My Digital Life: Prof Jacqueline Glass, Bartlett School

Professor Jacqueline Glass, professor in construction management and vice dean research at the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction at UCL and director of the Transforming Construction Network Plus, takes her turn to reveal her digital life. Below she calls for the industry to realise the role of chief digital officer, and her joy in flight-path spotting.

What new built environment digital innovation that you’ve seen recently really excites you?

I really like Boston Dynamic’s ‘Spot’ robot, but just as an ‘agent provocateur’. Spot is advanced, quirky and attractive – apparently. It draws people’s attention, at least, and gets them thinking about what digital might mean for their sites and operations. To be honest though, Spot probably wouldn’t fare terribly well on site on a wet day in February, up to its little motorised knees in clay… so our robotics and automation research is much more practical but just as exciting. For example, we’re exploring using a Husky [robot] to (hopefully) make a big difference to how the industry collects and utilises on-site data.   

What single thing would help accelerate construction’s digital adoption?

Interoperability for sure, but my choice would be a clear recognition of construction IT expertise as a distinct and valued career path in all businesses. Of course we need information systems experts for core business IT provision, but these folk are not construction-specific operators. The UK is 22nd in the world in robotics know-how and I can’t help think we’ll be a laughing stock if don’t have a chief digital officer in every C-suite in every major construction firm by 2030.

Who do you follow on social media about BIM and digital construction – and why?

Definitely Tom Oulton, Su Butcher, Alain Waha and Paul Wilkinson on Twitter, but I have recently been super impressed by the continued global leadership from the scholars at ETH Zurich, whether it’s Daniel Hall, Philippe Block, Gramazio Kohler Research or the NCCR Digital Fabrication lab – amazing research and thought-leadership. Often on Insta and no wonder: some of their digitally fabricated structures are just beautiful.

What was the last app you downloaded and why?

It was Flightradar24, as an entirely vicarious virtual holiday app. I just drop into it from time to time to see what’s going on in the skies above me and around the world. I have to say it can be quite addictive if you’re not careful!

I was always a map nerd, so was always going to enjoy Flightradar, to be honest. Fascinating and sort of real time too, provided my wi-fi can keep pace with an A380 taking off from Heathrow!

What’s the tech bane of your life?

Am I allowed to say Microsoft? [You are – ed.] If not, I would say old laptops with the in-built camera located poorly, so the user’s image on Zoom is unflattering! Humanity properly let itself down on the day those old machines were designed.

Mac or PC/iOS or Android?

PC at work and Apple phone and iPad at home – although that’s all the same place these days I guess. I didn’t convert to iPhone for absolutely ages because I didn’t like the corner radii of the handsets (honestly I thought Sony chose a nicer radius)… Yes, I am still a fidgety architect at heart when it comes to design, but the intuitive UX soon won me over, and now like many, I wouldn’t go back.

Do you have any smart home features or other digital gadgets?

Not so much: I’m a lot more analogue at home than in work, which for me is a good balance. And I’m not an early adopter: my TV is 14 years old and still going strong, which I guess means that my interests in sustainability are currently winning the battle with my innovation motivations. Though that’s a regularly fought contest as I am a big fan of Formula 1, not least for the engineering and the awe-inspiring analytics in the sport.

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