We can anticipate another year of headline-worthy changes in the industry, particularly with respect to how we build and maintain our nation’s infrastructure. The 2016 presidential elections will provide ample opportunity to debate the usual issues such as infrastructure funding and how to maintain a competitive edge in the global economy, particularly as the adoption of building information modeling (BIM) begins to advance across international borders.

Furthermore, we expect to see plenty of conversation concerning how the growing voice of the millennial generation with its early-adoption habits is going to impact the entire project-delivery process. And as facilities management technologies finally come into their own, the owner’s role in driving the use of BIM will become even more prominent. 

What else is on the horizon for the industry in the new year? Microdesk, a business and technology consulting services provider for the design and construction industry, surveyed its executive management and consulting experts, technology partners and clients to identify the top three trends to expect in 2016.

The Millennial  Movement

The up-and-coming millennial generation will drive significant changes across the industry. Already its members  have been playing a more prominent role in identifying new technologies and processes used within their organizations, on projects and throughout the environments in which we live, work and play. 

Their willingness to experiment will continue to drive earlier adoption of new tools as well as significant shifts in project workflows.

Furthermore, as this generation begins to advance into decision-maker positions, they will have an even greater ability to impact the entire workplace experience. New technologies, from mobile apps to social media to new-age tools like virtual reality, will be welcomed with open arms and enable greater flexibility to work anytime, anywhere – to the point where we may see a complete untethering from the traditional workplace. 

Additionally, and perhaps most significantly, we will begin to see experimentation with a new model of project delivery similar to what we are already witnessing in other sectors such as the entertainment industry. This model shift will involve teams being assembled around projects – essentially crowd-sourcing the best talent and resources needed to complete a job and dispersing when done – versus the traditional studio model. The broad-based shift of BIM software to the cloud directly provides the level of flexibility required for this to come to fruition.

BIM Goes Global

As more global markets continue to adopt BIM standards, we will see countries worldwide begin to reap the benefits of more advanced technologies and efficient processes. Several major mandates are already in place or nearing implementation. 

For example, the U.K. has set a goal to achieve Level 2 BIM capability on all central government infrastructure projects in 2016. Dubai has established a BIM mandate for large-scale buildings and infrastructure. France established the “Le Plan Transition Numérique dans le Bâtiment” to help determine BIM standards of the Ministry of Dwellings, which includes developing 500,000 houses using BIM by next year.

Already other countries are catching up. The Middle East has more than $50 billion in BIM-related rail projects proposed, and Brazil already ranks third, just behind the United States and Sweden, in terms of university development using BIM.

All of this comes as more U.S. firms are working on a global scale, allowing them to export lessons learned domestically to projects abroad. This means foreign countries will be able to skip much of the trial-and-error we have gone through and reduce the time it will take for them to realize ROI. Given trends in how other countries prioritize infrastructure development, we will likely not only see rapid global adoption but also significant investment in new technologies, giving the United States a run for its money in an area where it was already lagging.

The Emergence of the ‘O’

The benefits of BIM in the design-to-construction phase are well-documented, but the value post-construction has been less quantifiable. However, thanks to significant improvements in the technology and a higher level of knowledge when it comes to understanding how to leverage the outputs of BIM, owners (“O”) are now finally seeing tangible ROI. 

As a result, they will more broadly adopt BIM technology and processes and truly take the driver’s seat when it comes to making decisions regarding use of BIM on their projects.

These new technologies are helping owners and facilities managers address the question of what to do with the data once received. Enterprise asset management solutions are making the information created during design and construction directly compatible with existing facilities management systems, revealing the full value of BIM throughout operations and maintenance. 

A new potential challenge to watch for will be in the proliferation of new tools being introduced to address former gaps in portions of the project delivery process. Although this might present more options, it may also introduce new workflow and interoperability issues down the road if proper planning and configuration don’t take place. 

This situation underscores the increasing importance of creating clear standards to ensure all parties are leveraging compatible tools and adhering to workflows that ensure no value is lost from one stage of the project delivery process to the next.

New Year, More Change

From year to year, there is one constant we can always count on: change. The technologies will continue to get more advanced; the industry will continue to get savvier about ways to leverage new technologies and improve processes; and progress will continue to be made on the local, regional and global level toward building better, more sustainable buildings and infrastructure. The year 2016 will be no exception. 

A new generation, combined with improved tools and an enthusiasm for enacting change, can help provide a renewed level of energy required to revisit old recurring problems like how to continue to move forward despite a lack of stable infrastructure funding. 

It is up to the industry to embrace these new ideas and take the driver’s seat when it comes to implementing solutions for managing complex issues like how to finance infrastructure or how to maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly global marketplace. This will be the year that the architecture, engineering, construction and owner/operators industry takes charge. 

LAURA GUZMAN is chief operating officer at Microdesk. You can contact her at [email protected]

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