Information and communications technology in construction
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Information Technology (IT) describes technologies and equipment that can be used to store, retrieve, transmit and manipulate data.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is a specialist application of Information Technology that has some aspect of communication. It includes areas such as; software development, mobile devices, cloud computing, data centres, cyber security, research networks, support and so on.
The UK is one of the world's largest ICT markets. In 2014, the government reported that the UK's ICT industry was worth £58 billion annually (ref gov.uk Information Communications Technology (ICT) in the UK: investment opportunities).
In the construction industry the term is used both in relation to the ICT adopted by the project team to design, construct, operate and manage the development, and in relation to the inclusion of ICT in the completed development itself.
 The project team
Design and construction are information intensive activities, involving a great number of people collaborating to produce complex, one-off developments. Whilst historically, information may have been managed and communicated using paper-based systems and verbal instructions, the integration of the supply chain, the introduction of computer aided design (CAD) and building information modelling (BIM) and the development of mobile computing (MC) means that ICT is becoming a fundamental part, not just of the design office, but also of the construction site.
There is also increasing potential for automation of construction processes using ICTA, (Information and Communications Technology and Automation), off-site manufacturing, prefabrication and the use of technologies such as 3D printing.
The construction industry's traditional reluctance to embrace innovation is slowly being overcome in this area by the rapid emergence of technology and by the introduction of policies such as the Government requirement for fully collaborative 3D BIM (with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic) as a minimum by 2016 on centrally-procured public projects.
 The built environment
In completed developments, the potential uses of ICT can be overwhelming, with developments such as airports and hospitals having very complex and intensive demands.
The development of smart buildings is now taking this intensive demand for ICT to other building types, with requirements for; automated systems, intelligent building management, adaptive energy systems, assistive technologies, remote monitoring and so on. In addition, the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), where unique identifiers are allocated to physical objects, can enable almost anything be connected to a network.
This presents particular difficulties, as the design life of a building may be 50 years or more, whereas ICT may become redundant within a very short period, sometimes even before the construction has been completed and the development occupied. Conventional appraisal techniques may not be adequate to deal with this complexity.
This is an even more intractable problem at the city-scale, where major infrastructure programmes will impact on the economy for 50 to 80 years, but an ICT product may have a shelf-life of just 80 weeks before it is superseded by a 'newer and better' solution.
As a consequence, there is a need for buildings and the wider built environment to be both future-proof and flexible. Designers need to ensure that every opportunity is taken to identify the most efficient solutions and take advantage of the new opportunities offered by technology, whilst also creating a resilient and adaptable infrastructure capable of many years of operation without costly upgrades. This requires that designers work across a number of different timescales, devising short, medium and long-term strategies for ICT.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Advanced construction technology.
- Building management systems.
- Building information modelling.
- Computer aided design.
- Collaborative practices.
- Common data environment.
- Computer aided manufacturing.
- Computers in building design.
- Document control.
- Government Construction Strategy.
- ICT and Automation (ICTA) Scoping Study Report.
- Internet of things.
- Project extranet.
- Smart cities.
- Smart cities design timeframe.
- Smart buildings.
 External references
- gov.uk Information Communications Technology (ICT) in the UK: investment opportunities.
- The Mechanisms of Information Communication on Construction Sites. Yuan Chen and John Kamara, Newcastle University 2008.
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