400 interviews and 5000 responses to Barbour Index survey highlight construction's IT deficiencies.
The construction industry has failed to fully embrace information technology and is lagging behind other sectors, says a new survey.

The report*, compiled by Barbour Index, highlights a number of reasons for the slow pace of the IT revolution, the most significant of which is the lack of compatibility of systems used by different companies.

It looks at the impact of IT, examining the working practices of architects, QSs, M&E engineers, structural engineers and main contractors.

Based on more than 400 interviews and an analysis of 5000 responses from the Barbour Index building product compendium user survey, the report also reviewed 150 construction projects during the first quarter of this year.

The survey shows that access to technical and product information in the industry is still largely paper based, with about 90% of the industry storing project and product information in this way.

The report found that most project information is now recorded on a mix of paper and electronic media, but only one in six of the projects surveyed used electronic systems as the primary medium for storing information.

It also pinpoints varying levels of IT awareness among companies involved in different parts of the supply chain. It also notes that some firms are worried about contractual issues surrounding IT, including the legal status of electronic documents if a dispute arises.

The report does say, however, that more than half the professionals in the industry have improved their use of computer systems in the past year, and 60% have increased their use of the Internet.

The report says that 80% of architects and engineers have access to information in an electronic format, whereas only 40% of project teams have access to electronic information at their desks.

The survey also looks at the use of CD-ROM-based product and technical information among professionals, noting that it has increased about 20% over the past year.

Alan McBeth, director of the Midlands office of architect Chetwood Associates, which uses IT to link its offices with projects around the country, agreed that construction had been slow to utilise IT.

He added: "Construction does seem to pick up on these things 10 years after everyone else, but the use of IT in construction has increased in the last couple of years.

"Clients are already asking architects and others about their IT capability at interviews, wanting to know how they can manage projects if they are miles away from the site. They're looking for firms that have systems in place now.

"It is true that specific IT programs for different disciplines are not always compatible. But engineers, architects, QSs and contractors can still be linked via various single computerised filing systems, and over the next couple of years, the industry will have to start doing that."