Big data is big news at the moment as it refers to the huge quantities of information that has been stored in the past and continues to be acquired today. Data can be collected from people, computers, smart devices, machines – basically any device or agent that generates data.

The vast availability of such data is what makes it ‘big’. There is a lot of data available in the construction industry in the sense of all of the records and plans of anything that was ever built. The amount of data available is also increasing daily, through the use of smart machines such as cranes and earthmovers, through material supply chains, the workers on-site and even buildings themselves.

Why is data so important?

The traditional information systems that have been used in construction in the past were great at recording basic project information, such as employee details, project schedules, CAD designs, and invoices and costs. However, such systems are limited in that they usually just work with orderly digital columns and rows and so aren’t able to work with unstructured data such as sensor readings, written text or printed information.

The great thing about big data is that if we can harness it, we can use it to gain better insights into the whole construction process and therefore make much better decisions. However, big data is not useful on its own: it has to be analysed through big data analytics programs in order to make it useful.

How can big data be used in construction?

BIM Companies like The CAD Room are used to dealing with a lot of data but there are lots of other ways that big data is already being used in the construction industry, such as:

  • Big data about business activity, community, traffic and the weather can be gathered and analysed to help construction workers make better decisions about the optimal phasing of their construction activities. Smart machines used on-site allow data regarding active and idle time to be drawn from their sensors which can allow more informed decisions to be made about whether to buy or lease the equipment for future projects and also how to use fuel in a cost-effective and more environmentally friendly way.
  • Big data really comes into its own when it comes to building design, as it draws upon BIM data, environmental data and stakeholder input to help us to determine not only what type of building to design, but also where it should be built. Analysing historical big data can help to show patterns and pick up potential for risks and so can be used to help steer new projects away from pitfalls and instead move towards success.
  • More and more buildings are being built with sensors located in them, which makes it possible to monitor their performance at many levels. Things such as energy conservation can then be tracked in office blocks, shopping centres, and so on to ensure they are conforming to their design goals. This data can then be fed back into Building Information Modelling (BIM) systems to help facilities managers to schedule maintenance activities as required.

Analysing big data offers opportunities for construction companies to improve project information, and forecasting, amongst other things – offering insights that traditional systems simply can’t.

To find out more about BIM and how our BIM services can help you to manage your workload, please contact the friendly team at The CAD Room on 0161 427 0348 or at (from Monday to Friday).