Heathrow may pay suppliers for data rather than assets

Heathrow could pay suppliers when they hand over accurate data, as opposed to completed assets, in a move to put digital tech and data centre stage on its multi-billion-pound expansion programme.

“Data is as important – or more important – than our physical assets,” said the airport’s digital director Jon Kerbey, interviewed for the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) Digitising Construction report this month.

“But there is a big issue with data quality. So we will be looking at a different commercial model. We have to incentivise data quality and assess it rigorously. Phil Wilbraham, Heathrow’s expansion programme director, has said we may only pay for data, not physical assets. That should change how suppliers think.”

Kerbey, who will speak at the Digital Construction Summit on 3 June, said a common information model will be at the heart of the Heathrow expansion, created by the supply chain. “Our responsibility is to set standards, which includes exchange information requirements (EIRs), data specifications, and a common data environment (CDE),” he explained. “We need interoperability between all the different data that will come to us, whether it’s a point cloud survey or data from an IoT sensor.

“We need to get the right information from our suppliers at the right quality, and that comes back to how good we are at asking for it.”

As well as defining its EIRs, Heathrow is “fairly advanced” with its asset information requirements (AIRs) and organisation information requirements (OIRs), Kerbey added. “The work being done now to define and design our new control centre, which will be where we monitor construction operations for the airport expansion, will essentially define our OIRs by really understanding the decisions we need to make and when.”

Heathrow is one of several leading construction clients prioritising data as part of their digital strategies.

Transport for London BIM manager Mathew Brett is working with the CDBB’s public sector ISO 19650 transition group, to achieve a unified approach to information management. “Our big challenge as a client with a long-term interest in our assets is getting the handover information from suppliers and passing that into the operational part of the business,” he said.

Meanwhile, housing group Clarion is using 3D models to help with fire safety and asset management. Fire safety projects director Dan Hollas said suppliers will be expected to provide data “in the format we want”, describing it as potentially “transformative”.

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