- could improve payments
Bitcoin is a method of recording any form of transaction across a peer-to-peer network of computers worldwide. It uses ‘Blockchain’ as its software platform. This stores data on “blocks”, bound cryptographically together into a “chain”. This digital ledger cannot be altered, only added to, and anyone on the network can access the latest version at any time.
BitCoins Growing Usage
Cambridge University research shows that in 2017, there are 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users actively using a cryptocurrency wallet, most of them using Bitcoin.
Now a report in CIM shows that industry think tank DotBuiltEnvironment is using this to develop two prototype applications for construction: ConstructCoin and the project banking app TraderTransferTrust. This could incentivise collaboration and make payment more transparent. Led by dotBuiltEnvironment CEO Neil Thompson, formerly Balfour Beatty’s head of digital research and innovation, a collection of thought leaders - lawyers, architects, engineers, software engineers, computer scientists, etc. - are pooling resources to create prototypes and identify test platforms. They plan to turn these initial ideas into concrete projects/proof of concepts in collaboration with institutions and other organisations.
ConstructCoin will commoditise and create a market for construction information, rewarding the creator of information with payment in a similar way to how Bitcoin generates value from financial information. “A spreadsheet of construction information might include a line for data that costs £1 to produce, which the client could buy for £2 when it is completed. This approach could do a lot to incentivise collaboration,” said Thompson.
TraderTransferTrust’s app would exploit Blockchain’s system and digital proof of work mechanism to ensure that project payment systems “pay-as-you-deliver”. The idea is to use ‘smart contracts’ to trigger payments automatically as conditions are fulfilled.
Learn from the USA
According to Francis Ho, of construction law firm Penningtons Manches, we may be able to learn from the USA where “…there are already business organisations who ask clients to donate entire data rich BIM models in return for assessments and insights into that data.” In his view this could help purchasers and suppliers better understand the impact of new technologies and techniques and identify trend. “The more data we can get, the more we can predict what to expect and where improvements can be made.” he said
Professional Judgement –v- Objective Assessment
However, established models of doing business could complicate its use. The question of satisfactory performance can be complex and is typically dependent on professional judgement, which is difficult to define in an automated system. “It may be suitable for activities where performance is more easily adjudged on an objective basis, such as where key performance indicators tied into incentive payments post-completion. Smart meters, for instance, could record whether utilities consumption in a completed building is within the tolerances agreed with the contractor and, if so, payment is automatically released from an incentive fund controlled by Blockchain.” added Ho.
Does It Grow on Trees?
Not exactly – but you could be forgiven for thinking so.
Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No one controls it. Bitcoins aren't printed, like dollars or euros – they're produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems.
Using it “Off-Site”
Designing buildings for factory sub-assembly already introduces a further discipline into the construction process. Adapting BIM systems to utilise ‘Smart Contracts’ will, in due course, present our sector with a further set of challenges. However, by then we will probably have evolved into a ‘cashless, if not ‘moneyless’ society, along with ‘printed buildings’. Until then we’ll keep sharpening our saws and chisels in the belief that there will always be demand for high level skills, however they are paid for.