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How Blockchain Could Mould the Future of BIM and Construction

Construction is a highly regulated industry by necessity. While many workplaces are experiencing game-changing disruption thanks to new technologies, processes in construction have remained broadly the same.

One such often-discussed technology is blockchain, the revolutionary platform upon which cryptocurrency is based. When it comes to BIM and the broader construction industry, blockchain has been touted as a game-changer. This blog will provide an overview of blockchain technology, as well as a few speculations on the potential benefits we could see if the innovative platform is widely embraced.

What Exactly is Blockchain?

Blockchain has been around for a decade – it came about as a method to support the digital currency Bitcoin. While it is still used for this purpose, many industries are looking to incorporate blockchain technology in other ways.

In simple terms, blockchain can be described as a decentralised data structure. It’s akin to a shared record book that is not monitored or changed by any centralised body, such as a company or a bank. Every party involved in a blockchain transaction holds a copy of what has occurred through the process, and the information in question cannot be deleted. Information transmitted is time-stamped for future reference and immutable by design.

Before any transaction goes ahead, a line item gets sent to everyone involved for detail confirmation. Assuming all details match up perfectly, the transaction or data transfer goes ahead.

The major selling point of the technology is decentralisation. As there is no centralised body or point of weakness that hackers can focus on, blockchain structures are largely impervious to attack by design. Without a governing authority, nobody needs to sign off on or approve transactions due to the inherent security that the platform offers.

There are several potential applications for blockchain in the construction industry, and we’ve covered three of these possibilities below.

Greater Collaboration – All Stakeholders Working on a Single Project Model

Improved workflow is a potential blockchain benefit, as the platform would allow numerous parties to work collaboratively on a single project at the same time. Opening up the entire process in this way would let everyone better understand the work being conducted, and allow individuals to witness the unique challenges that their peers are experiencing. In the long term, this working structure could minimise disputes and other risks – rather than taking the word of others at face value, parties involved in a dispute can clearly identify how certain issues have presented.

Blockchain could improve the advent of Building Information Modelling too. At present, BIM utilises peer-to-peer networks for information sharing – blockchain could allow for instantaneous updates to every single person working on a BIM project. This sort of constant feedback and monitoring from all parties could result in greater transparency and higher standards of work being produced consistently.

In 2018, advanced project management software allows for project collaboration, but blockchain could take things one step further. In a data-driven digital environment, the potential for even more efficient and accurate project delivery could become a reality.

Support for Smart Contracts – An Automated Payment Process

Blockchain could facilitate the introduction of smart contracts in the construction industry. In simple terms, a smart contract uses automation to speed up and streamline payment processes. Project managers can set up a system that self-executes payments to eliminate the current gaps and delays that hold construction up at various stages.

With regard to construction, a smart contract would work by setting up prerequisites that trigger a certain action once met. For example, if an inspection takes place on a section of brickwork and the inspector approves it, payment will automatically be sent to the bricklaying contractor.

These automatic triggers could apply to more than just payment. By removing the need for human input at several stages of the construction process, quicker project delivery is theoretically possible.

Improved Dispute Management and Supply Chain Transparency

There is enormous scope for disputes and litigation on any major construction project. Even with so many stakeholders and contractors involved, project managers are often lax when it comes to record keeping. This can lead to avoidable conflicts and even major project delays if the dispute is serious enough.

Blockchain infrastructure carries a lot of potential in this regard – all data and necessary documents could theoretically be held within the blockchain. This information would be encrypted, incorruptible and easily viewable by every party involved. Disagreements about a variation notice being issued or changes to a works program could quickly be solved with a public blockchain ledger.

As for the movement of materials through the supply chain, blockchain can be used to trace physical items from their origin through to their current ownership status. This transparency could greatly improve the supply chain, allowing everyone involved to keep track of statuses to avoid shortfalls and oversights.

It’s important to note that these ideas are purely speculative at this point. Successful implementation of blockchain in construction is predicated on everyone trusting a digital system. This could prove to be a difficult sell, especially given the financial implications of delivering major construction projects. If there is a collective swell of industry support for the technology, we might just see construction processes change to benefit all involved.

Choose ConnectX – Our Integrated Project Management Platform

There are numerous other blockchain possibilities within the construction industry, but it might be some time before we see them in action. In the meantime, if the above listed benefits sound good to you, you may want to review our new ConnectX platform, which is already offering project managers transparency, security and intelligent contract management. ConnectX combines a range of powerful modules for project management including tenders, cloud-based communication, defects, quality assurance and contracts administration.

We’re happy to provide a free ConnectX demonstration to anyone looking to improve the efficiency of their major building projects. To learn more about ConnectX and the training options we have for those looking to get the most out of their software, feel free to contact our team today.