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June 10, 2021 Uncategorised

An unlikely source of inspiration for advocating standardisation

Andrew Gamblen
Digital Platform Solutions Manager

Growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s I spent a lot of my time on computers. I guess some people could and would have called me a geek (those who know me personally probably still do!) for this passion of mine growing up, and at that time it very much was the realm of a minority who actively participated in this niche. You had to be a little geeky because of the complexity of how it worked.

So in the context of computer games, it’s quite interesting to see how over the last decade and a half, what was a niche has become much more mainstream within society. Through the popularity of a few standout franchises, it’s safe to say that pretty much everyone today has had exposure to, and even played, a computer game in some way shape or form.

There are two games which parents of children that are a certain age know of above all others, and one specifically I’d like to look at…Personally I have spent very little time playing this game, but it’s impossible to ignore the influence that it has had.

Minecraft.

Every block in Minecraft has specific properties (aesthetic or functional) and the creator chooses the blocks based on their requirements to create their vision.

The first to popularise “Early Access”, the best selling video game of all time, 131 million active monthly users as of October 2020, a game which has launched hundreds if not thousands of peoples’ online careers, and one of the best known creative outlets.

It’s this creativity within Minecraft which is of particular interest to me. From replicas of well-known buildings and locations (The Acropolis, Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium), to custom medieval themed cities and castles, to fully functioning calculators and even computers with memory (yes, it even plays DOOM!); the scale of creativity within this game is absolutely staggering. Some creations take months or years to complete with several players all coming together to complete the vision.

What makes this even more impressive is that a huge proportion of this creativity is achieved with standard blocks and pieces that come “out of the box”. Every block in Minecraft has specific properties (aesthetic or functional) and the creator chooses the blocks based on their requirements to create their vision.

“But what does this have to do with Construction?” I hear faintly in the distance. Well, the industry is at a critical crux point as I’m sure we can all agree. The rise in technology adoption, BIM, MMC, Machine Learning, Organisational Digility etc. are all putting pressure on the industry to change.

All of these influences require standardisation in some way, and a common barrier to standardising is the perceived notion that there will be a lack of creativity and design freedom because of standardisation.

If we look to Minecraft, it’s clear that standardisation doesn’t stifle creativity, it gives context to creativity by defining a set of constraints in which to work, and those who like to push the boundaries will create something from these standard blocks that people never thought possible.

A snapshot from Greenfield City in Minecraft, created by Greenfield Minecraft Team

In construction we’re still focused on “defining the blocks” from scratch each time on every project. This results in a process that is cumbersome, time-consuming, and in-efficient.

There is the skill, the knowledge, and the technology out there now to enable us to define standard blocks that can be used regardless of sector, and in some instances we already do (think of steel beams/columns), it will just take time and patience. Once this is completed, construction will be changed irrevocably.

To make a couple of elements clear though, I’m not advocating for industry professionals to lose their jobs due to “the machine”, or for all buildings to be reminiscent of old Eastern Block apartment buildings.

We will never lose the human element within the design, construction, and operation phases of an asset. The human element provides a factor and a feel that is incredibly difficult to replicate by a machine, and we will always have buildings that must be iconic in some way that require a designer’s flair to wow the onlooker and an engineer’s skill to make it function.

However, what we can do with standardisation is mobilise the industry to provide an answer to the perpetual chronic shortage, a way to provide a clear and transparent process where all stakeholders are involved and work collaboratively, and a way to ensure longevity of an industry that, whilst is the cornerstone of any global economy, is slowly decaying.

This is our goal within Collida. To define the standard blocks that we use to ensure the customer’s needs are met, and whilst it’s unlikely you’d ever be able to create a computer using our blocks to play DOOM, it’s certain that we’d be able to provide a product that meets the social, economic, and sustainable requirements of a customer.

All of this from standardising our blocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking of creativity, check out this incredible fly through of Greenfield City, created by Greenfield Minecraft.