Faced with the challenges of delivering Hackitt’s ‘golden thread’ and the CLC’s post-covid recovery plan, the LEXiCON product data platform will be central to construction’s digital future. Peter Caplehorn and Dr Steven Yeomans explain
Construction is the backbone of our economy, yet it is one of the few sectors yet to realise the value of digital technology and data. The reasons are many, but the consequences are plain to see, nowhere more clearly than in the non-collaborative, unstructured approach taken to the curation of critical product data.
In 2016, work began on a solution to help address this problem. LEXiCON, a project initiated by the Construction Products Association (CPA) and BRE, envisaged a standardised process and software platform that industry could use to agree common terms which would in turn be used to create product data templates (PDTs), freely available for any company to use.
Fast forward to 2020 and while the challenge of fragmented product data persists, the construction landscape has changed considerably. Covid-19 has set a wrecking ball to the construction economy – and triggered a re-evaluation of many practices and assumptions we’ve long taken for granted.
The Roadmap to Recovery, developed earlier this year by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), sets out a bold and ambitious plan for reform, with commitments to “drive up the use of digital technologies across clients and throughout the supply chain” and enable “better data and information sharing across the built environment to improve efficiency, productivity, sustainability and building safety”.
LEXiCON has now taken on a new significance. Part of the Construction Innovation Hub’s UKRI-funded programme, in partnership with the CPA, it will play a key role in helping the sector to realise the transformation agenda set out in the CLC Roadmap.
Working with key initiatives and partners across industry, such as the National Digital Twin and the UK BIM Alliance, we are creating a solution which will allow product data – vital to ensuring quality, assurance and building safety – to be integrated, coordinated and made machine-readable.
Harmonising how the sector collects and manages product data will also be key in supporting the development of a ‘golden thread’ of information that can be traced back to a credible source, as called for by Dame Judith Hackitt in her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety following the Grenfell Tower fire. As well as providing construction firms and clients with the practical means of feeding into the golden thread, LEXiCON will also provide consistency and certainty and, in the longer term, improved lifecycle asset management functionality.
After the upheaval of 2020, it is difficult to forecast what the future holds. However, we can safely predict that the future of construction will be digital, with a growing consensus around the need to accelerate the sector’s journey of transformation and a clear mandate from government in the recently published National Infrastructure Strategy.
Against this backdrop, the Hub and CPA will be stepping up our engagement with industry in the months ahead, to ensure that LEXiCON is a key enabler of the sector’s transformative journey. While many industries are now reaping digital rewards, some parts of construction are still paddling in the shallow end. We will not catch up overnight, but we can make that journey easier for ourselves by tackling the remaining roadblocks, including coming together and agreeing how we curate crucial product data.
Peter Caplehorn is chief executive of the Construction Products Association and Dr Steven Yeomans is the BRE’s digital construction lead at the Construction Innovation Hub