Big data is a big asset – the chicken and the egg

Bruce McAra

Managing Director, real estate, UK


Bruce McAra reflects on the discussions at MIPIM, where one of the hot topics was the construction industry of the future and how it seems that we're already living in it, though in reality there’s a long path to walk until technologies can be used efficiently in the built environment.

High volumes of data continue to be generated in construction projects and over time it’s getting better and better.  At Turner & Townsend, we work with our clients to procure and deliver over £5bn construction output per year in the UK. 

Intelligent procurement and effective project and cost management remain a foundation in helping set the parameters for successful project delivery as well as avoiding the risk of unnecessary bankruptcy in an industry where margins are unsustainably low.

Big Data tools in construction are already here, including: benchmarking of costs and schedules to ensure efficiency in design/delivery; utilising operational data to ensure assets operate effectively; monitoring health and safety indicators to improve supply chain performance; offering the potential for operators near-time information about the use and performance of their portfolios, not to mention everything in the BIM space. But the level of industry wide non-cooperation remains the single biggest barrier to making accurate data available.


Even with that data being available, the correct analysis of it remains a prize that eludes the industry. Clients rightly demand analysis and insight, but remain perpetually unable to allow its availability or offer effective leadership to its real value.

And the problem will grow as Big Data gets ‘bigger’. Advisors need to get their thinking clearer and collaborate more. Tools like BIM are just tools; BIM is no excuse for working collectively to gather information for the future.  

No doubt there will be the launch of fashionable new apps or tools looking for a problem to be applied to; I’ll be interested to see what collective action is being taken to define, standardise and share data more effectively across the industry to enable informed and intelligent client decision making.