How digitisation is changing the built environment

13th June 2023

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As a business with substantial growth aspirations, technology will no doubt play a significant role in Soben’s future. In this article, Associate Director David Lymburn summarises the key ways in which technology is transforming construction projects and the ways in which digitisation is changing the built environment.


I’ve always been interested in the rapid digitalisation of our industry. So, I was like a kid in a candy shop at the recent Digital Building Summit where I learned about some of the newest innovations transforming the built environment.

Nowadays there are three main areas that are leading the technological revolution in the construction industry:

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) – The industry has only started to realise the value AI can bring to the built environment. Use cases to improve productivity and reduce human error proliferate, but I’m fascinated by more creative examples e.g., software already in use to track and measure eye contact, facial expressions, and body language to determine the impact buildings and spaces have on humans.
  2. Digital Twins – A digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world object. In the construction world, a digital twin is an exact replica of a construction project or asset e.g., a building or group of buildings, a bridge, a highway or a city block, all the way up to an entire city. Companies like Soben and IES are now using this technology to model scenarios that help design actionable and affordable net zero roadmaps.
  3. Net-zero – Industry leaders are in a position of real power to mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis. It’s vital we step up and For example, project reporting should be based on all six of the greenhouse gases most responsible for global warming. Identify hotspots and where your carbon cost is the greatest.


Continued technological innovation provides huge opportunity to standardise, digitise and scale the way in which companies like Soben produce cost plans. We are using these technologies to improve how information is collated, manipulated and used to build an ever-evolving cost database to inform and improve the basis of the cost advice provided to our clients.


The use of virtual buildings and digital twins and how they can help reach net-zero.

Pioneered by climate tech innovators like IES, emerging technologies such as virtual buildings are already helping improve performance and mitigate risks. Virtual buildings are a type of technology that creates digital models of buildings and project sites, they have similar benefits to digital twins, such as detecting and preventing problems, predicting performance and optimising processes through digital simulation. Digital twins are the virtual representation of a physical object or system across its life cycle.

Digital twins and virtual buildings can be highly beneficial to areas such as sustainability because they reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint, and minimise the amount of physical material and energy needed to design, develop, produce and service products, especially where technology will be developed over the coming years, particularly since 80% of existing buildings in the UK will still be standing in 2050. Find out how Soben and IES are partnering to use digital twin technology to make sustainability affordable. 

The main question is, how prepared are companies to implement virtual buildings and digital twins to support the delivery of projects? Based on his experience at Deltek, VP of Product Management, Bret Tushaus, shared at the Summit that the general sentiment in the industry around the pervasiveness of technology is that the biggest growth opportunity comes through investing in more technology such as virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D printing.


How can digital construction support the UK’s retrofit agenda?

Currently, there is a £350 billion requirement to get the UK’s building stock to net-zero. As a result, the industry needs to leverage digital technology to bridge the resource and skills gap.

Different digital solutions can aid in determining the best approaches to achieving net-zero and help in the development of plans and interventions that leverage the potential of retrofitting.

Many, including Soben are already working on Carbon Cost Management, below are five steps to create an effective net-zero carbon strategy:

  1. Determine your scope
  2. Measure the footprint of your current projects.
  3. Implement your emission reduction strategy
  4. Offset emissions which cannot be reduced
  5. Disclose your emissions and reduction actions


It is evident how increasingly important it is for companies to explore new opportunities to digitise, automate and improve. But technological advancement alone isn’t enough – we must bring people along with it. At the summit we heard from industry leaders on the challenges of training people to use technology to its full potential, and the concern that universities are not equipped to prepare the next generation for innovations still on the horizon.

Technology is evolving at double the speed of people, and there needs to be a real focus on education or much of the effort around developing the technology could be wasted. It is important as a business and as a wider industry to share data from lessons learned together to adapt, improve and grow.

Discussions like the Digital Building Summit ignite various ways in which the industry can improve cost planning and benchmarking. However, the biggest lesson I learned was that technology is ahead. The world is changing, and the industry must embrace the direction of travel or get left behind.


To discuss technology in construction in more depth or the findings above, reach out to David Lymburn below.


David Lymburn

Associate Director – Buildings and Places, EMEA
BSc (Hons) MRICS
[email protected]
+44 (0)789 149 1701
+44 (0)141 297 1322