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BuiltWorlds Meetup Paris: a ConstructionTech Discussion

June 28, 2018

[#Construction]

BuiltWorlds is a US-based tech-driven community in the built industry that is currently undertaking a European tour to learn more about construction practices and innovation in the Old Continent.

Yesterday, they were holding their very first event in Paris at ESTP Paris, one of the leading institutions for French engineering and management education, at their gorgeous downtown location. Ultimately, the goal of this gathering was to meet with professionals from various backgrounds, learn from each other, and compare construction practices, mindsets, and technologies from North America vs. those from Europe.

Speakers:

  • François Bastard, Senior Associate, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
  • Yohann Sberro, Sales Manager, Bouygues Bâtiment HRE
  • Édouard Bidault, Europe Business Development Manager, Fieldwire
  • David Vauthrin, Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer, FINALCAD

The meetup started off with a presentation from François Bastard of the BCG. He introduced the French construction landscape, and shared some key insights into some of the challenges this industry is facing. Amongst others, he pointed out that the industry's productivity had decreased over the past 50 years, mostly due to a low adoption of new technologies. There's also a lack of innovation culture. Indeed, even though there is a real entrepreneurial spirit in the industry, it is lacking long-term vision. In order to drive change and succeed, one needs a good scalable business model.

Technology In The Construction Industry

Even though it's still being implemented quite slowly, there are now tons of new technologies out there: BIM, predictive analytics, autonomous construction, 3D printing & augmented reality just to name a few.

The statement aforementioned came as a bit of a surprise to some people in the room, because out of all the technologies listed, BIM is probably one of the oldest and won't necessarily be the most impactful in the future. In the United States, it's already very common for people to work with BIM. In France, we're still seeing lower adoption rates, but we're moving in the right direction.

Q&A With Guest Speakers

François Bastard's keynote was then followed by an open discussion with guest speakers and ended with questions and comments from attendees who all brought their own touch to the conversation based on their personal background. There were definitely some key emerging topics in this conversation.

Technology Adoption

There is a real challenge around adoption. As it was mentioned during the talk, the technology exists, it's available, but people aren't necessarily using it. How to make sure they start taking advantage of it? We're seeing real efforts from governments all around the world to adopt new legislations.

Lean Construction

A big part of the discussion was about the emergence of Lean Manufacturing in Japan during the 1990s with the automotive industry. Guest speakers were confident that construction companies should learn from Lean techniques and find a way to apply them to their own industry to ensure they have sustainable business strategy.

Cultural Mindset

Clearly there are some cultural differences in the way business is done in the US versus in Europe. One of the guest speakers had some very interesting anecdotes about what happened to him when he was working in the field. The bottomline was that wanting to test something out in the field would require approval from 3 different hierarchical levels in France. Whereas in the US, with a similar situation, he got the go-ahead right away and his manager said: "Why did you ask? Just test it, see if it works."

In France, there's also this tendency to take each construction building as a separate project, a unique one, which isn't that close to reality - lots of buildings are very similar to one another.

Collaborative work was also a key part of the discussion. New collaborative digital tools help change this mindset, it helps communicate, keep track of the right information, in real time.

But let's not forget:

Data

Data brings undeniable advantages. Giants such as Google and Facebook were able to gather so much of it that now, they're considered as main competitors to major construction players. That might have sounded weird a few years back because their area of expertise was originally nothing near the construction industry, but they were able to gather so much precious information that now they can compete with companies from almost any industry - just take a look at the Google car for example.

In the construction industry, data helps with a multitude of things. For instance, you can learn about major recurrent construction issues happening on your construction sites, how they were resolved, what are some good practices, best suppliers, amount of waste, and so on and so forth.

Upcoming Event

BuiltWorlds will be hosting an event in Chicago about a phase that is often left out when we think of a building's life cycle: usage. Indeed, each building's main purpose is typically to have people living / working in it, and there is a lot to discuss about. Stay tuned for the Building 2.0 Conference.