22 November 2022

by Andrew Skudder RIB CCS chief executive officer

While South Africa’s built industry, particularly construction, has been slow to adopt new digital technologies, the pandemic climate has highlighted just how effective digital innovation can be in transforming various aspects of business.

The adoption of many digital solutions specific to the construction industry is in its infancy in South Africa, and globally for that matter. While the level of cloud adoption has increased significantly, the uptake of other technologies such as building information modelling (BIM) and integrated platforms has been much slower.

Many companies have legacy computing infrastructure in place and will only begin to transform when the cost of moving from an on-premise solution to a cloud-based solution makes most sense, that is, when their legacy solution begins to depreciate and moving to the cloud becomes financially viable.

Ultimately, companies involved in the built environment that have committed to digital transformation will be able to integrate more effectively, enhance their business offerings, improve their capabilities and reap the greatest rewards over those who continue to delay action. Five of the most significant trends that are setting the digital frontrunners apart from their competitors are highlighted in this article, although others also are well on their way.


Cloud computing is the process of leveraging off of large data centres with massive computing power. Here, the AWS’s and Azure’s of the world lead in this space, with many large technology companies, such as IBM, coming on board with their own cloud platforms.

The large cloud companies can provide businesses with access to powerful computing at a lower cost than they are able to achieve themselves. Building one’s own data centre would be a prohibitive exercise. Cloud computing allows companies to access the best possible technology in the cloud and innovate in terms of the software they generate and the data analytics they build.

This also allows companies to invest in more top-end software solutions. So, a company considering investing in platform solutions like MTWO, will find that hosting the software themselves will be more costly than hosting it in the cloud.

In addition, cloud computing usually has managed services associated with it.  This means companies can outsource many of their IT functions – security management, patch management, release management and data backup – to be taken care of in a cloud computing environment. This releases companies of some of their IT functionality, potentially lowering costs and allowing them to focus on their core business, whatever that may be.


Mobile technology is important for the built industry as it enables anybody with a mobile device to access information from wherever they are. This is especially helpful on construction sites as it allows site-based users to access information from the company’s software solutions and systems. One example relates to the issuing of drawings. Instead of printing out a drawing at a head office and sending it to a site, these can be managed through a document management system or a BIM solution, allowing site-based staff to access the latest versions of any drawing on their tablets or other mobile device at any time.


Enabling 5D BIM is at the heart of the RIB Group’s core strategy. It is the combination of 3D BIM (a digital 3D model built during the design phase of the project, 4D (the time it will take to complete all aspects of the project), and 5D (the costs related to the project).

By combining as much design, estimation and planning information as possible during the pre-construction phase, owners, developers, engineers, consultants and construction companies can achieve optimal design and build programmes for particular assets.

The idea is to remove a significant amount of uncertainty around each project by building a digital twin. This allows role players to run various simulations before moving onto site and then build as closely to the design as possible.

One of the greatest delays to projects, that also drives up costs, is changes in the design or scope. While some change on a project is inevitable and better, BIM allows users to articulate the impact of the change on their schedules and costing structures, providing them with the information they need to make informed and meaningful decisions. He says the end game is the ability to handover the as-built BIM model to the client and the operator of the asset. It should be a seamless handover of all the digital information, from the build phase into the operation phase of a project. The holy grail is to integrate everything – from design, through build and into the operation phase of one model – so that you seamlessly carry all information through the lifecycle of the project.


Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) – or what we refer to as Mixed Reality – allow digital technology to simulate the real world or overlay a simulation of the real-world in a real-world context.

HoloLens (mixed reality smart glasses) is an example which allow users to look at a BIM model or the design of building – when they’re actually in the building – by bringing up the drawing of the building and superimposing it on the construction element to see what needs to be done, or whether everything has been done correctly.

They can also be used for safety training. If on-site employees need to use a piece of equipment, HoloLens technology can call up the operating instructions of the equipment and teach users how to operate it safely. During the more recent stringent Covid-19 lockdown measures, some companies used these devices to plan their workplaces and conduct walk-through’s to ensure social distancing was being adhered to.


While construction software often incorporates chat bots and voice assistants aimed at site-based employees, the real benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) are realised when deep learning and machine learning come into play.

Organisations that use cloud computing are best positioned to benefit from AI and data analytics. They are better able to make predictions and recommendations on project plans and come up with start and end dates for various activities. And, if there is good AI in the background, they will be alerted when there is a potential clash with other activities.

The most critical aspect of leveraging AI and data analytics is to have historical information. The built industry is notoriously bad at saving information after completing a project. We also don’t refer to the information we do have to inform future projects, largely because it may also exist in an unstructured way in physical documents or on spreadsheets.

The key to solving this is integrated platform technology, which enables companies to keep all historical data to inform projects going forward. As companies start building their databases, they are able to do more predictive analytics and use the power of AI.


Building on all of the points, integrated platforms bring all of the digital technologies together to provide a more seamless process to all elements. An integrated construction platform that is hosted in the cloud will leverage off the computing power of the cloud while integrating BIM, AI, mobile technology and any other digital technologies.

Integrated platforms have numerous benefits, provide solutions to various industry challenges, and just makes so much business sense. We predict that a time will come when companies will look back and wonder what took them so long to start operating in this way because of all of these benefits.

While the pandemic continued to accelerate the adoption of digital tools in the industry, these relate largely to communications. These tools have raised the game in terms of collaboration and the industry is reaping the benefits of these innovations. However, when one begins to adopt tools that help manage the entire business in a collaborative way, you will experience true and liberating transformation in all areas of operations.

Integrated platforms bring all digital technologies together to provide seamless project and business solutions.
Andrew Skudder explains that companies who embrace digital solutions will improve their overall capabilities, performance, data management and gain the rewards over those who continue to offset action.

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