International meeting explores future of construction

School of the Built Environment

School of the Built Environment

Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Lean Construction have been a particular strength of the University’s School of the Built Environment for many years and at an international meeting held recently on campus, academics got together to demonstrate how these new techniques are revolutionising construction.

Professor Lauri Koskela from the School of the Built Environment tells us what was discussed at the event, named 'When social science meets lean and BIM':

“The two day workshop involved participants from Canada, Finland, Norway, Germany and Israel, as well as from the UK. Presentations included reports from industry practitioners and researchers and contributions from theoreticians.

“There are signs that the construction industry is about to undergo a long awaited transformation, with Lean management methods and Building Information Model (BIM) technology leading the way. The primary obstacle to these innovations lies in questions of organisation and industry culture which are properly the province of social science.

“Welcoming participants, Head of School, Professor Mike Kagioglou pointed out that the meeting continued the School of the Built Environment tradition of promoting leading-edge theoretical work in the built environment and looked forward to significant long-term outcomes from the discussions.

“Opening the first session, Professor Reijo Miettinen, of the CRADLE research centre at the University of Helsinki, discussed the sociology of expectations that surrounds BIM, highlighting various social science approaches that can be used to address the implementation problems that surround the new ways of working.

“Subsequent presentations addressed conceptual and methodological problems attendant on these approaches, as well as reporting on projects in which the new methods are being implemented. Creating the organisational forms through which BIM software can support collaboration between design professionals and deliver accurate information to the construction site is one major focus of concern. Another is the successful translation of innovative organisational forms and philosophies across different cultures. I argued that if these and similar problems are to be overcome, management studies must refocus on the design and production process itself.

“Other presentations provided interesting insights in the impacts of lean and BIM on the ground. Tarja Mäki, a PhD student from the University of Helsinki, presented initial results from her research where she had shadowed a construction site manager of the new computer-savvy generation. In the period of shadowing, the manager never touched the drawings for the project, but was fully conversant with the three-dimensional building information model, even correcting errors left by designers.

“While progress is being made on these issues there is much work still to be done. It was decided to reconvene the workshop in Helsinki, later in the year.”

You can now study for a Master’s Degree in BIM and Integrated Design at Salford.

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