31 January 2021

Ours is a history of inefficiency and fragmentation

In traditional design-build and design-build-bid construction, various entities come together in linear stages to work on a project. They work primarily in silos and, once the project is finished, they disband and move on to the next project. This fragmented way of working results in stockpiling and disconnection, financial waste and indifference from those working on the project. 

Any effort that focuses on optimising a single part (“my bit”) de-optimises the whole – adversely affecting both costs and quality.

One of the key tenets of lean methodology

If fragmentation is the problem, then what is the solution?

The overwhelming industry opinion is that collaborative working is the only way forward, and the Construction Leader’s Summit 2020 held by NBS confirmed it. Taking their cue from other industries, larger construction groups are turning away from the traditional models and applying integrated project delivery (IPD) and lean construction methodologies to their projects. A vital part of this effort is using cloud-based specification platforms such as NBS Chorus and building information modelling (BIM) to generate, manage and share project data. As a cloud-based specification writing tool, Chorus provides users with the ability to invite others into a project and collaborate on it remotely.

"We are all part of complex systems in our lives and our work, and we must remove the silos of self-interest. So, let’s stop making excuses and start making changes. You know you can. I know you can. And you know you should."- Dame Judith Hackitt

Construction and the ‘new normal’

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only brought collaborative digital construction to the forefront; it has accelerated the need for uptake. Everyone must adapt and learn new ways of working and transforming to digital has been vital – not just for continued success but for survival. Many within the construction industry must now rely on remote working and cloud-based technology, and transformations that would have otherwise taken several years have happened within a couple of months.

A good example of this is international real estate consultancy firm Hollis, who adopted NBS Chorus at the start of the first UK lockdown. This had an immediate and beneficial impact on their remote working practices’ efficiency. With lockdown measures being extended into 2021, Hollis continues to benefit from having adopted Chorus early on and is meeting the year’s challenges on a stronger footing than they would have otherwise.

"This disruption can be daunting; the reality is that the challenges we face can only be met by construction changing the way things are done." - David Rockhill, Associate Partner at McKinsey and Company

The benefits of collaborative digital working

  • It can result in significant project savings
  • Access to more resources means better responsiveness.
  • Access to a broader range of expertise results in better decision making – achieving more for less.
  • Waste is reduced.
  • There is a broader understanding of the bigger picture.
  • Value engineering is integrated from the start, eliminating continual re-work and ‘reinventing the wheel’. Investment is made once.
"Data is the new oil. However, unless that data is refined like oil – it’s not worth much." - Lee Jones, Head of Manufacturer Solutions at NBS

Value chain partnerships and NBS Chorus for Manufacturers

 The best collaborations are value-chain partnerships, where everyone involved links capabilities and complementary skill sets in order to create additional value from project start.

Collaboration is at the heart of NBS Chorus for Manufacturers, allowing construction product manufacturers to work alongside specifiers and designers directly within the project environment. This can lead to safer and more efficient projects, with manufacturers advising on the most suitable products to include in the specification and explaining how to install those products to achieve the required performance.

As an example, take a look at this recent case study where Franklin Ellis Architects successfully collaborated with Dulux Trade on a paint systems specification as part of a complex building project.

"The direct invitation into the project from Franklin Ellis Architects was a great leap forward and enabled us to get the spec right the first time." - Andy Baggott, Dulux Trade

A winning combination – IPD, lean thinking, cloud-based specifying and BIM

IPD - Integrated Project Delivery

Already a proven practice that has been successfully adopted by other industries, IPD offers the construction industry an effective way to reduce inefficiencies and improve project outcomes.

IPD uses collaborative working to align project stakeholders, their systems, practices and processes, talents, and insights to optimise value and return not only for the client but for all parties involved.

  • Minimises waste and associated costs
  • Maximises efficiency through all stages of work
  • Creates a culture of collaboration between client, lead designer, and lead constructor from the early design stage through to project handover
  • Uses digital and virtual technology (BIM 3D, 4D, 5D) to optimise communication and eliminate conflicts, schedule delays, and cost overruns
  • Incorporates lean thinking throughout the process

Lean construction

Lean construction is a management approach that maximises customer value while minimising waste. With lean, instead of working in silos focused only on improving your project element, all stakeholders work together to optimise the flow of products and services from the design stage to handover. 

