Monday, 6 February 2012

Embracing Innovation

Over recent months I have sensed a change across the construction industry in its approach to innovation and new ideas. Previously everyone seemed very focused on delivery and tasks meaning there was no time or reason for making things better.

There seems however to be a change in attitude. I think people now fall into two camps when it comes to innovation and change.

There are those who will never embrace change at all. There are lots of reasons for this ranging from fear to previous experiences. There should be no criticism of this and people who have become experts in what they do will always be sceptical of embracing alternatives.

The other group however are open to ideas and change and understand the benefits. Generally they get frustrated with the way things are done and can see there are alternative ways. There is a growing number of people and organisations who are embracing innovation. I think much of this is down to the current marketplace and the need for businesses to be able to demonstrate value without increasing cost.

At _space our purpose has always been to make life better and it has been at the core of what we do for several years. This has meant we are always looking to do things better and are never satisfied with the norm. This approach has applied to making lives better through the buildings we design but more recently our focus has been on finding better ways of doing things.

This can be a lonely and frustrating position to take at times. Some of the approaches we have been developing we have been pursuing for years. We have faced a lot of negativity when we have shared our thoughts. This however has not stopped us from pursuing our beliefs. I know that the stories of Dyson and KFC were littered with rejection in the early days.

We have been an early adopter of Building Information Modelling not because we like technology or gadgets but purely because we can see how it can improve the process of construction. It is not perfect and has lots of faults but it is always easy to find a reason not to do something. We believe however the reasons to do something far outweigh the reasons not to. We are seeing benefits every day.

There are still those who just don't have time to consider something such as BIM. They will continue to do what they do well but they are already dying a slow death and don't know it. I liken these companies to HMV and Kodak who have seen a slow demise over several decades.

BIM brings with it lots of opportunities far beyond design and build and the entrepreneurs in the property industry will see these first and embrace them. Some of them we know about now and others haven’t shown themselves yet.

It is always great to meet people who are interested in talking about a new way and we have found we are coming across more and more of these people. These people are not only in the private sector but also the public sector and include designers, contractors and clients.

We have also been looking at ways of reducing construction cost and energy use. For the past two years we have been developing our Spacehus products. Initially there was a cold response to such an approach. The feedback was that it could be built cheaper with bricks and mortar. We are now however coming across people who are talking about value and are understanding the long term benefits. I think once the momentum builds with offsite construction we will see a real change in attitude.

The quality of buildings will improve considerably along with their performance. With the further development of BIM we will see a real understanding of lifecycle cost and performance over the years ahead.

Let's hope the momentum continues!