Three aspects of digital transformation

Here are three ways engineers and other team members are benefiting from emerging technologies and integrated processes

By Steve Jones, Dodge Data & Analytics, New York City November 13, 2019

The digital transformation of the design and construction industry is changing all aspects of how professionals execute and deliver projects all over the world. Dodge Data & Analytics tracks these trends in its free SmartMarket series of research reports. Three studies address aspects particularly relevant to consulting engineers.  

1.  Connecting design insight 

To help designers create more well-reasoned solutions and comparatively analyze design options to strive toward the best possible performance, this study explores the use of building information modeling, the emergence of generative and computational design, the integration of reality capture and geographic information systems data (aka contextual design)as well as access to outside sources of data to analyze, simulate, benchmark and optimize potential solutions. More than 450 engineers and architects provided their input. Key findings:   

  • 88% agree BIM enables better design insight and 74% say the insight improves performance predictability of their completed buildings. 
  • 91% want more industry data on building performance and other key design parameters to be made accessible digitally to improve their design insight workflows. 
  • Conducting early-stage sketching that connects conceptual design to BIM and analyzing building performance during early conceptual design stage are the most frequent insight-related BIM activities. 
  • Creating visual logic to explore parametric conceptual designs is still emerging in terms of industry awareness, although usage among those who are aware exceeds 75%, indicating value and suggesting adoption growth 
  • Similarly, while only half are familiar with contextual design (i.e., incorporating reality capture and GIS data into design), more than 70% of those are using it, so growth can also be expected.  
  • Although fewer than 20% currently use generative or computational design, they report better, more functional final solutions, improved quality, budget control, documentation and constructability, and value its ability to automate routine tasks.  
  1. Connecting design and construction  

Digital tools and processes are enabling integrated digital workflows where design files are further developed for detailing, fabrication and as-built installation, providing unprecedented benefits for everyoneThis study examines adoption and positive impact of these BIM-based workflows among key project team membersRespondents include 65 engineers (mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural) as well as 145 architects, general contractors and trades (MEP and structural). Key findings:  

  • 27% of mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers and 34% of structural engineers are participating in full (or nearly full) integrated digital workflows with their project teams on at least some of their projects. 
  • Top benefits reported by all the companies participating include better coordinated designs and shop drawings in less time, more accurate estimates from trades, fewer iterations between architects and engineers, fewer field errors, improved schedule performance, better final quality, less material waste and improved profitability.  
  • Engineers are particularly positive about better communication among the whole team during design, detailing and fabrication.  
  1. Connecting teams  

Cloud-based collaboration platforms are powering these integrated digital workflows, connecting designers optimized solutions more effectively to the team members that implement them. This study explores the benefits, return on investment and ideal functions of cloud-based collaboration solutions, as well as the growth in both owner-provided platforms and collaborative delivery modelsThe 203 respondents include 52 engineers. Key findings include: 

  • 98% report some experience with cloud-based collaboration solutions on their BIM projects with 63% using one more than half the time.  
  • 82% of companies that have invested in this type of solution report a positive ROI. 
  • Top benefits include less project error, faster workflows and decisions, more satisfied clients and higher quality, more creative designs.  
  • Added benefits of better client understanding and fewer design changes result when teams equip an owner with a cloud-based collaboration solution.  

The confluence of these important trends is creating an exciting new future for design and construction and will continue to improve productivity, enhance design quality, streamline processes and boost outcomes for all the companies involved.

Author Bio: Stephen Jones is senior director, industry insights research, at Dodge Data & Analytics. He focuses on how emerging economic, practice and technology trends are transforming the global design and construction industry.