Opinion | Building Data

Tom Chatterton, South Island Regional Committee member and Director at Rider Levett Bucknall, explores the opportunities in data warehousing for the construction industry.

Data warehousing in construction presents the opportunity to revolutionise the industry, unlocking unimaginable benefits and services. Just as the human genome project centralised genetic data to enable new treatments for diseases, data warehousing is teeming with the potential to fundamentally redefine how we approach construction.

A data warehouse is an innovative approach to storing, analysing and utilising years of construction project data. It serves as a unifying platform, bringing together many diverse data sources into a single, consolidated view that provides a comprehensive overview of all aspects of construction from numerous real-world projects. From design and cost estimates to project tracking and Building Information Modelling (BIM), a data warehouse aggregates all these disparate sources into one accessible and manageable repository.

BIM and Common Data Environments (CDEs) have emerged as the bedrock of this digital revolution in construction and provide sources for data collection. BIM, a digital representation of a building’s physical and functional characteristics, has been a game-changer, improving construction project outcomes by making them cheaper, more sustainable, faster and safer. Proven further by the UK government mandating a lot of these practices through the Building Safety Act following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London.

CDEs, on the other hand, are a powerful tool for managing the data generated during a given construction project. Serving as a central data storage and management system, CDEs connect seamlessly to the BIM tools used and enhance BIM’s features and outcomes. Internationally we are seeing a drive towards the ISO 19650 standard for designers and these tools are an essential part of getting this accreditation. CDE’s manage the information from different sources, including BIM software, company spreadsheets, and other project management tools, providing powerful features for data management, versioning and sharing. However, a CDE does not aggregate data across projects to give a broader view of industry at large hence the need for a data warehouse.

Just as data warehousing serves as the foundation for this transformation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the engine that powers it. AI requires vast amounts of data to function effectively, and a well-constructed data warehouse provides the perfect platform to train an AI algorithm. AI can delve into the depths of the data from 1000s of historic projects, extracting insights, identifying patterns, and making predictions that would be virtually impossible for human analysts.

The synergy between data warehousing and AI can lead to significant improvements in various aspects of construction, including cost estimation, risk management, project programming and embodied carbon estimation. These advancements can dramatically enhance efficiency, reduce costs and improve decision-making processes, thereby adding tremendous value to the sector.

A quantum leap for Construction  

As we look towards the future, the potential for data warehousing in construction is vast and exciting. Much like the Human Genome Project – where we are yet to fully understand the possibilities that this data may reveal – we are far from, harnessing the full potential of data warehousing in construction. We may not fully understand the possibilities, but the prospects are thrilling.

This transformation is not merely about adopting new technologies. It’s about changing the way we think about and approach our work. It’s about fostering a culture of collaboration, openness and innovation that embraces the power of data and technology. As we undertake this journey, it’s essential to create an environment that empowers everyone involved – from quantity surveyors and architects to engineers and contractors – to leverage these tools and make data-driven decisions.

This transformation is not without its challenges. With the rising volume and variety of data, managing and securing it becomes an increasingly complex task. Additionally, navigating the legal and regulatory landscape of data usage, ensuring privacy and maintaining data integrity are significant concerns. However, these challenges also present opportunities for innovation and new service offerings for the property sector.

Building the future, byte by byte 

In conclusion, the revolution of data warehousing in construction is a transformative shift that holds immense potential for the future of the construction industry. The integration of data warehousing, BIM, CDEs, and AI can drive efficiency, improve decision-making processes, and add tremendous value to the services provided to the sector.

However, this transformation is a journey that requires patience, commitment and a culture of collaboration and innovation. As we navigate this journey, we must be prepared to face challenges, seize opportunities, and above all, embrace the power of data and technology. In the end, the future of construction is a data-driven one. As we continue to explore and harness the power of data warehousing, we are not just building structures; we are building the future. The blueprint for this future is clear: it’s open, it’s collaborative, and its data driven. This is the future of building. 

Tom Chatterton

Director, Rider Levett Bucknall
RLB’s Global Digital Advancement Committee

We’d like to credit John Corry, IT Product Manager at Rider Levett Bucknall for helping with the content of this article. 

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