11th August Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

For a long time, the construction industry was one of the least automated around, but thanks to the likes of Building Information Modelling (BIM), virtual and augmented reality and new technology, the industry is making its mark on the digital world.

Newcastle based Space Group have been working with The University of Stirling to launch a new app to help improve workplaces, public buildings and homes for people living with dementia.
The Intelligence, Research, Iterative, Design Interface System (IRIDIS) app will be free to download and will address physical aspects of design which impact upon older people’s quality of life and their ability to live independently, such as lighting, colour contrast and textures to aid day-to-day living, reinforcing memory and personal identity. It will have the ability to make recommendations on property design and refurbishment. It has links to the BIM provider bimstore, allowing designers to search and download BIM objects from manufacturers that are specifically designed and approved to meet dementia care design standards.
Those living with dementia, family members, healthcare or industry professionals, or anyone using the app, will be asked to take photographs and answer questions about their surroundings. Within approx. 20 minutes the app can assess the suitability of a two-bedroom home for an older person. Suggested improvements could be anything from changing a light bulb to reconfiguring a whole bathroom.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, with the number expected to increase to one million by 2025. With the industry responsible for building homes, workplaces and public buildings, that’s one million people we need to take into consideration in the next 8 years. Care provision will need to keep pace with this increase so those living with dementia can continue to live with as much independence as possible, whether that be in new accommodation designed entirely for their needs or existing buildings that have been altered to cater for them.

Dementia is one of the main causes of disability later in life, ahead of cancer, and in the UK we shockingly spend less on dementia care than on other major medical conditions. The app means that, no matter how little your knowledge or awareness of dementia, you can still be confident that you are providing safe environments for people to live in.

As with anything, you only get out of the process what you put in and those that have made the effort to bring the industry into the digital age, are those that will benefit in the long-term. The University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) has dedicated the last 25 years to collating research and working on the app – that’s a lot of time, effort and hard work, so I have my fingers crossed that it all pays off, for their sake and the millions of people that could benefit from it.

The app will be available to download from Thursday 21 September, on International Alzheimer’s Day.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.