by Bridget Hamilton
As we prepare to welcome several thousand schoolchildren to our Future Buildings exhibition over the next month, we turned our thoughts to the construction industry some of them may well work in. Which roles will no longer exist - and perhaps more excitingly, which will be created? Five NBS staff give their opinions.
Role: Information Manager
Prior to the 1970s, the job of a software designer or developer was largely unheard of. Now the CBI estimates that the UK digital economy is worth over £200 billion!
Many of the roles at NBS did not exist when we published our information in paper form. We now have software designers, developers and testers, data security experts and object modellers that all contribute to providing innovative products and services to our customers. It is much less about the production of paper-based catalogues and marketing literature; whether an architect winning a job from a client, or a manufacturer being specified on a project, this communication and information delivery is now typically completed over the internet.
For Level 2 BIM projects, it is recommended that the role of the ‘Information Manager’ is filled. This role works across the project team ensuring that information is generated and processed to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the project information. The world’s digital transformation is allowing companies to make better decisions and improve efficiencies. There is a huge demand for change, and as this change happens, there will be more and more new roles created in the digital arena.
Role: Robot Operator
Robots aren't such a futurist idea anymore, we are seeing an uptake in R&D spanning across many industries with technology showcasing AI in driverless cars, robotic assembly line operators and increasingly more sophisticated 3D printing.
The construction industry is still one of the most dangerous sectors to work in. Introducing robots into the manual labour field would help eliminate site operatives from strain injuries or common accidents. Dangerous tasks that would be avoided, instead, could be explored. Examples of this include drones that can interact with 3D models to survey dangerous/hard to access site areas, or robotic arms that can be programmed to fabricate 3D structures around the clock.
Although this would reduce the need for manual labour, a new role in its place would certainly be needed - a robot operator, someone to program and synchronise the workflow, and quality assure the output of the AI. Robots will allow a huge beneficial impact on time and efficiency throughout construction projects which ultimately would bring costs down for everybody.
Role: Cyber Security
The construction industry has always been considered as a ‘hands-on’ sector whether that be buildings, infrastructure, mining or manufactured products. However, the sector is going through a digitisation which is seeing it adapt and evolve at an amazing rate.
Construction companies are starting to utilise cloud applications and other technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in many different and interesting ways. As more and more construction project and product information moves online, the industry will face a constant battle against hackers or cyber criminals. There is going to be a big need for security experts not only within the core digital sectors such as software development but also industries such as construction where we’re seeing the sector go through a huge digitisation. We’re also seeing new legislation introduced such as GDPR so ensuring the information we collect about individuals and projects is secure has never been more important. Financial penalties for breaches of personal data can reach limits of €20 million or 4% of your annual turnover, whichever is greater! The need for these roles is here now and will only be more evident in the future.
Role: Clerk of Works
A career I see being largely advertised in the future isn’t a futuristic job, but a traditional one; the Clerk of Works.
Traditionally, the Clerk of Works (which has the unfortunate abbreviation of CoW) would have inspected the materials and workmanship on site during the build, ensuring that the works were being carried out to the Client’s specification, drawings and standards. As I’ve rarely worked with CoWs, I think of it as a long lost art, but the void left behind is evident in some of the problems we’ve had in construction lately. CoWs were usually more common in local council than consultancy, and the guys I worked with a few years’ ago were invaluable.
However, I was lucky enough to work with a Clerk of Works in consultancy on one project; he was employed by the company I worked for to ensure the services were correctly installed. He was brilliant; he was a valuable interface between the Services Engineers and the Contractor and we had fewer issues on site, in the long run that saved money. That’s what I call value engineering!
Role: Artificial Intelligence (AI) Architect
As the construction industry moves into the digital arena, we will move away from sitting designing at machine, and be designing in real time, through the cloud, visualising their designs through VR headsets and visiting construction sites where robots have replaced workers on site.
We need our architects to be visionaries and take flight into the design world and deliver innovative design solutions for our clients. Using knowledge of modern methods of construction, AI architects will design and detail buildings and cities in 3D real time. The office environment will change dramatically; you will access your designs in real time and tools like computers, pens, pencils and rulers will be a thing of the past.
We will hold our design meetings in the modelling environment, design solutions will be implemented in real time, client decisions will be instantly approved. There will be full digital collaboration with the contractor, client and site team a during construction as it will take place in the design model and a VR setting.
When it’s time to go to site, the site team operatives will be centrally controlled and update the models in real time during construction and report on every element of the work, the conditions, and the costs. Site visits will be handled differently, accessed through the construction robots and visible by the entire team.
Want to learn more about the future of the construction industry? Our Future Buildings exhibition is open from 22nd June to 9th September, 10am to 6pm atThe Old Post Office.