The Role of Configurators in Building Design

Configurators are digital interactive tools that allow both customer and manufacturer to engage in real time to choose and design products from concept stage to finalisation. They help manufacturers explain their products while allowing customers to have input without too much interruption in the design and manufacture process.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a method of designing that starts with a 3D model. It is used to design and document every detail of a building so every stakeholder involved in the project understands what it will look like before even one brick is laid. 69% of businesses are using BIM and 75% of those surveyed said they saw positive returns on investment. Since 2016, it has been mandatory to use BIM for government-funded projects.

The Benefits of configurations in design

Construction is one of the least digitised sectors across the world, so it is important for the industry to understand the benefits, despite initial costs and lack of understanding.

Use of configurators brings a range of benefits including:

  • Improvements in accountability
  • Reduction in stock
  • Reduction in product failure and return
  • Better record keeping and less paperwork
  • Reduction in project delays
  • Enhancements in the quality of buildings
  • Improvements in safety
  • More environmentally sustainable construction
  • Higher productivity
  • Lower material costs
  • Shorter project lifecycles

Commercial benefits

Manufacturers rate the commercial benefits of configurators highly, in that they allow for easier management along the project lifecycle. From the start, architect’s software can be made compatible with manufacturer information, allowing for easier tracking of projects as well as a system-wide collaboration from all stakeholders involved.

The World Economic forum estimates a saving of over $1 trillion in the next ten years with the adoption of digitisation in the building industry.

Post-pandemic impacts of configurators

With the rapid move to working online in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote collaboration will allow teams to work quickly on projects. This is essential for getting projects back on track after all construction had been delayed for several months.

Of course, digitisation is not without its challenges. Initial setup, resistance to change, issues with learning new skills, lack of senior management buy-in, integrating with established systems and the time it takes for the migration of existing data are all potential roadblocks.

Using configurators in balcony design

The COACH configurator by Sapphire has positively received by those who have adopted it so far. The platform gives stakeholders the ability to specify all aspects of the balcony design including finishes, cassette size, decking, balustrade, façade and drainage solutions. All this can then be imported straight into design software. Built-in, is the ability to design a balcony that complies with legislation and includes a fire consideration report.

In the future, common data and software, from specifying to buying will be seamless, less costly, with fewer mistakes and greater efficiency and timeliness. Manufacturers will be able to offer the customer the ability to specify their price range and design needs at the concept stage, which in turn provides easier and more accurate tendering of projects and sourcing the exact resources for the job.

This article was based on an interview with Dr Nimrita Bassi, Associate Lecturer at the University of Kent and Director of the Marketing Essentials Lab.