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How has the construction industry changed?


From the emergence of the e-budownictwo portal to the Electronic Construction Record system to the search engine for people with construction authorizations (e-CRUB), digitization is approaching the construction industry with great strides. What has happened in the construction industry so far, and what changes await us in 2023?

 

From this article you will learn:

- What were the various steps introducing digitization to the Polish construction industry

- What were the industry's opinions on the issue

- What challenges face the digitizing administration and construction workers

- What we can expect in the future


 

First stage of digitization

The first stage of digitization of the construction process began, like many other needed changes, as a pandemic aftermath. In the European Union, most countries have already introduced at least a hybrid model of construction workflow, with only Poland, Scotland, Romania and Ireland still using analog methods of communication between participants in the process.


In Poland, July 2020 can be taken as the beginning of the construction digitization process. That was when, on the joint initiative of the Ministry of Development and the General Office of Construction Supervision, the e-budownictwo portal was launched, where the first 9 electronic forms occurring in the construction process were made available as early as August.


Half a year later, in February 2021, regulations officially came into force, enabling electronic submission for the first nine construction procedures. The ability to download, fill out and send the first construction forms online completed the first stage of digitization and helped popularize the project to further digitize construction.


Second stage of digitization

The expansion of digitization was primarily aimed at regulating the collection of data and making it easier for interested parties to access it. The July 7, 2022 amendment to the Construction Law, which was supported by extensive consultations, triggered the creation of more systems to support the e-building portal. On July 20, it received the signature of the President of the Republic of Poland thereby officially introducing a number of regulations and systems.

The new regulations introduced, among other things:

  • enabling the keeping of the Construction Record in electronic form (EDB system),

  • enabling the keeping of the Construction Site Book (c-KOB) in electronic form,

  • introduction of an electronic Central Register of persons holding Construction Permits (eCRUB system)

  • regulating the activities of the e-Construction Portal.

July proved to be a breakthrough also due to the launch of the most awaited of the electronic forms - the application for a construction permit, which can also be accompanied by an architectural and construction design and development of a plot or land in electronic form.


As announced, the Digital Construction Book and Electronic Construction Record were launched in January this year and can be used. All you need is to have a trust profile, an e-ID or to confirm your identity through a bank.


In August, a joint effort by the Polish Chamber of Civil Engineers and the Polish Chamber of Architects also created the e-CRUB system (Central Register of Persons Holding Construction Permits). It is a database of about 130,000 engineers and architects with construction authorizations.


Third stage of digitization

The third stage of construction digitization will begin in June of this year, when it is planned to implement the System for Administrative Procedure Support in Construction (SOPAB). The system will deal with the collection and sharing of information on all spatial data, registers and records. It will also become a source for generating reports and templates for official letters. In subsequent stages, the system's activities will be expanded to include other modules.


The Development Ministry's intentions leave no doubt. The construction industry will continue to move toward digitization, so in the future we should expect the complete phasing out of paper construction logs and other documents. The July 2022 law sets a deadline of the end of 2029 for the mandatory transition to electronic forms of documents.





Industry feedback

Any solution that supports the digitization of construction is a facilitation of construction, which in practice translates into lower costs and acceleration of the work performed. Not surprisingly, the first, long-awaited changes were greeted with great enthusiasm, and a group of experts were involved in preparing the July 2022 amendment to the law.


However, currently only 2-5% of applications are processed digitally, leaving the Ministry unsatisfied and wanting to accelerate digitization. As Dorota Cabańska - chief building inspector - comments, "only full digitization will give a perceptible reduction in the costs of paper consumption, logistics and document storage."


Experts warn, however, that the pace of change must be adapted to the readiness of the Polish administration. Most in the industry agree that a decision to completely abandon paper documentation at this point would be far premature. The National Council of the Chamber of Architects of the Republic of Poland requests that a sufficiently long transition period be maintained, during which the two permitted forms of filing will be in force simultaneously, and the developer will be able to decide which form of documentation is most suitable for him.


Are the authorities ready for this?

Offices have been facing a shortage of suitable equipment for several years now. Another equally important problem is the proper training of officials. Efficient handling of digital applications in the office will not be possible if the facility's employees do not know how to properly perform the tasks assigned to them. Given the desire to accelerate the pace of the changes being implemented, there is little chance that authorities will have time to prepare for the process.


Engineers hit by digital exclusion

Engineers will face a similar problem as offices. More than half of decision-makers on construction sites are now over 50, with the result that some are at risk of digital exclusion. This results in a reluctance to change and introduce new technologies. The data seems to confirm these trends, with only 23% of experienced engineers in favor of new technologies.


Co pokaże przyszłość?

According to muratordom.pl, "according to GUNB estimates, the annual consumption of paper by the administration for documentation in the building permit application procedure in 2020 was 22.5 thousand tons, which required securing storage space with a total volume of 34 thousand cubic meters."


Digitization of construction is therefore very much needed, both from the perspective of the ministry, administration, business and citizens. As we have had the opportunity to observe, electronic applications and solutions introduced over the past two years have streamlined the investment process and reduced the burden not only on investors, but also on the architectural and construction administration and construction supervision authorities.


So we can expect further decisive steps toward the digitization of construction. What remains unknown, however, is the speed with which these changes will be implemented.

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