Public projects leading technology revolution in India
In India when we hear about technology, we always associate private companies in adoption when compared to the public (govt) projects. We usually do not relate to public projects and technology together. While many of us live in this perception, the reality might change the popular thought.
Four years back we started Desapex to act as a technology catalyst in the construction industry keeping majorly private projects in focus. We passionately believed that private/real estate firms will be keen to use technology to their advantage. But reality hit us hard when in our first business meeting (while talking about BIM and the use of reality capture) a senior veteran in the industry asked if technology was available when they built the Taj Mahal. Out of respect to his experience, we did not argue much in the meeting and returned with a heavy heart.
But then when we researched facts about Taj Mahal’s construction, we realized that more than 20,000 people, thousands of elephants worked on the project and approximately 916 million was spent in today’s terms. Moreover, it took 20 long years and the lives of many workers to complete the entire project. No project manager will get this kind of time or budget to complete even for a project multiple times the size of the Taj Mahal.
We cannot deny that today’s projects have limited resources, complex designs, and a demanding business to support. Certainty in time/budget it is highly impossible without some technology help.
While busy convincing private real estate/construction firms to move away from age-old 2D design and manual construction methods, Nagpur Metro mandated project delivery in 5D BIM (Building Information Modelling) technology. This was very motivating for many technology enthusiasts like us that a public project is contractually enforcing one of the most advanced technologies. Not just 5D BIM but some other techs which helped the project succeed was the decision to have a common file repository, LiDAR surveying, automated three-dimensional spatial coordination, remote construction monitoring, model-based bill certification and using 3D information-rich models for the operation-maintenance phase.
Then the tenders of Mumbai metro, Pune metro, Bengaluru International Airport Terminal 2 project and many other public infrastructure project tenders mandated to use the above-mentioned technologies. Not just metro or airport projects but even a few smart cities projects tenders required BIM-based submission. APCRDA even talked about using a BIM-based online system for building permits.
While most private firms refuse a change of any magnitude, few projects adopt technology often driven by their global mandates or due efforts of one man who does not get support to make investment decision worthwhile. In the rare instance when a project gets a dynamic team in favour of technology, the purpose gets defeated due to poor contracts. Project contracts do not reflect the Intention of the tech-savvy project team which gives stakeholders an easy pass.
Like the construction industry, reasons for poor technology adoption in private projects are also complex. But with all challenges of public projects in India, the country deserves appreciation for leading the technology revolution in design-construction and operational phases of the built asset.
Hopefully, the crisis caused by Covid 19 (coronavirus) changes the dimension of technology adoption for the most anticipated efficiency in the construction industry. We all know that India is trying to attract many manufacturing & service industries to create local jobs, building infrastructure will be the first step towards this journey. Any improvement in the rate & cost of this development will have a cascading effect on our future growth story.
We believe, investing in digital technology and processes is not merely for ROI calculation for one of the use cases, but for organizational resilience and future-proofing, we are sure the data fabric will provide a large number of use cases over a period of time, and create more opportunities for business excellence.