Some of the fundamental tenets of lean include:

  • Focus on delivering value
  • Remove any obstacles that would prevent value flow
  • Eliminate anything that does not add value
  • Incorporate value engineering from project start
  • Encourage knowledge and idea sharing across disciplines
  • Manage work to optimise the whole rather than parts of the whole

Cloud-based specification with NBS Chorus 

Using NBS Chorus, users can access their specifications wherever they are – home, work, hotel, meeting room, and onsite – from their Mac, PC, tablet or handheld device. Multiple users can work together in real-time, applying instant updates that are accessible to everyone across project-involved organisations, locations and teams. Because it is cloud-based, a project model can be developed simultaneously with the specification; keeping information coordinated and creating a seamless link between the specification and design.

Since lockdown, NBS has received a significant amount of positive feedback from Chorus users who have found being able to specify from anywhere and on any device essential.

Building Information Modelling

Through BIM, a building’s construction and performance can be visualised, explored and analysed before breaking ground – thus eliminating potential problems before they occur. Using BIM reduces time and cost, allows for smoother project delivery and improves the potential for a higher quality build than what is delivered by traditional methods. When compared to conventional processes, BIM:

  • Enables the project to be fully coordinated from start to finish
  • Ensures that good ideas are not only shared but shared at the most beneficial time
  • Eliminates the assumption that “cheaper is better” by taking a holistic approach
  • Reduces owner risk to contractor re design errors
  • Removes the barriers that restrict cooperation and innovation by creating a non-adversarial team structure

 As BIM-related technology continues to evolve, the tools necessary to collaborate and create BIM content are not just becoming better functioning, they are becoming more accessible to smaller subcontractors and SMEs. While, from a technical standpoint, BIM can no longer be considered distinctive, how it integrates with other technologies – in particular, virtual and augmented reality applications – has become BIM’s next big frontier.

With BIM, there is an opportunity to bring everyone on board – including the end-user – providing input into crucial decisions that differentiate a great project from a good one and a successful project from a failure. Further, the inherent knowledge can be passed to end users, continuing to provide value beyond construction finish and throughout the complete building lifecycle.

Challenges out there that cannot be solved unless we have a cross-supply chain perspective on them. For example, climate change. Climate change is being driven by carbon, and carbon is an element that is embedded in many of the decisions that we make across the supply chain."- Phil Bernstein, Associate Dean and Professor Adjunct at the Yale School of Architecture

Six reasons to embrace collaborative construction now rather than later

  1. Together, the owner, architect, lead contractor, subcontractors and end-users (where possible) set goals, objectives, timetables and budgets. All get to offer any ideas or opinions they might have upfront. By using this whole team approach, early-stage decision making is informed and enables value creation early in the project. 

  2. By removing silos, communication opens, and decision-making becomes a shared task. Conflicts are reduced, redundancies are minimised or eliminated, and efforts are optimised.

  3. The whole team develops plans, schedules, deadlines and other project details, which positively impacts design and documentation. In turn, delays caused by change orders are eliminated, thus helping ensure that the project is delivered on time and within budget. 

  4. The open, collaborative culture created by IPD, lean working, cloud-based specification and BIM fosters trust amongst stakeholders. Decision making is transparent and contingencies are visible and can be provided for. A golden thread of information is created, ensuring transparency and cultivating accountability.

  5. Collaborative construction reduces or eliminates the liability problems inherent to design-build and design-build-bid projects. Information flows freely, reducing any ground for dispute and fostering innovation and proactive problem-solving.

  6. Everyone involved is incentivised to meet common targets and achieve project objectives because they all share both risk and reward. Everyone’s success is tied to everyone else’s performance at every stage. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to work together because project success means individual success.

Having everyone on board and engaged with the project before the designs are even drawn is a huge step-change in the way we think as an industry. Equally, entering multi-party contracts can feel like a legal risk. However, those within the industry who have adopted collaborative working attest to its success. Contracts are drawn up to clearly outline a project’s purpose and objectives, thus mitigating everyone’s risks.

Find out more about how you can work collaboratively with NBS Chorus and NBS Source