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Digital future: Tim Broyd ICE President

Tim Broyd

Is Tim Broyd the first ICE President who genuinely believes in a digital future for the construction industry?

It is certainly true that he is the first ICE President to place digital engineering firmly at the top of his agenda.

Which is no surprise given that he has built his career around technology and innovation. Broyd currently leads the strategic planning of the UK’s development and implementation of building information modelling (BIM) as member of the UK Government’s BIM Task Force.

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Broyd: Focus on digital engineering

“This is the year that the ICE does need to focus on digital engineering,” he states.

There is a lot going on.

Broyd’s year as president begins within a few weeks of the ICE hosting the formal launch of the UK BIM Alliance, a pan-industry industry alliance of 50-plus institutions, BIM groups and companies set up to respond to the challenges set by the government with its BIM Level 2 mandate.

The government mandate has changed plenty on government projects. But there is still a substantial amount of infrastructure that is produced in more traditional ways

And back in his day job, as professor of built environment foresight at University College London (UCL) Broyd will soon be sifting through applications to its new Institute for Digital Innovation in the Built Environment.

It is seeking, it says, the brightest minds to join it in developing new digital solutions to built environment challenges.

New blood is very much welcome. But old dogs must learn new tricks too.

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Broyd: Digital engineering has to spread beyond government projects

And as Broyd says, it is time for the industry to step up and provide the necessary leadership to drive the wider implementation of BIM Level 2.

“The government mandate has changed plenty on government projects. But there is still a substantial amount of infrastructure that is produced in more traditional ways,” he says. “Broadly speaking central government does it one way and everyone else does it the way they’ve always done it.

“They haven’t seen a reason to change,” he adds. Broyd observes that one of the reasons that central government got so keen on BIM was that the “coffers were bare” and that the desire to see 20% savings on projects across government departments was a strong motivation. That desire and motivation has not been seen elsewhere, he says.

Driving awareness

There is an opportunity here for the supply chain to respond. The BIM Alliance is there to lead the industry-wide drive for awareness, education and adoption of BIM Level 2 compliance and its universal benefits.

There is also a need for the industry to stay together as it looks ahead to BIM Level 3 under the auspices of the government’s Digital Built Britain programme launched earlier this year.

Says Broyd: “Some of the leading companies are already pushing ahead and asking: ’what’s BIM Level 3?’ I led on some of that with Digital Built Britain. But it is not yet formalised what Level 3 is. There is almost a danger that these companies will go off without the others.

“We need to pull everybody up to a higher level and then go and look ahead at what we are preparing ourselves for in the next 10 years,” he says.

We need to pull everybody up to a higher level and then go and look ahead at what we are preparing ourselves for in the next 10 years

What that is will also emerge during Broyd’s year at the helm, with next Spring’s ICE State of the Nation report focused on digital engineering.

“It’ll be providing sustenance to those still making the journey [to Level 2] but also providing a means for those at the top of their game to set the pace,” he explains.

Parallel digital platform

The need is to develop a digital platform parallel to how we traditionally design and build, says Broyd.

“My endeavour over the year and through the State of the Nation is to ask: can we set out a blueprint for this? We need that objective,” he says.

There is also a promotional piece here. BIM is now internationally recognised as a technology which will deliver a step-change in cost, time, quality, and waste performance in construction. As a result of the Level 2 initiative, the UK has a world-leading position in BIM. Standards developed by the UK Task Group are being adopted internationally, creating know-how advantages for UK firms in export markets. It is an explicit aim of the Level 3 programme to lead global BIM standards to ensure that UK engineers maintain and exploit that world leading position.

Broyd is very much in the front line of this. As senior ICE vice president he recently completed an ICE Middle East lecture tour, and just before that he found himself touring South East Asia with UCL.

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Governmnent BIM initiative has made the UK a BIM world leader

“The UK has world leadership in BIM, and this year is also about seeing what can be demonstrated and built on,” explains Broyd.

While it is not yet fully defined, it is broadly understood that BIM Level 3 will enable the interconnected digital design of different elements in the built environment and, crucially, will extend BIM into the operation of assets over their lifetimes – where the lion’s share of cost arises.

It is also expected that it will support the accelerated delivery of smart cities, services and grids with owners and operators able to better manage assets and services as they track their real-time efficiency, maximising utilisation and minimising energy use.

Exciting opportunities

Broyd is very excited about the opportunities it promises to open up: “Personally, I think BIM Level 2 is all about procurement,” he states. “BIM Level 3 is lifetime BIM and asset management BIM.”

He explains: “There is a growing appreciation of why we should push Totex [whole life cost] over Capex and Opex,” he says. “There is a growing capability to use sensors on existing infrastructure, so that it can tell us how healthy it feels. There is a growing understanding of asset management techniques so we can mend things before they break.

“With all this you can realistically look forward to real time performance reporting and, again in real time, get the feedback loops going,” he adds.

Reward possibilities

And that is powerful. That opens up all sorts of possibilities on how those that operate, maintain and even build and design the infrastructure are rewarded for it. It even challenges the shape of the industry and the roles of all the main players in it: after all, if the infrastructure is operating, maintaining and renewing itself there is not much of a role for a designer or builder.

But Broyd is not ready to sound the death knell on consultants and contractors just yet.

“You need to start with the basics. You don’t want a bridge to fall down. So there is virtue with the tried and tested methods. Increasingly we are concerned with how infrastructure is used and in some areas we need to lead and in some areas we need to be engaged and support,” he says.

Changing ICE membership

He does see a change in the type of people served by the institution though. A second theme of Broyd’s year is to support the ICE’s broadening agenda by ushering in the first of a new breed of Associate Member – professionals who are not civil engineers by training or education but who play a major role in infrastructure delivery.

It is a significant development without doubt, and one that, assuming the ICE’s proposed membership rule change receives Privy Council approval, could see new members being admitted in Broyd’s year. How many? Broyd is not being drawn on numbers – he stresses it is the outcome that is the focus.

Broadening will allow us to speak with more authority

“The broadening membership initiative comes very much out of the strategy to provide thought leadership,” he says. “We are not a lobby group. We are not in the game of creating jobs for civil engineers. We see it as our responsibility to ensure that infrastructure decisions are aided by evidence-based knowledge          from the representative professional body.

“Broadening will allow us to speak with more authority,” he states. “We are not doing this for the revenue.”

Broyd’s third theme is related in many ways – and that is to continue the Institution’s push on diversity. He is going to do that by working ever closer with the Royal Academy of Engineering’s own initiatives, by seeing the recommendations of the recent Presidential Commission fully enacted, and by adopting WISE’s 10 steps to gender equality and making sure they are fully embedded.

“I want to get as quickly as we can to where this isn’t an issue,” he says.

There is a neat synergy with all three themes. Indeed, the Digital Built Britain programme states as its key goal the “creation of relationships outside the traditional construction sector to create a holistic outward looking, inclusive industry that is seen to demonstrably add significant value and be seen as a diverse and attractive employer”.

Broyd intends that his presidential year inject some real momentum towards achieving that goal.

Tim Broyd CV

October 2012 Present professor of built environment foresight, University College London

November 2011 Elected ICE vice president

January 2007  September 2012 Technology and innovation director, Halcrow

January 2002 December 2006 CEO, CIRIA

September 1979- December 2001 Corporate R&D director, Atkins

1976-1979 PhD, Civil Engineering - mixing processes in estuaries, University of Birmingham

1973-1976  Civil Engineering degree, 1st Class Honours, University of Birmingham

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