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1 December, 2017 - 12:49 By Tony Quested

£5.4m Cambridge hothouse drives UK digital construction revolution

Professor Andy Neely University of Cambridge

Cambridge University brainpower is at the heart of an unprecedented initiative designed to transform the UK’s construction sector in the new digital age.

The Government has allocated £5.4 million to launch the Centre for Digital Built Britain at the university to help people make better use of cities by championing the digital revolution in the built environment.

The centre is part of a landmark government-led investment in growing the UK’s construction sector.

The hothouse is a partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the university to inspire the construction sector to leverage digital technologies to better plan, build, maintain and use infrastructure.

It will focus on the ongoing transformation of the built environment through the digital tools, standards and processes that are collectively known as Building Information Modelling (BIM).

BIM enables the people building and managing our transport networks, cities and major infrastructure projects to take advantage of advances in the digital world to intelligently deliver better services and end products for UK citizens.

Led by Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor: Enterprise and Business Relations, the centre leverages the expertise and experience of faculty from the Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC), Cambridge Big Data, the Distributed Information and Automation Lab (DIAL), the Cambridge Service Alliance (CSA) and the Institute for Manufacturing. 

The Cambridge researchers work with a team of specialists from Digital Built Britain Programme and partners from industry and academia to develop and demonstrate policy and practical insights that will enable the exploitation of new and emerging technologies, data and analytics to enhance the natural and built environment, thereby driving up commercial competitiveness and productivity, as well as citizen quality of life and well-being.

Professor Neely said: “The Centre for Digital Built Britain will work in partnership with government and industry to improve the performance, productivity and safety of construction through the better use of digital technologies.

“The achievement of the BIM Task Group in delivering the Level 2 BIM programme has provided both the UK and increasingly a worldwide platform for the digitisation of the construction and services sectors.” 

Dr Jennifer Schooling, director of the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, added: “Over the next decade advances in BIM will combine with the Internet of Things, data analytics, data-driven manufacturing and the digital economy to enable us to plan new buildings and infrastructure more effectively, build them at lower cost, operate and maintain them more efficiently, and deliver better outcomes to the people who use them. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity to put the breadth of research and industry engagement expertise from Cambridge at the heart of Digital Built Britain.”

The UK is leading the world with its support of BIM implementation in the construction sector through its commitment to the Digital Built Britain Programme. 

By embedding Level 2 BIM in the government projects such as Crossrail, the programme has contributed significantly to the Government’s £3 billion of efficiency savings between 2011 and 2015.

Since 2016, all UK centrally funded projects require Level 2 BIM, which has achieved considerable cost savings for its construction procurement to date. Tasked with supporting innovation in the construction sector, the Construction Leadership Council has also put BIM at the heart of its sector strategy Construction 2025, which commits to cut built asset costs by 33 per cent and time and carbon by 50 perc ent. The centre will continue and build on this transformative approach.

• The Centre for Digital Built Britain will be based in the Maxwell Centre in West Cambridge and will be formally launched in Spring 2018.

Kiss Communications

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