Comment: Newforma’s Allen Preger – Handling construction’s data explosion

The amount of information being created continues to grow. Effective management of BIM-related information and correspondence should be a key consideration for all project stakeholders– Allen Preger, Newforma.

The industry needs to deal with the amount of data it handles with BIM, says Allen Preger, co-founder of construction focused software company, Newforma.

As an industry so reliant on physical skills to operate, the construction industry has been historically more reluctant to adopt digital technology than other industries. However, in the past five years there has been a rapid forward shift thanks in part to the increased use of smartphones and tablets, as well as the growing compliance BIM guidelines.

While BIM processes mean more people contributing more information in the design phase to avoid waste and rework in the construction phase, there results an exponential amount of information which only continues to grow throughout the project.

To put this into perspective, the largest project Newforma worked on in 2004 contained a total of 100GB of data, but in 2014 the largest project totalled 6.5TB. And the amount of information being created continues to grow. Effective management of BIM-related information and correspondence should be a key consideration for all project stakeholders

Success in construction has always relied on close collaboration between situational design, construction and client teams. The rising use of digital tools in construction – mobile and cloud applications which further support the collaborative nature of construction projects – provides new channels through which additional streams of data can flow.

The move towards model-based design and virtual construction requires radically more collaboration by more design and construction professionals earlier in projects than before. 3D modelling tools enable faster generation of drawings to facilitate rapid design and construction iteration.

The end goal: work out construction kinks and optimise the building’s operating performance digitally, and to streamline schedules and reduce costs in the field. But it’s critical for construction firms to manage the resulting deluge of information, primarily because delays and cost overruns will creep back in when individuals work from outdated plans and specs, or fail to factor in key input to a decision, or neglect to act upon decisions made. Missed emails or drawing revisions can put an entire project out of sync.

Project information management tools that integrate with existing systems can simplify information discovery and ensure the responsiveness of project stakeholders. Apps on phones and other devices eliminate bottlenecks in BIM-improved processes when they allow team members to easily access current versions of documents and supplement them with live observations from the field.

Construction managers, quantity surveyors and project managers such as Henry Riley are turning to project information management software to reduce the risk of mismanaged information and streamline project delivery. Henry Riley deployed project information management (PIM) software from Newforma after becoming overwhelmed with email and other forms of digital data with their transition to BIM. For some clients, Henry Riley works on up to 50 projects a year which require continuous management.

While the company was originally looking for a system to manage project email and files, Henry Riley opted for a system that offered additional functions such as snagging and drawing markups in one integrated system. Given that the construction sector has taken such large strides forward in its adoption of technology over the past five years, the explosion of data is going to be an important obstacle to deal with to ensure it continues in the right direction.

Technology will be the key to ensuring that the sector can thrive and remain innovative. Knowing their people have access to current project information they can rely on, at their fingertips, construction firms can now focus their efforts on producing top-quality results for clients, recruiting new talent and building their businesses.

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