­­­Ireland ready to take up BIM skills challenge

Irish companies are uniquely positioned to provide a vital skills injection, with trade in Irish products and services to the UK increasing by 68% over the past five years.– John Hunt, Enterprise Ireland

John Hunt, a senior market adviser, construction sector, at Enterprise Ireland, discusses new research which shows how Irish professionals are growing in digital confidence.

While the government’s drive to improve offsite, digital and construction skills has been well-received in the industry, construction labour shortages ahead of Brexit remain a major concern.

Given the UK will require 400,000 new construction workers every year until 2021, according to Arcadis, to deliver the housing targets and planned projects in the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan (NIDP), there is an urgent need to take a fresh look at the skills challenge and how we can collectively future-proof the UK construction industry. 

One way of achieving this is through the adoption of more diverse skillsets. The benefits of BIM, prefabrication and offsite solutions are well-documented: speed of construction, improved performance and a potential reduction in construction costs are being enhanced by the growing requirement to deliver more capacity to the market.

In the short-term, the UK construction industry would benefit from a more inclusive and collaborative approach to succeed. Irish companies are uniquely positioned to provide a vital skills injection, with trade in Irish products and services to the UK increasing by 68% over the past five years, to €1.29bn in 2016.

A recent Enterprise Ireland Digital Transition Survey showed that Ireland’s digital capabilities and productivity are also deepening, with 76% of AEC organisations feeling confident in their BIM skills and knowledge according to an Enterprise Ireland Digital Transition Survey (2017).

Enterprise Ireland’s National BIM Council has also developed the first digital strategy for Ireland’s construction industry, which provides a roadmap of strategic initiatives to further build the public and private sectors’ digital capability by 2021.

Recommendations include establishing a National Education Taskforce based on core multi-disciplinary digital curriculum, developing an online BIM self-assessment tool for companies, developing a BIM certification programme, encouraging the inclusion of Digital Design and Construction in schools, and developing relevant industry accreditations.

The commitment of the Irish government along with a definition of how businesses might adopt digital tools and processes over time will bring additional clarity to an already strong BIM offering.

There is already demand for these skills in the UK market. For instance, John Sisk & Son was recently appointed by Quintain to carry out the construction of 745 build-to-rent apartments on its Canada Court scheme at Wembley (pictured above).

Quintain chose Sisk as its partner due to a “shared focus on providing the most efficient design for the product they were creating as well as embracing BIM”. In addition, Sisk was accordingly awarded the development of a large data centre campus by a multinational client, which was designated as a pilot scheme project of good BIM practice for any future, international data centre projects.

With Ireland’s strong competitive advantage as an innovation hub, we are confident construction trade relationships between the UK and Ireland will deepen even further, helping the UK dive into BIM and reach its ambitious construction targets over the coming years.

Main image: John Sisk & Son has been appointed by Quintain to construct Canada Court scheme in Wembley (PRP Architects)

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  1. Ireland should be careful and have a proper debate about a Government BIM mandate. International evidence suggests that such a mandate could be damaging to the competitiveness of small to medium sized builders. We really do need to be careful about a mandate.

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