Professional pathways in BIM and digital construction
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Citation:Davies, K. (2019). Professional pathways in BIM and digital construction. In B. Kumar, F. Pour Rahimian, D. Greenwood & T. Hartmann (Ed.), Advances in ICT in Design, Construction and Management in Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operation (AECO) Proceedings of the 36th CIB W78 2019 Conference (pp. 475-487).
Permanent link to Research Bank record:https://hdl.handle.net/10652/4753
Increasing complexity in construction projects, together with widespread availability of technology applicable to many aspects of the construction industry, is driving demand for greater integration of information and communication technologies. The resulting transformations in technology and process require associated changes in professional roles and relationships in a digital context. Development of any professional role is a dynamic process, with no determined transition point when a profession can be considered to exist or not. Instead there is a cycle of development as skills, expectations, and specialisations evolve and are modified to suit the changing environment. This concept of the professional life cycle forms the framework for an exploration of changes in roles and practice in the context of digital construction. While traditional construction industry functions and responsibilities take place within well-established professional roles, a multiplicity of views has emerged regarding the status of roles which encompass digital construction. This paper uses practitioner narratives to explore aspects of technology adoption and implementation that are having an impact on the way such careers develop. Interviewees were selected who identified themselves, or were identified by their peers, as BIM specialists; many of these individuals also described involvement in broader digital construction initiatives. Taking BIM practice as a starting point, career factors identified by these practitioners are connected to a wider perspective of digital maturity in the industry, and to the concept of the professional life cycle: as digital practice continues to change and mature, the career possibilities and needs within the field also evolve. The findings show that the introduction of digital construction has progressed to a point where BIM is now common across many sectors of the AEC industry, and a range of other digital applications are becoming increasingly mainstream. This move to digital construction in many cases takes place within traditional roles that have expanded or changed to suit the changed environment. In other cases, new roles have emerged to fulfil specific needs for digital management of information, process and strategy in projects and organisations. However, even with this increasing involvement of specialist practitioners in BIM and wider industry practice, the status of digital construction with regard to professional roles is still not established. Many practitioners expressed feelings of insecurity regarding their current position, suggesting that work to provide greater clarity around career progression is necessary so that practitioners can be assured that digital skills have value and recognition.