Busting the Myths Surrounding Innovation in Construction
A seminar filled with construction technology advocates and hosted by TV star George Clarke sets the innovation-centric tone for UK Construction Week 2017
The 2017 UK Construction Week was jam-packed with exhibitors and seminars, showcasing the latest and greatest ideas, products, software, concepts and prototypes the industry has to offer. One walk around the show floor offered the 33, 697 attendees a chance to interact with dozens of exhibits filled with companies and entrepreneurs alike, all aiming to showcase “the next best thing” for an industry primed to move forward.
The industry’s commitment to innovation was the topic of the show’s first seminar “Let’s Bust the Myths Around Innovation in Construction.” Hosted by George Clarke of “Amazing Spaces,” “The Restoration Man” and “The Great British Property Scandal” television fame, the panel featured a variety of advocates for innovation, including Bluebeam VP of Strategic Development Sasha Reed. “We are for the first time in an era where technology is starting to lead the way we are building,” explained Reed to a fully engaged crowd around the UKCW main stage.
The panel explored the technology buzz that is gaining traction in many different sectors and companies within the build world, leading organizations to figure out how to best empower themselves with digital project solutions. “Technology and innovation represent a spectrum; smaller companies shouldn’t be intimidated to bigger operators within our industry,” added Matthew Egan, CEO and Founder, Modularize Ltd. While striving for breakthroughs is to be encouraged, so should a focus on the projects themselves, explained Nick Conway, Director, ITC Concepts. “Innovation shouldn’t be a vanity project, it should have a fundamental meaning to your company.” Panel host Clarke echoed that project-centric sentiment as well, stating, “The most important piece of architecture to me was my home because I could relate to it.”
Full List of Participating Panelists:
- George Clarke, “Amazing Spaces,” “The Restoration Man,” Architect
- Sasha Reed, VP, Strategic Development, Bluebeam, Inc.
- David Hancock, Construction Director at Infrastructure Projects Authority Cabinet Office, Infrastructure and Projects Authority
- Mark Austin, Head of Innovation, Kier
- Chris Bagley, Head of Infrastructure, KTN
- Nick Conway, Director, ITC Concepts
- Niraj Dattani, Senior Partnerships Executive, Spacehive Ltd.
- Matthew Egan, CEO and Founder, Modularize Ltd
The panel also highlighted the disconnect between the degree of innovation perceived by those within the industry versus those outside of it. “If you look around, the amount of innovation from a nuts and bolts perspective is huge but anyone outside of our industry doesn’t understand what we are talking about, so the industry has to have one voice. It’s about making the art of the possible understandable to the owners and general public,” explained Chris Bagley, Head of Infrastructure, KTN. Clarke underscored that idea of a unified front: “It’s clear we’re all singing from the same hymnal, we just need to come together to push things forward.”
Reactions, Recollections and Recognitions
After the discussion ended, Strxur chatted with three individuals from the panel, who elaborated on their stances and shared some additional messages for the industry.
“We won’t get new blood into the industry when it is referred to as 3D; dirty, difficult and dangerous. We have to change that behavior.”
“Another change we have to make is diversity. I mean we have only 12% women in the industry. One of the reasons I really love UKCW is it shows you more of our diversity, and if you can point to something here that excites you, it’s a good thing.”
“People assume standardization means boring.”
“When people start to go through our industry and say, ‘Well, I can tell you an app which will do it in 10 minutes,’ then you know, I think, that we will have moved into the 21st century. The big problem for me is I think, at the moment, the industry is looking to use digital tools in an analog way, which is really slowing things down.”
– Dr. David Hancock
“I think it’s so important to bust the myths about innovation in the industry, because if we don’t, it becomes the reality for other people. And if other people outside the industry as well as within the industry believe that reality, then we will be stuck in that trench.”
“We have that responsibility to project to the younger generation that we’ve got this one voice and we are going to go forward. The disappointing thing is that we haven’t yet had the traction that we need as an industry. But you know, we saw it in the journey started here. Even just this discussion of facts shows that we’re finding that one voice.”
“I think there’s a lot of behavioral issues that need to be addressed because we’re stuck in an adversarial contractual system. The markets essentially have now an undefined benchmark.”
– Chris Bagley
“If you want to push the technology boundaries, you’ve got to get people comfortable with the idea of doing something that’s never been done before. And if you can show them that you’ve already done it before and the sky didn’t fall, then you have more of a chance that they will accept it and even be more efficient.”
“Technology is about customizing the experience to make it the way that people want it. I think a lot of innovation happens when you’re just connecting the dots and taking something that’s working elsewhere and just applying it to your current experience.”
“In terms of standardization, I think the expectation is that the general public does want to have a voice. They don’t want their schools to all look the same. Their expectations have gone up.”
– Niraj Dattani