Webinar takes digital deep-dive and highlights opportunities for construction industry

04 Apr 2023

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Hundreds of construction professionals gathered online on 4 April 2023 for the latest event in FIDIC’s 2023 webinar series, which gave attendees an update on the latest industry digital developments, including the use of BIM and how to incorporate emerging technologies in terms of contract.

The webinar, BIM and digital technologies - optimise traditional ways of working or make a paradigm shift?, sponsored by infrastructure engineering software company Bentley Systems, FIDIC’s 2023 webinar strategic partner, looked at how to incorporate and navigate Building Information Modelling (BIM) and emerging technologies contractually, some of the latest developments on the horizon and what lessons are being learned from the broad range of approaches currently being taken.

Speakers at the webinar, which was chaired by Stacy Sinclair, chair of FIDIC’s digital transformation committee, included Claire Rutkowski, senior vice president and CIO champion at Bentley Systems, Nicholas Felix, contracts engineer hydro projects at Nippon Koei, Jeremy Glover, partner at Fenwick Elliott LLP and bridge designer, Sweco BIM developer and founder of LearnGrasshopper.com Krzysztof Wojslaw.

Introducing the event, FIDIC president Tony Barry said that he was pleased that FIDIC’s digital transformation committee had organised the event on an important issue facing the industry. “Digital is changing the way our industry works,” he said. “Some companies are optimising the traditional processes of design and construction and others are developing new business models and new ways of working, constructing and manufacturing. It’s also the case that the industry in different countries is also at varying stages in its use of digital technology and innovation,” said Barry. He also highlighted that technology was seen as one of the main levers to increase resilience in the sector, with 75% of leaders in a recent industry survey citing technology as the main lever to reduce risks and better manage overruns.

Welcoming attendees on behalf of the FIDIC board, Martina Hess, FIDIC board member and director of CES Consulting Engineers Salzgitter, Zambia, said that digital transformation was a topic that was very close to her heart and one that she encountered regularly during her day-to-day work. Hess reminded attendees that different countries were are different stages in their BIM and tech journeys and it was important to recognise that fact.

Kicking off the webinar, Stacy Sinclair, chair of FIDIC’s digital transformation committee and head of technology and innovation at Fenwick Elliott, gave a brief overview of the role of the committee, which she said was doing important work in identifying issues or trends within the digital space that could be potential disruptors to FIDIC and or its members and the industry. Sinclair said that the webinar would highlight the ‘how’ of BIM adoption and how it had the potential to transform businesses and the way that they worked, against a background of the industry being at different stages in the digital transformation journey.

Best time to be working in construction due to digital

Claire Rutkowski, senior vice president and CIO champion at Bentley Systems, said that due to the exciting digital developments there had never been a better time to be in infrastructure. She highlighted the increasing adoption of BIM as a way of working and the fact that countries and firms were at various levels along the way and also provided some specific examples of the application of technology in the industry. “We are seeing a need for speed in infrastructure development and we have to do things faster and better and these are key triggers for digital transformation,” said Rutkowski. She also highlighted the industry-wide trend for digital investment as companies were striving to adapt to the rate of change facing the industry.

Rutkowski made the point that some governments were setting aside funding for digitalisation, but that different countries around the world were at varying stages in this area. This was reflected in firms being at different stages in their digital journeys and Bentley was working with many of those firms to help bring them up to speed and make better use of digital and data. Highlighting some of the opportunities inherent in the adoption of digital, Rutkowski said: “We are also seeing firms use technology to meet sustainability goals and they are also generating revenue from digital offerings too. Digital is also increasing collaboration across projects, which is breaking down barriers, but it also adds a layer of complexity that we all need to be aware of. There are pressures, but it’s exciting.”

 

BIM benefits for all project partners

Nicholas Felix, contracts engineer hydro projects at Nippon Koei, highlighted the Asahan No 3 Hydroelectric Power Plant construction project in Indonesia as a case study for the implementation of BIM protocols after contract commencement utilising the variation procedures incorporated in the FIDIC MDB (Pink Book) and Yellow Book Form. He gave a brief outline of the project and the various contract lots involved and the challenges of implementing BIM in a later stage in the project cycle.

Felix highlighted some of the digital challenges on the project, chief amongst which was getting the contractors to sign up to BIM. Despite the government mandating BIM, cost of adoption was also challenge too and it was necessary to find out more information what the precise requirements of the project partners was. It was also important to avoid unbalancing the risk allocation between the partners and the use of the FIDIC contract assisted with this. “All these different aspects were made more challenging due to the fact that we were working at the height of the Covid pandemic,” Felix said. He said that he hoped that going forward BIM implementation would lead to more benefits on projects and enable project partners to think more efficiently about what can be achieved.

Sweco bridge designer, BIM developer and founder of LearnGrasshopper.com Krzysztof Wojslaw, spoke about the Randselva Bridge project and the ‘drawingless’ approach that was taken thanks to BIM which he said had “removed 90% of mistakes”. He also highlighted the ‘hackathon’ approach that was now a key part of working digitally, which was enabling team members to make changes to design in real time in meetings and as a result engineers were much more responsive to client needs. “We still had lots of challenges on the project, especially on site and with the supply chain when working with new technologies. We had to train people on how to use tablets for example,” he said.

Final speaker at the webinar, Jeremy Glover, partner at Fenwick Elliott, discussed some of the key issues construction professionals needed to think about when implementing BIM on a project from a legal and contractual point of view. Glover said it was important to “go back to basics” and “understand your obligations under the terms of the contract. Make sure that you understand what you are being asked to do,” he said. He also highlighted that the increasing use of digital would lead to changes in the way that projects are conducted in the areas of handover and also that greater use of data would have a beneficial effect on sustainability. “Modelling can help stakeholders make more informed decisions and that has to be a good thing,” he said.

Summing up the event, FIDIC president Tony Barry thanked all those for taking part in the webinar and said that he looked forward to the increasing use of technology improving further the industry's efficiency as well as it supporting the pace of change in the sector. 

Click here for full details of FIDIC’s 2023 webinar series, sponsored by FIDIC’s 2023 webinar strategic partner Bentley Systems.

Watch the full video recording below

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