Digital consents could save country $1.5bn a year
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An effort to formulate a consistent national online system for building consents is seen by its promoters as the toe in the door for a larger principle of interoperability in building and geographical information systems (GIS).
Building industry and government agency representatives have floated the initial concept to pertinent ministers. “We’re asking: if there were a national online consenting system, what would it look like, what’s the ownership model; what’s the liability model and so forth,” says one of the prime movers, Simon Lloyd-Evans, CIO of the Building and Housing group at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
“There is a clear and present need for a consistent online consenting process,” Lloyd-Evans says, particularly with the Christchurch rebuild beginning, everyone concerned should be “making sure the consenting process isn’t getting in the way”.
The online consenting application will require consistent digital representation of buildings and their location and Lloyd-Evans says he sees this as having other important benefits. It will combine building information modelling (BIM), GIS and consenting, which he says could be a world first for New Zealand. “To the best of my knowledge there is no other jurisdiction that has achieved this,” he says.
Currently “the construction sector has multiple rich sources of information, but they aren’t [working to] a standard,” he told the Digital Earth Summit, in Wellington. “Everybody’s doing their own thing and we need to collaborate.”
The “size of the prize” is about $1.5 billion, annually he says; this represents a predicted 10 percent increase in the productivity of the construction sector; “that’s one percent of GDP.”
Building industry representatives appeared on a video accompanying Lloyd-Evans’s talk, testifying to the beneficial effects of encouraging consistent digital representation of buildings, the sites they are built on and the services they are connected to. This will allow the industry to “prototype” a construction project more accurately, they said. In Lloyd-Evans’s words “it irons out any issues on the desktop, not during construction.”
The consistent representation would be kept to a small kernel, he says, so as not to unduly constrain the freedom of construction firms to work in their own way with their chosen digital tools.
There could be all manner of downstream beneficial effects, he told the conference. Firefighters, for example, could have access to the data and would know accurately where inflammable material is located in a building.
Richard Simpson, one of the organisers of the conference, says some of the benefits are doubtless not even visible yet.
He compares a standard building and site representation to the standard digital encoding of music which gave rise to unpredictable innovations such as the emergence of iTunes. Innovations sparked by the change could be a significant ingredient in New Zealand’s knowledge economy, he says.
However, before we head down this path let's remember what happened to the brainchild that was the Police National Computer system that promised everything in the 90's only to die a horrible and unworkable death!
What worries me is that protagonists of this venture bandy around all sorts of hypothetical numbers of dollars the 'could be' saved, 'might mean' and 'could result in' turns of phrase that get everyone excited.
Then we spend millions researching the feasability of it including the billions to actually implement it.
History then seems to commonly tell us that very often we find out that it either doesn't work, or becomes even more unwieldly than the pre-existing systems.
There are so many different strings to be gathered together on this for it to work properly on a National Level that I for one think it's a big ask, and I can't see it resulting in better outcomes.
I also don't think most people who don't work within the industry realize how complex the information required for a building consent application can be, and how it all has to tie into a multitude of other legislative requirements other than the Building Act.
We also have to remember that this present government with it's love of the DIY kiwi spirit has also left the loopholes in there for countless amounts of un-licensed work to be done by owner builders.
Not withstanding the potential disaster that lies ahead for NZ there, it will be far less common for those individuals to be able to prepare an application effectively and efficiently in a digital format!
Most can't complete the paperwork as it is.
I for one can see endless streams of data being sent back to applicants for correction, sometimes because the reciever of the information has no local knowledge of the applicants area which may otherwise have avoided this.
Improving content of applications in any form is the real key to resolving delays within the construction sector.
When one analyses the delays caused during the building conmsent application process, it is almost always as the result of a poor quality application, missing screeds of the required information for many of the local government departments to be able to approve their parts, and usually compounded by the fact that they hand it in on Monday and always expect it by Friday.
This is where most of the lost productivity comes from when the crews have to down tools while waiting on the building consent.
The only real potential cost savings may be in the real estate sector whereby local governments might remove their paper records and replace them with digital ones, because apart from the sending the application by e-mail rather than by post what other saving is there for the applicant? All the other parts of the process remain the same!
The technical improvements mentioned in the article are definately a big plus for the people of the future researching our archived information for whatever their needs may be, but saving 15bn a year, really?
The other option of course is to remove the front end regulation altogether, no building consents, just do the work and if it falls over we will try to make sure that we have extradition treatys in place everywhere and send the boys around!
After all the government feels that the LBP scheme will fix everything, apart from the commercial sector of course, to which the LBP scheme doesn't apply! Yeeha, now there's a way to not cost yourself money and build a secure future, not!
Improve the present system, yes, improve the quality of consent applications, yes, improve the digital capture and capabilities of design software, yes yes yes, but National Consent applications, no.
Proposed savings by improving efficiency and content of applications before you apply $ millions!
Proposed savings by having everything done by a processing and call centre in Mumbai, mmmmm probably millions!
Costs to the country of prusuing their preferred option, priceless!!
MASTERPLANS failed in more countries than anything else, now available in Noo Zeelund!
Posted by Jock Hyde at 17:29:33 on September 11, 2012
Your comments on the biggest source of delays is interesting, if not completely unexpected. It's one of those areas where you have to wonder if the problem is due to the complexity of the data being asked for, the competence of the people gathering it, the process they must follow, or the systems that support them. Or perhaps a combination of them? Whatever the answer, any solution needs to consider all these angles, as well as regulatory, organisation and technical aspects.
Sadly, this is NZ, and we have a terrible track record of asking such obvious questions. Apparently Number 8 Wire will do.
Posted by Russell at 17:47:10 on September 11, 2012