many government civil engineering projects, including HS2 and the Strategic Road Network: “I think the lesson for us all is that we cannot go on pouring more concrete and fabricating more steel. It’s time to make better use of what we’ve already got. The maintenance and refurbishment agenda has come to the fore. And therefore, building for longevity and using techniques like BIM to ensure that we get it right the first time, are absolutely essential for our future success. Otherwise, we’ll make more mistakes, waste more capital and cover more of our landscape, which is fast disappearing, under yet more concrete and steel.”