How soon until infrastructure's digital revolution becomes the "new normal"?

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The Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) continues to develop a systems-based vision for UK infrastructure and to improve understanding on how a digital approach could be used to better design, build, operate and integrate our built environment. One of CDBB's recent reports, Flourishing Systems - Re-envisioning infrastructure as a platform for human flourishing, places people, connections, sustainability and digitalisation firmly at the heart of that vision and the support and service of society as infrastructure's key purpose.

Data collection and data management have become increasingly important in the operation and management of modern infrastructure's complexities. Sharing information helps inform key decision-makers so that their decisions are focused on people-centric infrastructure. Consider, for example, how COVID-19 infection rates data has affected decisions on the UK lockdown. 

While COVID-19 has caused economic and social turmoil, the pandemic has also presented some extraordinary opportunities for the construction industry. Businesses have been forced to accept new tech and new working methods as part of the "new normal" – and we have coped, for the most part! Many more may now be more receptive to a digital approach, especially one that promises to transform our built environment, improve sustainability and improve the quality of human life.

Working with partners in multiple disciplines and contributing to the Construction Innovation Hub, the CDBB is proactively calling for industry engagement in a national, multi-disciplinary effort to create a "Digital Britain". The next steps include the development of a national infrastructure strategy and a national data strategy. Both of these strategies have suffered some recent delay but support is growing: for example, the role of digitalisation features in the Construction Leadership Council's post-COVID-19 "Road to Recovery" plan.

Everyone's support is needed: all you need to get involved is a willingness to listen, learn and share information and skills. The CDBB website and its research (including Becoming Digital: Enacting Digital Transformation in Construction Projects, An Approach to Delivering a National Digital Twin for the United Kingdom and the Gemini Principles), the CLC Plan for Recovery and other initiatives such as Transforming Construction, the UK’s national infrastructure delivery programme 2016 to 2021, The ICE's What should be in the National Infrastructure Strategy?) make excellent starting points for anyone who wants to be a part of the new and, let's hope, near future.

This article was first published as the accompanying commentary to Construction Law's State of Play on 6 July 2020. You can sign up to Construction Law's newsletter here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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