UK Government: Creating conditions for change

Nina Quist - 2018-08-30

As head of Digital Construction for the UK Government, Alex Lubbock is in charge of the government department's adoption of Manufacturing and Technology whilst supporting Government and industry in fully embracing BIM, and the benefits it brings.

An outdated way of working

Alex notes that compared to other industries, construction is lagging far behind in terms of digitalisation and productivity. And even though the UK and other areas such as the Nordics are doing relatively well, construction is still a low-performing sector compared to manufacturing for example. But in the UK, government is working hard to change the state of affairs.

“Right now, we’re one of few governments in the world who are actually pushing those boundaries strategically”, says Alex.

From a government point of view, he sees this development as very urgent since it allows for a much stronger focus on quality and on whole life performance of infrastructure.

“We’re interested in the net effect and if we can spend less on the total cost of ownership , we can save a lot of money. This money can then be re-invested in more infrastructure, maintaining existing infrastructure or front line services such as doctors and teachers who deliver outcomes for people and therefore value for money”, he says.

The UK leads the way

In the UK, government has taken on a very active roll, aiming to enable this market shift by priming the industry with investment through the UK Industrial Strategy.

“When we change the way we procure, the supply chain responds. This is part of how we create the conditions for things to change, alongside the technical and cultural alignment. The UK Government will spend circa £60 Billion per annum on construction and infrastructure for the next decade and we need to think about what socio-economic and environmental outcomes we want to deliver for that spend”, says Alex.

He observes that even though the UK is leading the way, many governments are showing interest in the development and are eager to learn.

“Others will, by necessity, follow suit. We are already exporting our knowledge and processes to other governments both from the UK and in country”, he says.

A shift in culture and mindset

Alex notes that when the UK mandated BIM, it had a catalytic effect on the whole sector globally. But even so, many challenges still remain within culture, procurement and contracting.

“With BIM, information-sharing is key. Now we need to find the mechanisms to bring everything into contracts and to make this more productive way of working the new norm”, he says.

For BIM to be fully embraced, a shift in mindset will have to take place, according to Alex. The culture has to change, from silos operating in parallel to a much more integrated and open climate. The benefits are apparent, but Alex notes that the change is, as always, met with some resistance.

“With BIM comes a whole new level of transparency. Not everyone is interested in that”, he says.

Commercial models to support innovation

Right now, the government’s focus is on enabling the industry to adopt, leverage and further develop all the new technology and opportunities to create a more productive and higher performing system.

“For example, at Highways England they have now demonstrated the ability to design a road in 95% less time than before thanks to automation of design. But we are still lacking a commercial model to enable design consultancies to do that at scale.”

Alex sees it as one of his main tasks to help creating a smarter infrastructure and to create commercial models that support innovation.

“From a government perspective, our job is to set out policies and strategies and then to support programs that deliver these strategies.To actually effect the change in delivery is the hardest part”, he says.

Alex Lubbock was one of the keynote speakers at BIMobject LIVE 2018 in Malmö, October 9-10. In his speech he provided a deeper insight into how BIM can be maneuvered and facilitated through government direction, and he has talked about what the implications are from a manufacturers perspective - today and tomorrow.


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