The growth of the geographical information in the construction industry

The EO4GEO project -the Earth Observation/Geoinformation sector Blueprint project- team interviews to José Antonio Viejo, Chief VET & Employment Officer at Fundación Laboral de la Construcción, on how EO4GEO and Construction Blueprint can collaborate.*

What do you think are the major similarities with your sector?

At first sight, many people could say there are not significant similarities between the sector of space geo-information and the construction. While the first one is high technology based, construction industry is frequently considered one of the less digitalized sectors. However, both sectors are converging quickly in many areas.

The presence of new technologies is constantly growing in construction, led by the spread of BIM software (Building Information Modelling). BIM not only affects the constructive process, but also the final outcome: coming buildings and infrastructures are containing a huge amount of data regarding usage, maintenance, relations with their environment, etc. Since smart cities are becoming reality, the necessity to deal with big data is continuously growing. In the same way, Geographic information and geo-localization are becoming increasingly important in many fields. GIS is already a reality in our industry, starting to be used by Public Administrations for many purposes. Geo-localization is becoming more and more important in civil works, being used for example to drive machinery for road construction.

What is the one take away from trying to identify current skill shortages and gaps between education and sectoral needs?

It’s obvious that drastic changes are coming, and we all have the duty to upskill our current and future workforce to face new technological challenges.

“Lifelong learning” is evolving to “daily learning”, since innovations come to market faster and faster. Unfortunately, many workers are not aware of new innovations affecting their craft or trade. Even more, we do not know what the next change will be. Therefore, developing devices to detect breaking innovations will allow us to anticipate sectoral needs and, hopefully, to provide suitable training just in time to push the evolution of our industry.

Digital transformation is in the top, but many other fields are crucial for us, mainly energy efficiency and circular economy. For instance: yesterday window installers’ main skill was just to set a window in a wall; today their key skill is to isolate the window properly and tomorrow they will have to deal with reusable materials and to digital connect windows with curtains, lighting, air conditioning, heating, etc. so that all these systems can automatically interact to optimize comfort and energy saving. New training is required to upskill workers in order to convey these new solutions to the market.

What are the challenges when it comes to implementing the Blueprint action plan?

There are many and they are huge. We are facing uncertain scenarios, new technologies are arising continuously and no matter what we plan, future will be different. We are sure that everything is going to change, but we don’t know how and where to. This is an enormous challenge that demands permanent collaboration between stakeholders from many countries, since the smallest innovation thousand miles from our country will strongly affect us in a couple of months. Continuous effort to detect innovation and to foresee its impact is fundamental, not only within our industry but also from a more comprehensive perspective, since every single change in whatever other sector may critically influence us.

Could you propose an example of how EO4GEO and Construction Blueprint can collaborate, especially in relations to the sub-sector green economy?

There is a wide room to collaborate, more than what we can foresee. For instance, drones to analyse building thermal behaviourroads connectivity to make traffic fluent, GIS systems to support the maintenance of highways and railways, GIS to help plan energy renovation in poor areas, big data and connectivity to predict water breakdowns, etc. The only limit will be our imagination.

Apart from the technological point of view, Blueprint projects share common goals and strategies, so synergies arise in a natural way when we talk about designing methodologies and tools to anticipate skills mismatches.