Five Fundamental Pillars for Driving Digital Transformation in the Built Environment: Insights from Dr. Rick Huijbregts, Global Lead of Smart Cities with Stantec
In a recent interview with LCI, Dr. Rick Huijbregts, Global Lead of Smart Cities with Stantec, shared his insights on driving digital transformation in the built environment. With over a decade on the forefront of this endeavor, Dr. Huijbregts believes that technology is the primary driving force behind the fourth industrial revolution and the catalyst for transforming our communities and buildings.
As the industry diversifies into the digital world, Dr. Huijbregts understands that there is still resistance to technological adoption. To ensure the successful implementation, he sees a need to address concerns and red flags. During the interview, Dr. Huijbregts provided several crucial steps for technology adoption: scalability, security, sustainability, and value delivery. He emphasized that technology needs to be integrated into an organization, community, or building from the ground up, leading to a comprehensive and cohesive approach.
Our built environment is evolving rapidly with the proliferation of new technologies. To stay relevant and competitive in this space, project teams need to build on fundamental ideals. Technology cannot be an afterthought in the life cycle of how we think about design and construction.
To successfully implement a new digital technology or solution, Dr. Huijbregts stressed the importance of proper planning. Before integrating a new, and often complex, digital technology it is imperative that builders understand the objectives and outcomes they are looking to tackle from utilizing a new technology solution. Kicking off a digital transformation just for the sake of implementing a new technology will never work.
Here are the five key pillars Dr. Huijbregts believes are necessary to successfully launch a digital transformation:
- Understanding the why – People first.
Before a project team hits the ground running, they should have a clear understanding of the outcome and purpose of their project. This means thinking about projects holistically from beginning to end. Lean design and construction methodologies are critical in ensuring that the team has thought through every aspect of their projects upfront, reducing costly rework and delays downstream.
- Creating a collaborative ecosystem
Builders can’t make all the decisions alone. To succeed, they need to work in a rich ecosystem of stakeholders. Finding the right partners (public and private) and vendors who are willing to collaborate, share information, and embrace new technologies that enhance productivity is paramount. An interconnected system of people, data, and technology avoids rework and halts in production and ensures a common pursuit and understanding for desirable outcomes and ambitions.
- Focusing on governance, policy, and standards
In the digital age we’re living in, the design and construction community must be clear about data privacy and usage. Developing innovative policies and standards that balance data usage and property rights is key. Collaboration with the government is essential to creating smarter solutions that enhance value while protecting privacy. This includes the need to rethink procurement process: from one that is often grounded in low-cost compliance to one that is steeped in innovation and delivering outcomes.
Establishing principles for a scalable and secure digital infrastructure is paramount to success. This infrastructure must seamlessly connect each new digital solution and application which requires unity between digital architectures, connectivity standards, innovative operating systems, continued use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and perhaps most importantly, up-to-date cyber security protocols. Digital solutions will generate (and are built upon) immense amounts of data that must be protected and secured. A technology master plan that embeds digital capabilities in the DNA of our organizations, communities and buildings is foundational.
- Utilizing smart solutions
Only after the first four fundamental pillars should we worry about “solutions”—and not sooner be distracted by their shininess or promise as presented by vendors and suppliers that try to sell them. Smart solutions offer endless possibilities to revolutionize the design and construction industry. Builders must explore new integrated approaches that bring technologies like AI, digital twins, autonomous mobility, and so many other vehicles and smart solutions into the construction process early on. By adopting new technologies like remote unlocking, lighting automation, and smart security systems, builders can benefit from more efficient construction processes and enhanced user experiences.
By embracing these five fundamentals, we can create a more diverse and creative industry that leverages new digital tools to innovate and improve the built environment. Doing this well will reduce construction and operating cost, minimize carbon footprint, increase safety and security, and unleash the value of data—even for use cases that are still unknown today. A smart and intelligent infrastructure is future ready.
Dr. Huijbregts firmly believes that Lean practices can significantly accelerate the digital transformation of our built environment. By embracing digital technology as a key ingredient in our design and construction practices, we can create an incredibly diverse and creative industry that fully embraces the new digital world. As we see the fourth industrial revolution beginning to take shape, it’s critical that the built environment adapts and evolves to stay ahead of the curve.
If you found this blog post insightful, don’t miss the chance to hear Dr. Rick Huijbregts speak on this topic at the upcoming LCI Lean in Design Forum on June 21 in Chicago, Illinois. Learn more about Design Forum by clicking here.