If Data is the New Oil, Who Will Be the Main Information Contractor?

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The year 2023 marked a significant milestone in the integration of generative AI into mainstream businesses, opening doors to unparalleled experimentations. In the realm of construction, this announces a new era where AI can revolutionize efficiency and predictability across every stage of a project's lifecycle. As we step into 2024, beyond the hype, we stand on the brink of transitioning from mere experimentation with generative AI to its practical application and seamless integration into design and construction workflows. This journey will span multiple years, but the year ahead promises accelerated Innovation.

Managing Data Flow and Governance

Will AI revolutionize productivity in construction? Will AI transform design into a commodity? Will it improve collaboration, quality and safety? Beyond these long-term key questions stands one of the most pressing daily challenges faced by construction professionals: the substantial amount of time spent searching for relevant data. The current emphasis on AI underscores the pivotal role of construction management platforms in ensuring data quality and standardization. AI-powered capabilities could facilitate unprecedented access to interconnected data across platforms, enabling swift retrieval of pertinent information in user-friendly formats. Real-time predictive analytics should further enhance decision-making processes. Over time, AI models could become increasingly multi-modal, integrating text, images, 2D plans, BIM data, and data from other sources. These advancements could pave the way for automated AI-powered workflows, which could enhance efficiency across various facets of construction, including conceptual design, estimation, project planning, coordination, and field operations.


However, amidst the excitement surrounding AI's potential, it is imperative to address fundamental questions about its ethical implementation and long-term impact. A robust data strategy emerges as a cornerstone in this discourse, emphasizing the need for AEC companies to prioritize data governance and ethics. Central to this discussion is the role of the “Main Information Contractor”—a pivotal entity responsible for providing, aggregating, overseeing, and disseminating data, and ultimately managing data flows throughout the built environment. Gradually, this new position will emerge: at the project level first, later along the supply chain and, in the future, for the whole ecosystem. While specific entities that could assume this role may vary, several stakeholders across the construction industry are poised to play significant functions in shaping its definition and implementation.

Leveraging Experienced Stakeholders

First, how might architects leverage their expertise in design to take on the role of the Main Information Contractor? With their comprehensive understanding of project requirements and objectives, architects are well-positioned to orchestrate data flows from conceptualization to execution, ensuring alignment with architectural intent and client goals.


Can engineers harness their technical knowledge and analytical skills to serve as the Main Information Contractor? Given their central role in structural, mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering aspects of construction, engineers can streamline data exchange and integration, optimizing project performance and compliance with regulatory standards.


Which role could general contractors play in assuming the responsibilities of this function in the ecosystem? As key project managers overseeing construction activities, general contractors have insights into the day-to-day operations and coordination efforts across multiple trades. By centralizing data management and communication channels, they can play this role, enhance collaboration, and mitigate risks throughout the project lifecycle.


How might technology providers contribute to shaping the role of Main Information Contractor? With their expertise in developing construction management platforms, data analytics tools, and digital solutions, technology providers can offer innovative systems designed to facilitate seamless data exchange, visualization, and analysis, empowering stakeholders to make informed decisions and optimize project outcomes. Is there a risk that technology providers might assume a role that is overly dominant, potentially overshadowing other stakeholders in the ecosystem, as they leverage their expertise in developing Construction management platforms?


Finally, could owners and developers assume the position of the Main Information Contractor? As the primary stakeholders driving project vision and investment, owners and developers hold significant influence over project direction and objectives. By championing data-driven approaches and setting clear guidelines for data governance and utilization, they can foster a culture of transparency and accountability throughout the project lifecycle.


The Main Information Contractor may emerge as a collaborative effort among various stakeholders, leveraging their collective expertise and resources to establish robust data governance frameworks and facilitate effective data management practices. As the construction industry continues to embrace digital transformation and AI-driven technologies, the role of the Main Information Contractor will evolve, reflecting the evolving needs and priorities of an increasingly interconnected and data-driven construction ecosystem. By prioritizing data governance, collaboration, and transparency, we can collectively shape the role of the Main Information Contractor to foster a culture of responsible innovation and sustainable growth. In the coming years, architects, engineers, general contractors, technology providers, owners, and developers alike will play integral roles in defining and implementing new functions, leveraging their expertise and resources to drive positive change.

Olivier Lepinoy, founder of think tank Hyper Construction, is an expert in strategies to help AEC firms pivot and grow new businesses.