Construction data: what can be collected and how it can help

Out-Law Analysis | 05 Jan 2022 | 1:12 pm | 2 min. read

There is scope to make construction projects more efficient and ‘greener’, and buildings safer, by harnessing the power of data.

However, businesses face a challenge in collecting, organising, structuring and sharing the vast volumes of data generated in the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure in a way that would allow the benefits to be realised across industry.

In addition to digital information models of assets, modern technology is generating and collecting more data than ever. For example, data collected on wearables worn by people on site, to the vibrations of structures measured by sensors during construction and operation to cameras on drones and virtual training simulations.

According to a report by FMI Corporation, a consultancy firm, however, 96% of data generated in infrastructure projects is not used and 90% data generated by the engineering and construction industry is unstructured. In many cases, the crucial data in relation to construction components - for example on safety or carbon performance - is not yet produced in a standardised digital format. In addition, sharing of data is not happening across industry yet in a meaningful way. All of these factors can lead to inefficiencies and missed opportunities.

When parties do seek to share data, they typically find it more complex than anticipated and can struggle to overcome the challenges.

There may also be a reluctance to share data for commercial and legal reasons, for example because some stakeholders view it as their property or because of concerns around the data being commercially sensitive or subject to legal compliance issues which constrain the ability to share freely. All of these concerns are valid and need checking and this helps demonstrate some of the reasons that data sharing can feel frustratingly elusive to achieve. However, there may be more willingness and ability to share operational performance data on the basis that the organisations can exert greater control over that data without encountering these concerns. Project partners need to be clear at the outset what the aim objectives are for the data sharing is and to clarify any boundaries on the data sharing. There are potential grey areas that need to be considered.

There is a terrific opportunity to share data for the good of our communities and the environment. However, it is important that this is approached carefully so that parties do not put themselves at avoidable risk in their desire to be helpful. The challenges that would prevent successful data sharing have included examples such as using third party data without consent, exclusive rights over data being exercised by technology providers and competition and privacy law concerns preventing data sharing.

A big challenge for construction companies is not just collecting data for data’s sake. It is in understanding the purpose and potential value of the data and how access to it can help in meeting business objectives. In collecting data, the overall process and technology need to be clearly understood and made clear and articulated from the outset.

Excellent data management practices at an organisational level combined with a data strategy at a project level are the best way to achieve success. Standardised, high quality data can benefit the sector. For example:

  • decarbonisation – carbon emissions data needs to be shared across supply chains to, for example, assist stakeholders to set targets, using common data standards and methodologies to facilitate interoperability.
  • safety – achieving building safety standards for complex buildings requires a transformation in the way that the asset information requirements are collected and shared over the life of the asset.
  • operational – sharing of operational data during the construction and operation phases can help to monitor risk, reduce inefficiency and optimise performance. 

Well managed data sets and, ultimately, a digital twin of an asset, enables a more systematic, predictive, and reliable approach to management of infrastructure, aiding decision making, reducing risk and increasing productivity.

Industrialised Construction
Transforming infrastructure performance needs a new approach. Industrialised construction can improve productivity and deliver efficient and low carbon infrastructure through digital and modern methods of construction. We investigate the opportunities and challenges.
Industrialised Construction