The ability of blockchain and smart contracts to build a network of trust without having to trust each other has a huge potential to disrupt a construction industry held back for decades by conventional ways of thinking and behaving
Of course, not everything is perfect when it comes to blockchain and the potential impact that it could have on construction. It’s no secret that the construction industry is very resistant to change. In terms of infrastructure and administration systems, construction does not seem fully prepared to embrace blockchain yet. It’s simply not mature enough for implementing blockchain at its full potential. We are talking about the least digitised industry where around 95% of the produced data is thrown out of the window. It is evident, then, that before we properly introduce blockchain and smart contracts we have to build the right context that will accommodate them.
It was not long ago that Mark Farmer’s review of UK construction was published. The title of this review was ‘Modernise or Die’. A strong but in any case representative title regarding the present and future of construction. Lack of investment in innovation, limited collaboration, and structural fragmentation are only a few of the problems that the UK (and global) construction are battling against. With this problematic situation in mind, it becomes evident that an extensive implementation of blockchain in construction may not be realistic before we heavily invest in digitisation more generally.
There are moves to introduce a specific construction digital currency or ‘bitcoin for construction’. There are already two projects, initiated by dotBuiltEnvironment (formerly BIM 2050 group), towards that direction: the ConstructCoin and the TraderTransferTrust (project banking app).
Regarding the ConstructCoin, the project is mainly focusing on the production and proper management of data related to construction. Similar to bitcoin, a reward will be introduced for anyone who generated construction information.
As far as the TraderTransferTrust app is concerned, the main idea is to put together a system that could digitally provide valid proofs of task completion and based on these proofs it will be able to trigger payments. A precise ‘pay as you deliver’ method.
The Construction Blockchain Consortium is a public research umbrella which explores the potential benefits that the blockchain could have for construction. Its mission is based on three main pillars:
● Knowledge transfer
● Research and development
● Education and training
With more than 60 participants at the moment, the Construction Blockchain Consortium initiative has the potential to pull great weight. But so far, it is mostly a structure to start discussing opportunities.