Reliable access to updated product information is a crucial element in addressing poor building information

Poor building information is one of the biggest issues currently facing the built environment sector. It results in costly delays, miscommunication and inefficiencies, resulting in a decrease in productivity and an increase in costs. Fortunately, digital ID technology’s use in furthering product traceability can provide a solution to this ongoing problem.

In essence, traceability hallmarks a product’s history, signposting its journey in terms of its application and location. This helps to create a chain of custody or responsibility as the product passes through the supply chain. For responsibility, read also ‘accountability’; an outcome that has been consistently lacking in the built environment delivery process. The whys and wherefores of failure are easier to deduce if products or materials are digitally logged with ready access to essential information such as fire and thermal performance. Guaranteed availability of this type of critical information can remove doubt as to an product’s suitability for an application or indeed, the stakeholder responsible for its specification. Moreover, a traceability approach using a product ID capable of linking to information including installation guidance, means immediate clarification is to hand to prove whether a building performance issue was the result of incorrect installation.

A digital golden thread for greater clarity

It could be said that product traceability offers fewer hiding places for those prone to poor or errant workmanship. Greater clarity in the way properties are built and maintained was a key proposal in Dame Judith Hackitt’s post-Grenfell Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety(1). The report called for a golden thread of information leveraged by greater product traceability to increase safety in high-risk construction projects. Dame Judith’s recommendations were incorporated into the Building Safety Act, which has been described as a ‘lifeline for residential building safety’(2).

The golden thread of information can be a smart, effective antidote to issues resulting from a lack of quality information. When linked to reliable information resources about the products used, it enables supply chain users to make informed decisions on an product’s suitability for a project. The need for more transparency concerning a product’s properties and performance is borne out by a report carried out by consultancy specialists Autodesk and FMI research. It found decisions based on incorrect or insufficient information in the sector have resulted in a global expenditure of £1.3 trillion. It also revealed that refurbishment as a consequence of poor data strategy accounted for 14% of all rework, amounting to a construction industry cost of £63 million(3).

Product traceability bridging the performance gap

Poor specification and another errant practice, imprudent product de-specification, also contributes to the UK’s built environment performance gap. According to research by the Carbon Trust on 28 UK properties, the measured energy performance was up to five times higher than estimated at the design stage. Additionally, a study by Zero Carbon Hub on 16 UK housing developments in the UK indicated that each residency presented a measured heat loss higher than predicted. Again, the largescale adoption of a product ID technology that can connect those making decisions about the products to the information needed to support making the right choices. In doing so, ID technology can help bridge the performance gap, preserve the designer’s original vision for a building, and prevent higher-than-anticipated fuel bills.

The digital revolution is underway and early adopters of technology enabling the delivery of traceability solutions are already reaping its benefits. An increasing number of housebuilders are looking at how they identify products and enable reliable access to the all-important information throughout the asset life cycle and are aware of the good practice it showcases.

However, companies not yet on board with the methodology need not fear traceability innovations. Such innovations help assure construction companies that their projects are managed safely and efficiently with improved accuracy of their information. In addition, manufacturers can have greater confidence that their products are being used correctly and contributing to a building programme’s success. It’s an outcome that can only enhance a business’s reputation.

Therefore, economic operators within the built environment would do well to support the sector with delivering traceability and embrace the power of digital identity technology that delivers long term reliable access to product information.




Completing the Circle

The built environment is an ideal sector to exploit circular economy due to its important and substantial resource intensity. However, the circularity culture has historically been limited due to its unique characteristics and the complex nature of circular economy. Download our new whitepaper and learn more about digitalisation and its benefits for unlocking circular construction.