Dame Judith Hackitt draws crowds at digitalisation and building safety debate

Judith debate

ETIM UK was back at Digital Construction Week 2023 recently, drawing a large audience to the main stage for a panel discussion chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt on the topic of ‘Why standardised product data and building safety are inextricably linked’. The panellists were all senior leaders representing the key players in the construction supply chain:

  • Manufacturer: Nico Van Der Merwe, CEO, Signify UK and Ireland (formerly Philips Lighting)
  • Merchant: Frank Elkins, Chief Operating Officer, Travis Perkins
  • House Builder: Angus Macdonald, Founder and CEO, Galion
  • Major Contractor: Stephen Jeffery, Chief Technical Officer, Mace

Introducing the session, Judith emphasised that the UK is moving into a different phase of building safety – that of implementation – with digital technologies being used to support that implementation process, warning too that those businesses which are slow to adapt could be left behind.

The key themes emerging from the discussion included:

  • Larger businesses with more digital resources and expertise need to come together to help SMEs digitalise
  • The construction industry needs to focus on collaboration
  • Access to high quality product data is a challenge for businesses
  • Trade bodies are a major force in driving the digitalisation agenda, particularly with reference to the focus on high quality product information
  • Digitalisation is a journey, a continuous partnership, and businesses that do not adapt could be left behind
  • Standards and procedures need to be crystal clear

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, Judith conducted an independent review for the UK Government into building regulations and fire safety. Since publishing her final report in 2018 she has continued to press for regulatory change and for industry culture change. Her recommendations for radical reform of the regulatory system recently received Royal Assent in the Building Safety Act 2022.

ETIM is the tried and tested data standard for technical product data adopted by the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) since 2019 for building materials, HVAC and plumbing products, and the Electrical Distributors’ Association (EDA) since 2017 for electrotechnical products.

John Newcomb, CEO at the BMF says, “We were delighted to see a full house for this important debate on the importance of digitalisation in achieving building safety, and I would like to thank Judith and all four of our panellists for their thoughtful and considered contributions. One of the prime take-aways of the event is the need for collaboration across the whole supply chain to drive change. High quality product data is key to successful digitalisation, and we are working with materials manufacturers and builders’ merchants to adopt ETIM as the standard data model.”

Margaret Fitzsimons, CEO at the EDA adds, “We are very proud of this great example of collaboration between two trade associations with similar goals. The Electrical Distributors’ Association (EDA) and the Builders Merchants Federation have been working together since 2020 to help standardise technical product data for the good of the construction sector – the data standard is ETIM and the joint venture is ETIM UK. Today we brought together senior representatives from the supply chain to tell their data stories in a panel discussion at Digital Construction Week. We were exceptionally honoured that Judith agreed to chair our panel discussion that highlighted the importance of accurate, reliable and standardised data to ensure building safety.

“The main stage auditorium was packed – standing room only – and the discussion could have gone on for much longer. It was great to see so many other industry colleagues showing their support.”

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