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Connecting people and place: the benefits of a Digital Built Britain

With the BRE Cities Convention just a few weeks away, two of our speakers and both leading lights of the built environment world provide an insight into what is really driving connected, smart places and a Digital Built Britain.

“The drive for a Digital Built Britain resulted from the pressing need for a more productive, efficient way of planning, building and maintaining assets. The construction and infrastructure sectors had been notoriously slow to embrace technology and data-centred ways of working,” says Olly Thomas of built environment consultants PCSG.

The Government Construction Strategy, published in May 2011, sought to reduce the cost of government construction projects by 15-20 per cent. It included the phased roll-out of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Fully-collaborative 3D BIM was mandated on centrally-procured construction contracts by 2016.

Today, the vision for a fully Digital Built Britain is being championed by the Centre for Digital Built Britain at the University of Cambridge. A partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University, it seeks to deliver a ‘smart digital economy’ for infrastructure and construction – one which puts the needs of citizens and their environment at its centre.

Olly continues: “In addition to our existing, ageing infrastructure, we face the challenge from diminishing resource to fund new infrastructure. These problems make a new approach ever more important.”

At the same time as organisations strive to connect people and places, and drive much greater economic, social and environmental value through planning, design, construction and operation, huge steps are being taken to connect people and buildings.

What’s driving this? It’s a mix of interrelated conundrums…

Research by the British Council for Offices looking at productivity in offices demonstrated that poorly performing buildings currently cost us £2,000 per individual in lost productivity each year. In addition, research by Innovate UK showed the energy consumption in buildings is on average 3-4 times of the original designed energy performance level. This leads to significant costs for companies and the UK economy, not to mention the impact on the individuals working and expecting to perform in these buildings.

Susie Tomson, lead consultant at Entelligently, explains: “Our vision for Entelligently was to increase performance, wellbeing and productivity by improving staff comfort, satisfaction, productivity and organisational reputation, empower buildings users through ‘snudges’ – smart nudges – providing users with information so they can influence their own comfort as well as the building’s sustainability outcomes, and target energy performance.”

The major benefit of connecting people and buildings is, of course, productivity… measured through comfort and resetting building performance back to ‘as designed’.

“We connect the comfort and reported reason for discomfort in real time, recording it alongside the current internal and external environmental conditions. This helps people influence their own comfort as well as identifying those really poorly performing areas of a building where infrastructure changes may be required,” Susie continued.

“The major benefit is increased comfort that leads to improved staff wellbeing. This is key to productivity: comfortable, healthy staff who feel valued and stay longer, reducing staff turnover and sickness rates and increasing productive time.”

For landlords and building owners, providing an ongoing measure of building performance from the view of building user, their tenants, can be valuable. This insight can evidence a quality workspace, proactively engage with tenants and improve tenant retention.

Olly Thomas and Susie Tomson will both be speaking at the BRE Cities Convention on 27-28 November 2018. We will be exploring how digital technologies can help rural economies, towns and cities deliver services more cost effectively, improving the planning, design and delivery of transport, infrastructure and buildings to create healthier, sustainable, resilient and prosperous places. For further information please visit

This two day event can also be booked as two one day conferences. Please find details below:

Cities Regeneration Conference, Tuesday 27 November, BRE, Watford

This one-day conference will explore masterplanning, social impact and transport-led regeneration, as well as the effective use of data and mapping. Supported by real-world case studies and drawing upon the insights of experts, It will also seek to create the case for developing more sustainable and connected communities supported by effective infrastructure for further information go to

Cities Infrastructure Conference, Wednesday 28 November, BRE, Watford

This one-day conference will assess the key challenges facing urban infrastructure and explore how collaboration can better deliver projects. Supported by real-world case studies and drawing upon the insights of experts, it will showcase digitising planning & construction, citizen engagement, connected infrastructure and managing the built environment. For further information go to

About the author – John Twitchen

Many of today’s challenges can be cured by connecting people and places. All of the projects I work on relate back to wider social value – across civil society in rural economies, towns and cities. They cover a wide range of issues from economic development to environmental improvement through the medium of stakeholder engagement, breaking down complex issues into understandable, bite-size chunks.