Making the most of Scotland’s public buildings

Technology is playing a vital role in improving the performance of Scotland’s infrastructure BY PAUL DODD

Our infrastructure supports our communities, public services, wellbeing and economic growth. It encompasses all assets that enable the delivery of public ser- vices, including schools, hospi- tals, transport, digital connectiv- ity and housing. Improving its performance

is a key enabler for the Scottish Government’s ambitions for a sustainable and inclusive net zero carbon economy. Tis ambition is relevant to both new and existing infrastructure, as most of the un- derlying infrastructure that will be used in 30 years’ time already exists today. When looking how we plan, de-

liver and manage our infrastruc- ture, technology is essential. We are seeing unprecedented invest- ment in technology which aims to improve the performance of our infrastructure, such as 3D-design modelling, virtual reality, building sensors, machine learning, robot- ics and cloud-based data sharing. How we measure performance

is often inconsistent and siloed across the industry but we are seeing improvements across four key areas of performance:

Commercial – increased use of 3D modelling of buildings dur- ing the design and construction stage that reduces risk, time and ultimately the cost of construc- tion. Evidence from design teams working across large infrastruc- ture projects has shown working

database systems can give deci- sion makers enhanced knowledge of the impact of an investment at a local, regional and national level.

with a 3D model of a project is five times more efficient than tra- ditional methods, improving both productivity and profitability.

Design – application of vir- tual reality (VR) is enabling new conversations at the design stage, with teachers, clinicians and the general public helping shape the design process and deliver a better product. We have already seen exciting collaborations in Scotland, including the new Ber- tha Park High Schools, with Perth & Kinross Council and Microsoft exploring the value of technol- ogy and data to support asset- management and educational outcomes.

Environmental – technology supports the design and delivery of energy-efficient buildings and how they are managed effec- tively. Te design team for South Queensferry High School used enhanced computer modelling to improve energy efficiency, while the Centre of Excellence for sensing, imaging and the Internet of Tings (CENSIS) worked with Scottish SMEs to develop new sensor technologies to enable more efficient use of space and reduce energy consumption.

Social and Economic – is the least-developed area, but could still provide significant value. Digital tools are available to help public-sector bodies better specify community benefits dur- ing the construction phase, while


SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE LED INFRATECH Te infrastructure technologies market continues to evolve. Te public sector experiences chal- lenges in adoption, unlocking investment and overcoming com- plex implementation. In response, we have launched Infrastructure Technology Navigator, which quickly links users to a list of per- formance improvements that can be enabled through infrastructure technology. Te navigator provides guid-

ance, benefits and templates to help put the technologies to use. Public bodies are already experi- menting with these technologies and Scotland is seeing applica- tions across sectors, geographies and at various stages of the asset lifecycle.

THE INFORMATION IMPERATIVE Tese technologies will both cre- ate significant amounts of new data and offer the ability to anal- yse data more effectively, to derive new insight and support better decision making. Good informa- tion management processes and systems are fundamental to this. In Scotland, the platform for

developing strong foundations to information management and change across public sector infra- structure is Building Information Modelling (BIM), the process of accurately creating, managing and exchanging digital information within the built environment. SFT leads the BIM programme

on behalf of the Scottish Govern- ment and supports its imple- mentation. BIM is creating a new capability – focused on data and

technology - for improving infra- structure performance. Adop- tion of BIM processes will help things move faster and in a more informed manner.

PEOPLE-CENTRED TECHNOLOGY Technology will challenge the existing silos and procure- ment models within the built environment and will require increased collaborative working. As technologies evolve, so will the skills required by building own- ers, delivery teams and decision makers. Industry and academia

continue to support this skills challenge through the work of the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre in supporting industry, investment by industry in train- ing programmes and alignment by college and universities to respond to these new skillsets. Scottish colleges have also led the UK in developing and deliver- ing new curriculum to address these skills (recognised with New College Lanarkshire students winning gold and bronze in the Digital Construction & BIM cat- egory at the Worldskills UK event last November). Scotland’s infrastructure is

already benefiting from innova- tive technology. However, only through improved information management, collaboration, lead- ership and a performance-driven approach will we realise the full potential sooner and deliver world class infrastructure for the people of Scotland. l

Paul Dodd is Head of Infrastructure Technology at the Scottish Futures Trust. For information on the Infrastructure Technology Navigator visit https://infratech.

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