Setting Digital as the Default for Water – a Q&A with Clare Kovacs
Mar 19, 2021
As the water sector continues its shift from constructing new infrastructure to improving performance of existing assets, full adoption of building information management (BIM) tools is critical to success. Approaching year two of the AMP7 investment cycle, BIM4Water vice-chair and MWH Treatment national rehearsal lead Clare Kovacs discusses the outlook for widescale digital implementation.
The sector is seeing a greater challenge in delivering against a more complex model, driven by total expenditure (TOTEX) and efficiency targets set out by regulator Ofwat. We have moved away from the provision of new assets and are now focussing on how we can improve the performance of existing assets.
To achieve this, we need to understand the existing sites well and establish a strong foundation of data from the outset, which is where scanning, capturing and sharing is key. We cannot expect to deliver projects in the same way we always have and achieve different outcomes, therefore, the adoption of digital tools to assist in delivering projects in a more efficient way is critical to success.
Having started working in the water industry in the 2010-2015 AMP5 investment period as a graduate civil engineer, I can see how much the way in which we deliver projects has changed and what the benefits would have been back then from having a 3D-model, holding collaborative rehearsals, visual planning and working more closely with our clients, tier two suppliers and the rest of the supply chain.
How does water fare against other sectors when it comes to adoption of BIM?
We are far behind other sectors such as rail and buildings, but gaining momentum as more people are starting to realise the benefits of digital delivery and BIM adoption. Our baseline of understanding of BIM has improved and people are more confident and have a greater awareness of the capabilities.
We are starting to excel at embedding digital delivery - scanning, modelling, rehearsing, assembling, transferring and redefining the way we deliver and construct projects - but we still have some way to go. I’d like to see the tools being used across the board and digital delivery becoming the default position of the industry.
Our biggest challenge is confidence in the digital toolkit. Although we have proven the benefits and opportunities, we are fighting processes and ways of working that have been embedded for many investment cycles. Therefore, it is about resetting our default position, which takes time because it means changing people’s behaviours.
Has Covid-19 accelerated the adoption of BIM in water?
The pandemic has helped fast-track adoption and highlight the criticality of digital transformation in business. We have all realised that to do our jobs effectively, we need quality data as our springboard, we need that data to be accessible and shareable and we need to be able to collaborate in the right environments. All of which are fundamentals of BIM in water.
How can organisations implement change and fully embrace digital transformation?
My key piece of advice is to fully understand what and why you want to change something. How often have we invested in a piece of technology which is actually not fit for purpose, creates more work and ends up being disregarded? Take the time to map out what you currently have and the interfaces and how you can get them to interlink.
Be persistent, change takes time and you’ve got an array of characters to bring on the journey. The pioneers will be your biggest cheerleaders and the sceptics will be the negativity spreaders.
The sector in England and Wales is now entering year two of AMP7, is it possible for digital delivery to become business as usual before 2025?
For me, AMP6 was about spotlight projects, gathering case studies and seeking to understand. We now know BIM works and therefore AMP7 is about establishing it cross-sectionally, embedding the tools, establishing the processes, setting the requirements and training everyone. These are the years of pain, but they are fundamental to greenlight the way forward and create change.
AMP8 will be the period when we will know no other way of delivering projects. By then, I am confident we will have redefined the process and reset the default position.
What role should the supply chain play?
With their help and knowledge, we can de-risk a lot of our sites and minimise time on site. Utilities need to start working more closely and transparently with regards to portfolios of works to start to push procurement into the production and manufacturing environment. This is where we will see the joint rewards and efficiencies as we move forward.
You are chairing British Water’s BIM Conference 2021 on 25 March, why are platforms for collaboration and conversation so important?
It is so valuable to see practical examples of what is achievable and accessible at all stages of project delivery. If we can increase people’s knowledge and understanding of how BIM can be embedded in the water sector and start to make that change, that’s a fantastic step. Remember, it is about having the right tools at the right time for the job and not all the tools for every job.
More News and Articles
Feb 26, 2024
Following the successful pilot of its digital asset management technology with Anglian Water, Norwegian digital analytics company InfoTiles is embarking on an expanded proof of concept programme.
Feb 23, 2024
NLN Farms, located near the coastal town of Chocowinity, North Carolina, needed to transfer water from four aquaculture ponds to a nearby reservoir. The farm selected Xylem's Godwin CD100 dewatering pump for the job, with Field Smart Technology, which enables …
Feb 21, 2024
Following the devastating flooding from Cyclone Gabrielle in 2023, Watercare is acknowledging the ongoing recovery efforts one year on.
Feb 19, 2024
Our panel of international experts examines how utilities can embrace a global outlook when it comes to security.
Feb 16, 2024
The Silver Creek Water Corporation in southern Indiana manages millions of gallons of water, over hilly terrain, for 20,000 people. Over several decades, the utility has deployed technology from Xylem’s Sensus brand to remotely manage meters, prevent water loss and …
Feb 14, 2024
As the underground grows more crowded, the industry is under pressure to deliver highly accurate installations through a web of existing infrastructure.
Feb 12, 2024
In a new study, scientists at Heriot-Watt University have discovered a sustainable method to produce green hydrogen, a type of renewable fuel, using wastewater from the distilling industry. This new approach not only addresses the global challenge of water scarcity …
Feb 09, 2024
The UK water sector should give more focus to the themes of delivering resilient infrastructure systems and protecting and enhancing natural systems, according to a survey about the UK 2050 Water Innovation Strategy.
Feb 07, 2024
Drinking water scarcity is a global issue, including in Sweden, where it’s also used for crop irrigation and various industrial operations. This practice is neither sustainable nor efficient. Hence, MDU has launched an innovative research project aimed at developing efficient …
Feb 05, 2024
Industrial companies and commercial building owners wanting to reduce waste to improve cost efficiency and save water, must become smarter in their operations, writes Paul Hartley, chief commercial officer, Ovarro
Feb 02, 2024
New online training course in the renovation section of the e-learning platform: Lining with Cured-In-Place Pipes (CIPP). The flexible remote seminar comprises units about basics, proceudures, installation of UV CIPP, final work, and spirally-wound lining. One section was developed with …
Feb 02, 2024
The Watercare network investigation team are currently assessing wastewater pipes in Auckland suburb Mangere East, New Zealand.