Digitalized Architecture: Data Driven Opportunities in the Operations Phase

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In the current world, the handover event, when the contractor has completed construction and is passing documentation back to the owner, is widely considered to be a pain point in the overall design and construction process.

One industry insider described it pessimistically by saying: “there is no such thing as a smooth handover.”

The challenges are complex, but can be boiled down to one major problem here — data deprecation. In the pre-digital world, data deprecation starts in the design phase, cascades into the construction phase, upends the handover event, and finally acts as a barrier to value creation in the operations phase of the building.

Without a digital data exchange where the building model and other critical data are securely registered, versioned, and cataloged throughout the design and construction phases, the handover event will naturally be subject to the delivery of incomplete or deprecated information.

More importantly, the building will enter the operations phase without the robust and reliable data foundation that makes ongoing digitalization, and the many opportunities for value creation that come with it, possible.

A better way is possible. With excellence in data management throughout the design and construction phases, the issue of cascading data deprecation won’t hamstring the digitalization of the operations phase.

A digital twin, for example, is the digital representation of the physical building during the operations phase. But the usefulness of this digital representation is critically reliant on the veracity of the data compiled in the design and construction phases.

If the data is a mess at the handover, the digital twin will suffer from added cost and drift, and will most likely not be an accurate representation of the building during the operations phase — it will be less valuable, and may fall out of use. However, if the data has been managed meticulously, the digital twin will also be impeccable, and highly valuable.

The digitalization of the operations phase is, therefore, deeply reliant on the integrity of the data gathered throughout the pre-operations lifecycle, and so a single data stack from a building’s conception to operations is essential. And so is having a single custodian of the data repository. The architect is ideally suited to this role.

The architect, as the agent of the owner, created the original design, managed adherence to design intent throughout the construction phase, and has been party to all of the accommodations made for price or value. No party has a more integrated and overarching view of the building’s journey through the lifecycle. No one has a more holistic, and nuanced, perspective.

The architect should, therefore, remain the custodian of the building’s digital data throughout the lifecycle. From design to construction to handover — into the operations phase. Having the architect in this role creates enormous value and opportunity for all stakeholders in the value chain.

With a secure and well maintained data repository that accurately reflects the design and construction process as well as the current state of the building, digital twins become more accurate and reliable, IoT platforms become smarter, and new design offerings can be crafted and extended intelligently into the operations phase of the building.

For architects, a data-centric approach to operations creates a host of opportunities for new product and service offerings. These will be specific to the type of facility, and the desired use of space. Within hospitals, office towers, universities, and stadiums, thousands of new data-driven use cases and professional services will become possible.

Whether it’s data products that power third-party software and IoT applications or design-specific occupancy services that improve use of space and health/safety outcomes — the sky becomes the limit.

From this vantage, it’s easy to imagine architects evolving into data management, IoT sensor technology, and software disciplines— applying the art and craft of building design not only to envisioning and designing new spaces, but also to creating new digital offerings that keep those spaces vibrant and productive over time — perpetually in-step with advances in human health, safety, and productivity.

It all starts with a secure, trusted data foundation. A single source of truth for all project data that begins with the building’s conceptualization and lives on throughout the lifecycle of each new building.

Follow Concert on LinkedIn for more on the digital future of architecture.