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7th April Journal Column

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

When you think about tech-driven industries, I doubt that construction is the first that comes to mind. In the past, we’ve had a reputation for being slow to adapt to the digital age, but over recent years, the smart building tech industry has grown significantly with more and more companies accepting technology advances.


It’s been almost a year since the Building Information Modelling (BIM) Level 2 mandate came into play and the industry has seen far more engagement towards technology. People are finally accepting BIM and seeing the potential benefits that the digital world can bring to construction. For a long time, construction was one of the least automated industries around, but we’re slowly but surely catching up. Digital solutions are being used in all areas of the industry, we’re moving away from paper trails and manual building and towards online solutions, new technology and robots that can do the job for us.

Lucion Services, a North-East construction safety and risk management company has partnered with Northumbria University to develop a new digital way of managing asbestos. They are launching a new app to directly connect building plans and drawings with data from asbestos surveys and laboratory analysis information.

The NexGen app forms part of a new approach to BIM systems and is being carried out as part of an Innovate UK knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) project. The software will present a 3D image of a building, floor-by-floor, room-by-room, allowing users and surveyors to flag up the presence of asbestos or other safety hazards more accurately and efficiently. The app should reduce human error, eliminating the risk of mistakes made with traditional paper-based plans and problems associated with the inspection of buildings.

Lucion’s current NexGen BIM database already allows users to access asbestos and building safety information, including site survey reports and historical data. Linking this to the 3D visualisation of sites, buildings and individual rooms will bring new levels of detail for more accurate risk management considerations.

The Health and Safety Executive estimates that past exposures in the construction sector annually cause over 5,000 occupational cancer cases and 3,700 deaths. The most significant cause of these cancers is asbestos. Because of the potential risks associated with exposure to asbestos, it is important that clear information is provided to everyone involved.

The management of asbestos is still very much an issue which must always be kept in mind, especially in the North East since we still have a lot of old buildings where the use of asbestos in one form or another was very common. Britain might have one of the best health and safety systems in the world, but when it comes to health and safety you can never stop improving. So, I imagine an easier way to discover and manage asbestos will definitely be welcomed, and even better that it helps bring us up to speed with the digital age.

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