New report into digitalising construction practices launched

Western Sydney University’s Centre for Smart Modern Construction (c4SMC), together with the Office of Building Commissioner NSW, has released a landmark report on the status of the digitalisation of the state’s construction industry.

The ‘Digitalisation of Design and Construction of Class 2 Buildings in New South Wales’ report was formally launched at an online event on 24 August opened by Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Barney Glover AO.

Professor Mike Kagioglou, Dean School of Engineering, Design and Built Environment, provided the address and special guests included the Hon. Kevin Anderson, MP, Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, the Hon. Damien Tudehope MP, Minister for Finance and Small Business, and Mr Steffen Faurby, CEO Tafe.

Co-chief investigator, Professor Srinath Perera, Director of c4SMC, said the study set out to review the status of digitalisation of multi-unit, multi-storey residential buildings (class 2) and leveraged the digitisation expertise of the Centre – a leading industry-focused research hub.

“For the first time, we have benchmarked the digitalisation of the construction sector in NSW, including the type of software and hardware used, amount of work done using digital processes and software, and the trajectory of moving forward in digitalising construction practices,” said Professor Perera.

“As part of the report, we surveyed 347 designers and 195 builders on their technology use and needs with a further series of interviews with building designers, builders and software service providers representing small, medium and large companies.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • 95 per cent of the sector is represented by micro, small medium firms.
  • 52 per cent of the sector is at a basic level of digital maturity.
  • 51 per cent of builders spend less than 1 per cent of average annual turnover on IT.
  • Construction sector has significantly low investment in research and development (R&D), compared to manufacturing sector. This indicates stagnantly low IT capabilities of the sector.
  • The digital capability of the workforce was predominantly supported by ad-hoc ‘on-the-job’ type training, with no specific structured training programmes.
  • ‘Achieving greater accuracy and trustworthiness’ is the top driver of digitalisation, while ‘high cost of IT’ is the biggest barrier identified by the research.

Professor Perera said the report recommends a four staged ‘Strategic Framework for Digitalisation of Design and Construction’ be adopted as a formal method of measuring and facilitating the progressive digitalisation of the sector in the future.

He further explained that although the sector is ready to engage in the journey of rapid digitalisation, the strategic framework provides a pathway that needs to be developed through discussions with the public sector and other agencies.

“As part of a framework, we’re calling for a Common Data Environment be developed for software related to building projects, with strategies to reduce hardware and software costs and facilitate interoperability of software and efficient data exchange enabling software migration,” he said.

The report was co-authored by co-chief investigator, Associate Professor Xiaohua Jin, and supported by Research Associate Marini Samaratunga and Doctoral Researcher Kasun Gunasekara.

For more information, download the report here (opens in a new window).


31 August 2021

Media Unit