Is interoperability critical for the construction industry?

Is interoperability critical for the construction industry?

The construction of a building never comes without its complications, and most of these can come down to communication. You have a combination of architects, service engineers, cost consultants, structural engineers and the construction team who are all focusing on their own work, with their own software. Separate interests, perspectives, and information between players in the building industry make data sharing difficult, and this can cause the industry as a whole to lose efficiency.

So, what can we do to avoid this?

Interoperability is the ability to communicate between people—and between varying types of software. It has become a buzzword for the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry of late, and for good reason! As our built environment becomes more digitized and relies more heavily on technology like building information modelling (BIM), the need for interoperability increases drastically.

Interoperability, in its essence, describes the extent to which systems and devices can exchange data, and interpret that shared data. For two systems to be interoperable, they must be able to exchange data and subsequently present that data in such a way that it can be understood by the user, be that at any point of the design or construction process. For example, in software interoperability is used to describe the capability of different programs to exchange data via a common set of exchange formats, to read and write the same file formats, and to use the same protocols.

However, it is important to remember the human factor as well. Interoperability must also be practiced at a cultural level. Beyond technology, interoperability is often defined as the ability to implement and manage collaborative relationships among member of cross-disciplinary build teams, which enables integrated project execution.

These perspectives are interrelated: interoperability of technology and culture enables efficiency at a practical level. If all members of a design and build team can freely exchange data across different application and platforms, every member of the team can better integrate the project delivery.

With construction project costs under increasingly harder scrutiny, it’s more important than ever to iron out communication and data sharing complications. Developing a better understanding of interoperability and its benefits is paramount to becoming a more integrated industry.

What do you think? Is interoperability a crucial element to smooth running of a project? Take part in the discussion on our Linkedin page.

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