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Metaverse, Blockchain, And The Construction Industry

Paul Doherty, President and CEO, The Digit Group

Metaverse, Blockchain, And The Construction IndustryPaul Doherty, President and CEO, The Digit Group

There is an enormous amount of “word salad” articles, podcasts, etc., regarding our construction industry’s adoption or lack of adoption of the latest technology/innovation fad of the day. I am in empathy with our construction industry community in our current dilemma. This short piece is meant to provide some horizon lines and comfort that we, holistically, are headed in the proper direction.

Construction Documents as the Digital DNA of the Built Environment

As the fulcrum of how all projects exist and are conducted, construction documents are the foundation elements of how the built environment conducts business. Usually, Construction Documents are how the designer communicates the design intent to the constructor on behalf of the building owner. As an industry, we have moved relatively fast from physical drawings and specifications as the construction documents to the emergence of digital drawings (CAD/BIM) and specifications as the new standard of care. As digital standards of care move from finite files to decentralized streamed legal documents through processes like Smart Contracts, our industry is yet again challenged to keep up with the times. The one element of stability as the workflow processes of designing, building, and delivering a building in today’s world is that design professionals are more valued than ever as they produce the Digital DNA of the Built Environment.

The journey from Digital Twins to Virtual Worlds to our current state of the Metaverse

Industries like aerospace and pharmaceutical manufacturing have been using Digital Twin protocols and processes for decades. I personally find it amusing that many in our construction industry that/ suddenly realize that the construction documents that are necessary for the contractual obligations of delivering a building for an owner are actual Digital Twins. Welcome to the party that has been operating since the mid-1990s in the US construction industry.

The difference today is that there is an application programming interface (API), which is a set of definitions and protocols for building and integrating application software. This allows industry associations, AEC companies, AEC individuals, and the open market to interface together in a digital environment that can incorporate AEC traditional processes of what, why, and how to build the built environment while also capturing and developing the foundation of the digital built environment in the form of what Mark Zuckerberg calls the Metaverse. At TDG, as real estate developers, we have been capturing our contracted digital assets up until our contracts with our consultants are ended. The interesting timing of what to do with these digital assets is the growth and adoption of putting these digital assets into a gaming environment. This allows a richer experience to interface with the digital assets either as VR/ Immersive, AR/Augmented, or XR/Mixed Reality. By allowing different “Virtual Worlds” to connect together through the gaming environment, we can create a Federated Metaverse, creating digital real estate. This decentralized virtual environment is fertile ground for leveraging existing construction documents into the Metaverse, providing new revenue streams through new experiences.

”By allowing different “Virtual Worlds” to connect together through the gaming environment, we can create a Federated Metaverse, creating digital real estate"

DLT, Smart Contracts, and Blockchain

Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) is the formal term used to create the large bucket of descriptions that the media calls Blockchain. In its essence, it is a decentralized approach to managing data in a trusted digital environment. The design of DLT/Blockchain is very attractive to the Construction Industry for the following reasons:

• Our industry already works in a decentralized framework, where we use contracts to describe the who, what, why, and how (and how much) to build a building on a specific project.

• Blockchain places data into a data block that becomes trusted over time through the chain of immutable data. Our traditional contracts of Owner/Architect, Owner/General Contractor. General Contractor/Sub-Contractor that are based on a Parent/Child framework is a seamless fit for a function of DLT/Blockchain technology called Smart Contracts.

Smart Contracts are one of the major technology breakthroughs for our industry as it provides a trusted system that is familiar yet provides a streamlining and improvement of many project functions such as; QA/QC, Work In Place, Project Payments, etc.

Woven Collisions: NFTs, Metaverse and the future of the Construction Industry

3Another use of DLT/Blockchain technology is the process of creating and exchanging Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). According to Wikipedia, NFTs are the unique and non-interchangeable units of data stored on a digital ledger (Blockchain).NFTs can be associated with easily-reproducible items such as photos, videos, audio, and other types of digital files as unique items (analogous to a certificate of authenticity) and use blockchain technology to give the NFT a public proof of ownership. At TDG, we are leveraging NFTs for the built environment in the form of:

• The design aesthetic of a building

• The elements that make up the building (NFTs for materials, systems, equipment, appliances) that be measured for both work in place and lifecycle performance

• Creating both UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGD) and Environment/Social/Governance (ESG) measures for active NFTs

• NFTs as an element for all Smart Contracts in the Construction Industry

The immediate use of NFTs that we have implemented is to develop virtual galleries for the display and transactions of NFTs by celebrities, iconic collectibles, and luxury merchandise. This woven collision of NFT’s being experienced in the Metaverse is just the beginning of what we see as a decentralized Metaverse that has infinite experiences all experienced in a world of digital real estate.

What an amazing time we are living in today. We are all pioneers in a new age that creates a tremendous value of the use of the digital DNA of our built environment.

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