With use of more cutting-edge technologies and deeper integration with internet information technology, China's construction industry has begun to shift from the high-speed growth stage to high-quality development. Digital transformation is profoundly changing the industry.
Digital transformation of construction industry flourishes everywhere
The construction industry is a multi-organization, multi-profession and multi-level industry that calls for extensive cooperation. Its digital transformation requires a coherent pattern of industrial internet thinking, mature top-level design, relevant systems, policies and standards, and convergence of industrial forces.
In 2020, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the National Development and Reform Commission and other government departments issued guidance on boosting integration and innovative application in emerging technologies such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) throughout the whole process of construction, which led to formation of a number of leading enterprises in the smart construction field, drove digital and smart upgrading in all types of enterprises, and provided a sound policy environment for digital transformation of the industry.
BIM technology plays a key role in improving engineering efficiency and quality in the modern construction industry. [Photo/IC]
In 2021, local governments in the country summarized transformation achievements of their construction industry during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period and made specific plans for digital transformation in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period.
For example, East China's Zhejiang province has achieved breakthroughs in new technologies, manufacturing, infrastructure and business models.
In 2021, the region released guidance on promoting reform and innovation of high-quality development of the construction industry by its adoption of emerging technologies such as BIM, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, cloud computing and smart construction.
The region also issued a five-year plan for its construction industry, stressing promotion of transformation and upgrading and building of a new development paradigm of the industry in Zhejiang based on digital and smart construction technologies.
In addition, the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development launched five systems focusing on housing and urban-rural construction autonomy and digital engineering, housing, urban construction and urban management, which are expected to push forward industrial reshaping through digitalization.
And in East China Jiangsu province has highly valued the convergent application of BIM technology in the fields of planning, investigation, design, construction and operation and maintenance of the whole process. The method is expected to realize engineering and construction data sharing and information management of projects' whole life cycle and to explore frontier technology in digital construction. Based on emerging technologies like BIM, assembly approaches, smart construction sites and artificial intelligence (AI), project productivity can be improved and scenario-based digital transformation can be realized throughout the whole process of construction.
Jiangsu also plans to widely promote digital, lean and green construction to improve the application rate of BIM in large and medium-sized projects to 70 percent in the country's 14th Five-Year Plan period.
Meanwhile, the region will increase use of IoT, big data, BIM and other advanced digital technology applications, as well as intelligent equipment like robots to boost digital transformation of the construction industry.
Cultivating more than 100 enterprises focusing on smart construction and emerging technology-based construction is also included in the region's plan.
What's more, Central China's Hubei province plans to encourage greater investment in research and development, promote independent and controllable BIM software development, enhance integration application of digital design, construction and management based on BIM models, and boost use of internet, cloud technology and related platforms to improve highly-efficient sharing of resources along the entire industrial chain.
Emerging technologies like BIM, IoT and big data contribute to digitalization of the construction industry. [Photo/IC]
Construction industry ushers in wide innovation space
The booming development of digital technologies has brought broad innovation space for digital transformation of the construction industry.
Convergent application and innovation of technologies such as IoT, big data, cloud computing and AI in the whole process of construction were demonstrated at the China Digital Construction Summit 2021 held in late October. Coordinated development of smart construction and digital technology-based building industrialization are underway in enterprises, where digitalization has become more highly valued.
Zhejiang Construction Investment Group Co., Ltd. is undergoing digital transformation in its business, production and management modes by taking data resources as a key production factor and modern information networks as a main carrier.
The company has deeply integrated all procedures of the industrial chain and applied cutting-edge digital technologies, aiming to realize data-oriented decision making, information-based management and digital operation, and to build a digital international project that integrates investment, construction, manufacturing, operation and service.
Digital twin and industrial process modelling are to play a role in promoting digital transformation of the construction industry. [Photo/IC]
Focusing on digital twin technology, Dahai Holding Corporation has established a platform for data sharing and interaction based on a geodesic mapping system, BIM technology, the BeiDou positioning system and IoT technology as well as wireless transmission to realize digital construction.
The company also used cutting-edge technologies such as face recognition and AI to improve management at the construction site.
Thanks to the BeiDou/GNSS millimeter-level satellite system, workers are able to control positioning accuracy error within 5 mm in 15 minutes and key data collected by the satellite can also be used to support management.
The company has already established a millimeter-level mobile measurement and control system based on the BeiDou Satellite Navigation System and is stepping up efforts to build a "double-gate and closed-loop" digital twin system.
A satellite system is used to limit positioning accuracy error during construction. [Photo/IC]
Smart construction is a must-go path in digital transformation and upgrading of the construction industry.
China Construction Science & Technology Group Co., Ltd. has focused on digital design and smart factories, engineering, construction sites and construction robots. The company uses advanced technologies through the whole construction process, which has given birth to digital technologies at the design, production and construction stages, and improved overall quality, efficiency and effectiveness.
Enterprises in northwestern regions in the country have also highly valued digitalization.
Shaanxi Construction Engineering Group Corporation (SCEGC), a traditional State-owned enterprise (SOE), has begun to use digital technologies in its traditional business and has prepared for digital transformation in purchasing, project management and supply chain financing.
The company is now collecting data from its projects under construction which it hopes to use to benefit from digitalization in the future.
Learning from other enterprises' experience and digitalization-related preferential policies, SCEGC aims to improve its management and information sectors to a leading-level in the industry by 2025 and establish six core business structures, eight project clusters and 88 application scenarios.
Future digital transformation
The use of digital technologies is transforming all aspects of engineering construction.
For example, the main part of the super high-rise Shanghai Center Building is planned to be capable of rotating 120 degrees based on BIM technology, which will reduce wind load effect by 24 percent. BIM has also contributed to improving engineering efficiency and quality at Beijing's Daxing International Airport.
Domestic development of advanced and high-end industrial software and digital tools will push forward digitalization of China’s construction industry. [Photo/IC]
However, challenges lie on the path of organizational transformation and deep convergence of the whole industrial chain in the era of industrial digital transformation.
The birth of various new technologies, as well as learning how to understand and use the new definitions to garner the effectiveness of digitalization are major sources of confusion in digitalization of the construction industry.
Yang Xueshan, former vice minister responsible for the industry and information technology, said that advanced and high-end industrial software and digital tools can be developed and provided by Chinese information technology enterprises through digitalization of the industry.
Diao Zhizhong, chairman of the Board of Glodon Company Limited, expressed his optimism in digitalization of the construction industry's future. He said that there will be rapid breakthroughs and promotion of the new generation of building and structure design software and collaborative design software and platforms based on the component library. The central control system of project management will also mature in three to five years which will promote highly efficient construction of a project, adding that a number of platform-based and solution-based companies will stand out.
Yuan Zhenggang, president of Glodon Company Limited, stressed that only by taking real actions can enterprises realize digital transformation.
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