Reinforced-concrete design, supply and construction must embrace information technology, research and development if further efficiency gains are to be achieved. In view of this, the rcc has become the first representative of the concrete sector to join the International Alliance for Interoperability (iai). This is a client/industry-based organisation set up to drive through the data-exchange framework to allow all construction computer programs to communicate freely and to share a single database. Sharing will allow major gains in produc- tivity from concept design through to construction, use and demolition.
The iai initiative will enable the concrete industry to adopt advanced technology through the formation of a standard interface for construction elements. This will permit the use of a single shared building 'model', allowing information access to all members of the design and supply chain. The model will be intelligent, with elements such as floors, walls and beams aware that they are objects and not just lines on a drawing. They will have a complete database associated with them, mirroring the real world.
Each construction sector, or domain, is being encouraged to set up its own detailed model sub-set to ensure real life is emulated in data-exchange standards and to gain industry commitment. Major clients, aware of the potential benefits of integrating construction processes into their own business processes, are fully supportive of the iai. They include baa, Lloyd's and London Underground. The client domain is developing a generic reference process model that shows the construction project and the pre- project phases from the client viewpoint.
The rcc is encouraging the reinforced-concrete industry's participation in a joint-materials group - the civil and structural domain. This domain has found that despite their differences, there are many similarities and opportunities for collaboration between materials sectors. iai aims to overcome traditional commercial differences and concentrate on the opportunities for collaboration.
Close involvement by the uk concrete industry will ensure that the world data standards being developed will fully reflect the sector's particular process and products. Failure to ensure this could have a significant detrimental effect on future efficiency and competitiveness.
The opportunities for reinforced concrete were examined at a recent iai civil/structural domain meeting. Delegates heard that, in Japan, the contractor Kajami Corporation has run 10 pilot projects using linc - Linkage of Information for New Construction System. This system introduces new ways of information sharing between the project team that have resulted in 9 per cent profit gains for the contractors through process savings.
With the Japanese internal infrastructure now well developed, Japan's construction industry is hungry for new markets abroad. The uk construction industry as a whole must play an active role in developing information- sharing databases if it is to remain competitive.
For further details on the International Alliance of Interoperability, tel 020 7636 6951
Martin Southcott is project director at the Reinforced Concrete Council - a joint venture between the BCA and Allied Steel and Wire