The 2017 Grenfell disaster that tragically killed 72 people when its facade burst into flames highlighted the fact that there was a lack of information around the safety standards and the safety of the material used in its construction. Simply put, had full information regarding the cladding used in the construction of the building been available, contractors would have known that it had failed many safety tests in previous years.
Or should the question be whether the contractors should have known?
Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Government's review of building regulations undertaken in response to the disaster certainly thinks so, stating that “There needs to be a golden thread for all complex and high-risk building projects so that the original design intent is preserved and recorded, and any changes go through a formal review process involving people who are competent and who understand the key features of the design."
But herein lies the problem. Getting access to the much-needed quality assurance documentation to ensure that materials used in construction are safe and comply with the latest regulatory standards is, at the best of times, a cumbersome and challenging process.
It often involves many hours searching through documents and filing cabinets to find the required information - exacerbated by the fact that there has been a severe lack of digitisation in this area. Obtaining documentation manually has become almost impossible.
Fortunately, there is a solution. And a good one. Blockchain technology can provide an effective means of digitising quality assurance documentation, whilst providing the necessary transparency contractors and regulators need to ensure that the materials used in the construction of modern buildings are safe.
Blockchain is one of the most disruptive technologies we’ve experienced in recent years. Although it is often associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, it is its ability to store vast amounts of data and provide full transparency while being completely immutable that shows the most promise, especially when used for financial transactions.
But now, the question is, can this distributed ledger technology provide the same benefits in the construction industry? In other words, can it improve the execution of construction projects that often involve large teams of contractors and subcontractors and a multitude of building codes, standards, and safety regulations?
The simple answer is yes.
For one, it can introduce transparency and accountability - and therefore trust - to the construction process. For example, firms can use blockchain-enabled software to track materials and testing and check results against a database of building codes, standards, and safety regulations.
Not only will this eliminate manual labour in respect of sourcing these documents, and, by implication, streamline the process, but it will also ensure the safety of buildings and prevent future disatsers.
In the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster, there was a significant increase in insurance policies for the construction industry. Understandably, these policies come at a great expense for construction firms - but blockchain technology has the potential to decrease costs through its ability to allow construction firms to prove the quality of their materials along with their safety certifications.
In fact, blockchain’s benefits could extend to the period prior to installation. It can, for instance, provide full supply chain transparency which, in turn, allows construction firms to establish exactly where specific materials are sourced from, who they are produced by, and whether they are safe for use in the construction of a project.
Digital transformation has been on the road map for many companies in recent years. It’s easy to see why, considering it can improve their efficiency, productivity, and performance. Although the construction industry has been slow to adopt new technologies, many construction firms believe that it is now a priority.
So, as part of the race to digital transformation, construction firms that implement blockchain technologies will not only benefit from an improved capability in quality assurance, certificate management, and an increase in safety performance - they will also benefit from having a competitive advantage.
This is where Finboot and our product MARCO comes in. Building on top of the blockchain infrastructure of various frameworks like Ethereum or Hyper Ledger Fabric, MARCO allows companies to implement blockchain technologies in their value, logistics, and supply chains.
To introduce sector specific expertise, Finboot is collaborating with Invennt, the leading management consultancy for construction and the built environment to develop a solution that ensures that materials used in construction are safe and comply with the latest regulatory standards . The concept, known as BuildBlox, will be the first rules-based construction management middleware built specifically for contractors, engineers, quantity surveyors, architects and clients.
To find out more about MARCO and its benefits for construction firms, visit Finboot for more details.