The potential impact of data and technology in the lifecycle of major capital projects is huge. It’s the business end of tech in real estate. The hard stuff in the sometimes ethereal world of PropTech and ConTech. I sat down with Cory Brugger, HKS’s Chief Technology Officer, to discuss how project stakeholders can shift to a data-driven approach.
Cory Brugger (CB): A project’s lifecycle is typically viewed in three separate stages, project feasibility review, project design and construction, and facilities management, each approached independently with little overlap or integration between the teams performing the work and the data collected or produced during each phase. The lack of continuity between phases can create friction and miscommunication between project stakeholders leading to process inefficiency and potential errors in project work. By viewing a project’s lifecycle as one singular process, each stakeholder can ensure that they are aligning their efforts with the work performed in previous phases. This new approach requires that a project team view data as an asset that must be communicated across phases and integrated into the processes and technologies used to support and inform the current work.
CB: Data consistency is at the centre of continuity in a project’s lifecycle. Access to consistent project data provides each stakeholder with the information necessary to make informed decisions that support a project’s objectives and ensure its success. Given the broad scope and varied expertise required to deliver a capital project such information typically resides with multiple stakeholders and is organized in an array of structures and formats. Here new and developing technologies can be leveraged to create, consolidate and categorize valuable project information. That will allow it to be accessed, acquired and applied to the work being performed.
CB: The loss of information between project stakeholders can generally be attributed to two major sources. The first cause is the general lack of standardization across the industry. Absent a common data structure, industry stakeholders from architects and contractors to professional organizations and software vendors, have been left to develop their own data standards. While there is still no consensus on an acceptable industry standard, the gradual exposure of software platform architecture through APIs and the introduction of new and developing technologies has given the industry an opportunity to align data schemas between stakeholders to inform work throughout a project’s lifecycle. The second source is more deeply rooted in the industry and stems from the traditional organization of project teams and the defined roles outlined in industry contracts. Historically, a clear delineation in the responsibilities of project stakeholders was established to safeguard the owner’s interests and provide checks and balances to the authority of each team member. Today this delineation is being employed to limit risk and shed liability for the work performed by project stakeholders through restricted access to project assets or diminishing reliability of project information typically by removal of assurances and responsibility for the distributed work products. New methods of project procurement and contracting such as Design-Build (DB), Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), and Public-Private Partnerships (P3) aim to support a more integrated and collaborative process for project delivery, but there is still plenty of opportunity to improve best practices across the construction industry.
CB: It is standard practice for architects to focus their efforts on the design intent of a project leaving plenty of room for interpretation and miscommunication with downstream stakeholders including the general contractor, their sub-contractors and system fabricators. In our work we’ve found success in ensuring that our project partners have access to the most accurate information possible, which typically exists in the form of a Building Information Model (BIM) and the processes used to develop the BIM. Through collaborations with key project stakeholders we’ve been able to leverage our efforts in the design phase by integrating them directly into subsequent fabrication and construction workflows. By providing direct access to work products developed in the design phases the project team can expedite communication of the design intent and minimize labour and time intensive rework, which allows for a more efficient project delivery.
CB: Shifting focus towards data-driven processes requires emphasis on organization and planning in the early stages of a project. For example, at HKS we focus on fully understanding the context from which our projects will be developed and ultimately in which they will reside. This starts with a comprehensive survey of the project’s potential site(s) which we refer to as its Nature of Place (NoP). In developing a project’s NoP we collect data in 10 key areas of measure ranging from demographics and community health to ecology and economics. The information captured in the NoP document provides the framework through which the project team can engage a client to develop and prioritize the project’s specific performance objectives and the metrics for their evaluation. Once the Project Performance Requirements have been established each stakeholder has an objective means for assessing the success of a design proposal and a common language for understanding the total impact a project can have on its stakeholders. With NoP, or any other data-driven process, the definition of explicit outcomes is the foundation for the development of a successful and impactful project.
CB: We believe that this is foundational to our professional obligations. Our responsibility is to focus on the positive impact that we can have on our client’s business, their projects, and the experience of project’s users. Additionally, we believe that a project’s impact on its community and the global environment contribute directly to its ultimate success. By approaching each project with a holistic view of its stakeholders, we strive to curate the total experience of our projects that enhance the built environment and improve the well-being of the communities in which we are a part.
CB: A Functional Performance Evaluation (FPE) is the internal process at HKS used for evaluating the performance of a built asset and understanding the activities performed within the space. At its core an FPE combines a robust post-occupancy evaluation with practice-specific expertise to create a comprehensive assessment of a client’s assets. In practice, we employ FPEs at two primary phases of our work. Initially FPEs are used during our discovery phase of a project to learn how a client uses their existing spaces. Additionally, the process is used after the construction of a project so our teams can assess whether the completed project works as intended during the design process.
HKS is a Platinum Sponsor of BWT India.
Thanks for your info!