Friday January 24, 2020

At the leading edge of construction practices

Technology is a major enabler for culture change in the construction industry

3rd November, 2019
From left: at the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 awards were Eoin Leonard chief executive officer, i3PT, Caroline O’Driscoll, partner, Deloitte, Ronan Murray, partner, Deloitte; Will Stuchbury, M&E inspector, i3PT and David Wallace, chief commercial officer, i3PT

The construction industry is changing constantly” said Eoin Leonard, chief executive, i3PT. “It has traditionally been known as a stagnant sector with slow uptake for innovation and new technologies, but for a number of reasons the past few years have seen major advances both in terms of new technology and new processes”.

He is referring to developments such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), mobile field applications for site workers and other project collaboration tools, but also the adoption of modern methods of construction and new ways of working.

“The traditional construction methodologies can’t work anymore. We don’t have enough trades and we have an ageing workforce. Moreover, clients are becoming more sophisticated in what they demand and quality is something that needs to be demonstrated now” he said.

In the midst of a major housing crisis in Ireland and Britain, the industry is widely accepted to be facing some real challenges in terms of demographics and general quality, much of which is borne out by statistics.

Recent estimates suggest that more than 20 per cent of the British construction workforce are now aged 55 or over and the industry has been less attractive to younger generations, which means that new solutions will be needed to deliver the housing and infrastructure that is so desperately needed.

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) also recently disclosed that construction defects in Britain are now costing the industry more on an annual basis than it generates in profits.

“These statistics are not surprising, but we can’t be apathetic about it either. The industry has embraced digital construction somewhat and we see it as a huge area for growth. We are also seeing a huge culture change around building safety and quality, which begins with the subcontractor on the ground and extends right back to the funders.

“At i3PT, we are committed to alleviating some of these challenges and we are leading the way with our own processes and technology,” said Leonard.

A new addition to i3PT’s leadership team is former rugby international David Wallace, who joined as chief commercial officer in 2019.

“What really struck me about i3PT was the focus on high-performance in construction and the belief that technology could be designed to improve culture and behaviours on projects,” said Wallace.

“In my playing days, I lived through the period where the game went from amateur to professional. I witnessed first-hand the kind of improvements that could be achieved using technology and new ways of working. At Munster, the new culture that emerged from this was literally transformative,” he said.

The company has grown exponentially over the past seven years, opening offices in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and London.

Changes in legislation and recent failures in building safety have led to a shifting operational landscape and i3PT has been a key player in directing the shift in culture.

“We work with some of the largest government agencies, multinational corporations and developers in the world. They trust us to protect their people and their assets, which is a huge responsibility and one we take very seriously” said Wallace.

The firm is currently appointed on projects with a combined capital value in excess of £9 billion, with projects ranging from €500 million data centres to English Premiership football stadiums and high density residential schemes.

Leonard points to the two key elements in the success of i3PT, people and technology. “Our team is so exceptionally diverse and competent, we have professionals from multiple disciplines and the breadth of experience in our company is unique.

“Our service is driven by this excellent team of people and it is enhanced by our technology, CertCentral.”

CertCentral

In a typically entrepreneurial twist, the CertCentral SaaS platform was originally developed by i3PT to solve its own problems, which were centred around assuring quality in construction.

However, the digital evolution of the construction industry led to increased investment in innovation as new features were being requested by clients. Over time, CertCentral was developed to become a full project collaboration software platform, complete with iOS and Android field applications.

Leonard notes that i3PT hadn’t really considered software as a business opportunity at the beginning.

“We have always said that our purpose was to deliver better buildings and improved culture on projects. Originally, we focused all of our efforts on our professional services, which are primarily focused on design review, quality assurance and site inspection.

“The success of CertCentral was almost a surprise to us. We had been so focused on quality, that we built a system with real rigour, transparency and evidence-based workflows. Every issue is logged, tracked, closed out and reviewed both digitally and on site. People liked the simplicity of the interface and they wanted to apply the same rigour to other parts of the project life cycle, such as design development and document control.

“Our own professional team actually design the software interface and workflows, so we have the benefit of chartered engineers, architects, surveyors and tradespeople when we are trying to design software tools. This means that what we create is instantly intuitive to the user.”

The company is growing its team constantly and its British business is also going from strength to strength, despite the uncertainty that comes with Brexit.

Leonard said: “i3PT’s services and software divisions are both growing really well in Britain, despite recent events. We have developed some incredible partnerships and we are working in some excellent projects, from large-scale healthcare facilities to sports stadiums, which has become a real niche for us.

“Also, a large number of clients in Ireland and Britain are opting for offsite construction, which is another area that we have had a great deal of experience in. All in all, the future is really bright and we plan to add another international office in the US next year.”

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