Simon Crowhen joins Digicon panel to discuss how the Irish construction industry can prepare for a BIM mandate

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) Digital Construction Summit, known as Digicon, was held virtually again this year. The summit aims to shine a light on the potential of technology in improving productivity and quality, and advancing techniques within the Irish construction industry, and gives digital construction professionals the opportunity to network with likeminded individuals and share their own insight.  

This year’s summit had a particular focus on ensuring that we learn from the pandemic and, rather than letting the industry return to old ways of working, how we can take learnings forward in relation to business processes, design, contracts, supplies and on-site activity.  

Topcon Ireland’s Simon Crowhen, sales manager for geomatics, was invited to speak on the ‘How does Ireland’s construction industry get ready for a BIM mandate’ panel. He was joined by other industry professionals, including: David Purdon, technical director at Diatec Group; Mary Flynn from Dublin City Council; and Dr Avril Behan, director and dean of the College of Engineering and Built Environment, Technological University (TU) Dublin.  


Driving the adoption of BIM  

Simon explained that, since the inception of BIM in Ireland in 2013, various bodies and initiatives have been set up to educate construction workers and help drive BIM adoption across the industry. The CitA BIM Gathering Conference, Enterprise Ireland’s BIM Enable and BIM Implement Support and Project Ireland’s 2040’s Construction Sector Working Group are just some of these, while the BIM Innovation Capability Programme assesses construction businesses on their BIM ‘readiness’ and the National BIM Council’s roadmap provides recommendations to help businesses implement BIM Level 2+.  

Outside of these initiatives, Simon spoke of the importance of educational partnerships in providing career pathways for young people into the digital built environment, including Topcon Ireland’s educational partnership programme, which introduces students to modern geospatial equipment and software that they’ll find on-site. Additionally, Topcon’s CEO, Ray O’Connor, donated a significant amount of surveying and optometry equipment to his former college, Technological University Dublin (DIT) in 2013. This has helped the DIT’s 300 surveying, engineering and architectural students to improve their surveying capabilities and understanding of BIM before even beginning their careers. Likewise, new BIM-specific courses, like the BIMCert qualification, will help to upskill workers in understanding and implementing BIM.  

Simon also discussed the efforts of contractors in BIM implementation, and the need for collaboration within the industry. Contractors are now appointing BIM-specific roles within their organisations and adopting methods of modern construction (MMC), including BIM models, robotics, prefabrication and modular construction to improve workflows and encourage workers to adopt BIM best practice.  

Simon commented: “As a geo-positioning manufacturer, we focus on the main contractor and their digital adoption, and BIM is the centrepiece. Ireland’s modelling processes and model workflows are mature, but the weakness has been in the lack of collaborative working within the industry – something that has been inherent within construction. We make BIM work geospatially through our workflows, gathering information for analysis to make informed decisions to ultimately result in cost savings. Innovative software and hardware are the key to successful implementation of digital technologies, and we need firms to buy into this way of thinking and working.”  


Manufacturing innovations  

Topcon is working towards a BIM mandate from a manufacturing perspective, to help benefit and complement the industry’s efforts. The semi-automated machine control systems, for example, use 3D models to grade to a level, and connect to the Cloud via Sitelink to allow constant access to the most up-to-date model information. Likewise, Topcon’s Robotic Scanning Total Stations also use 3D point cloud data to verify that construction activity is within tolerance against the BIM model.  

Simon continued: “This is a really crucial time for the construction industry, with increasing pressure to address the reduction of waste and carbon, coping with and overcoming the skills shortage, and the ongoing housing crisis. Construction innovation will help the industry to overcome these issues by adopting prefabrication and modular housing through MMC, which includes BIM.  

“Covid-19 has undoubtedly slowed our progress, but we can take away some important lessons. Working collaboratively can be difficult when we’re not able to go on-site; however, through the use of BIM as a common data format, those working remotely can still interact with a 3D environment and distribute and analyse data from the field. As a manufacturer, we have a responsibility to help the industry adopt digital workflows and understand the possibilities of technology on-site, so that Ireland’s construction industry is ready for a BIM mandate.”  

Find more information about Topcon Ireland’s technologies here.

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