by Emma Hayes Emma Hayes No Comments

What can we learn from ‘The Matrix’? with Emma Hayes

Emma Hayes, Managing Director, Digital Built Consultants, shares her vision of what the future for virtual teams in Irish construction could look like in light of compelling research and the impact of COVID-19.

In 2016, I carried out a research study with Dr Noha Saleeb of Middlesex University in London to understand how globally dispersed teams could effectively collaborate and communicate on projects.

This research has never been more relevant than in the current situation where project teams that don’t need to be onsite or co-located to carry out their work are advised to work from home.

The research considered the global architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry trend towards the use of globally dispersed teams to achieve quality services at competitive costs.

Some organisations call this multi-office execution where a project team shares work with low-cost design centres for projects based out of high-cost offices. The teams collaborate and communicate using virtual methods such as sharing information over a common data environment and meeting virtually using Voice over IP (VoIP) and screen-sharing collaboration platforms such as MS Teams and Zoom.

The research discovered that in order to work effectively across multiple remote teams in different office locations the following factors need to be considered: team collaboration, traditional and virtual communication methods and types of team players.

BIM and collaboration

According to the research, design team collaboration is achieved through a group of multi-discipline skilled individuals with varying values, attitudes and goals working together to deliver a project. Teams of individuals or organisations working together can address problems and deliver outcomes not effectively achieved by working alone or in silos.

Digital construction processes such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) where project information is shared amongst the stakeholders using 3D models encourages the design team to collaborate.

Traditionally design teams have used Computer Aided Design  technology to develop project information along with traditional communication methods such as face-to-face meetings and email to collaborate throughout the project. The adoption of BIM has advanced this process to provide a new method of communicating digital information about a building in a three-dimensional format.

During the pandemic the need for teams to collaborate and communicate remotely is essential for projects to continue while keeping the individuals socially distant and safe from the spread of COVID-19.

One way for the design team to meet and communicate is virtually, using information technology methods such as instant messaging, videoconferencing, computer-screen sharing, and so on.

Research has found that communication technology is more effective when it is used to supplement rather than replace face-to-face interaction. Yet due to the pandemic teams may never meet face to face throughout the project lifecycle. Therefore, it may be necessary to consider alternative methods of virtual communication to simulate the spontaneous face-to-face interaction we’re more used to experiencing.

Introducing avatars

Science fiction films such as ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Avatar’ have depicted virtual environments where people can plug in and interact with each other virtually. The people in these environments take on humanoid features and communicate simultaneously with each other.

The computer gaming industry has been using avatars as first-person representations since ‘Maze War’ in 1973 and more recently with massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG). ‘World of Warcraft’, one of the most popular MMORPG’s in recent years, allows the players to select and customise a character (avatar) to work collaboratively with other characters in guilds (teams) to complete tasks and defeat opponents.

This collaborative working is supported by internal chat systems where the players can communicate through private chat or guild chat where they can communicate as a group. Gamers also utilise communications systems or VoIP software to communicate with other gamers online.

Technology advancements such as brain-computer interfaces will make this interaction more spontaneous. This is in addition to the presence of immersion using virtual reality, superimposition of virtual objects in real environments using augmented reality and mixed reality using a combination of both.

Ability to adapt

An important factor to consider when adopting virtual communication methods is the ability of the design team to adapt to new ways of communicating.

A barrier to interactive communication and open collaboration with BIM projects may be the lack of engagement by the project team with the tools and processes. For the design team to interrogate and interact with a project’s digital information they must be familiar with the digital tools such as BIM authoring software and review software.

Design teams can comprise of different dynamics, work cultures and levels of experience. The senior team members could be more mature and experienced; the less experienced team members could be less mature, newly graduated, however, more technically savvy. This dynamic may have an impact on how the team engages with the digital tools in a BIM project.

Younger team members who are digital natives are more suited to the BIM process, which entails handling project information contained in a virtual environment accessed at any time as a graphic representation of the building.

The opposite of this may be said of the more mature team members (sometimes referred to as ‘digital immigrants’) who have not grown up immersed in digital technology. The mature team members may retain habits from a non-digital past such as printing documents to read rather than reading on screen or requesting prints of drawings to review rather than utilising digital review tools.

To encourage interactive communication and open collaboration with BIM projects the team needs to engage virtually rather than in a traditional synchronous or asynchronous form, which involves a changing of mindset for the more mature team members.

Research relevance

The objective of the 2016 research was to explore the virtual relationship between members of a design team using BIM processes, understand the difference between collaboration and communication and the challenges of virtual communication between the people involved. This was carried out with case study research along with industry expert interviews and finally experimentation of a proposed solution.

The case study was selected for research as it involved a multi-disciplinary team co-located in three geographic locations where the team members interacted and communicated virtually throughout the project lifecycle and used BIM processes. Clash resolution meetings were carried out virtually with a unified communication platform with VoIP and desktop sharing.

Further research tested the premise that more efficient methods for virtual communication can add value in the workplace between project teams. A traditional face-to-face project collaboration meeting was compared with a project collaboration meeting using a Collaborative Virtual Environment (CVE) solution to carry out the same series of tasks.

Replicating face-to-face

Comparing the results of the research theorised how each demographic responded to different communication/collaboration methods. The field experiments tested whether a virtual environment with avatars for interaction could result in better communication and collaboration through an improved virtual communication environment.

Findings from the evaluations showed a discrepancy between the opinions of the more senior members of the team (digital immigrants) and the younger members (digital natives) who favored CVEs for collaboration and trust.

There were various reasons for the unfavourable results cited by the digital immigrants such as the technology was not responsive enough, it was difficult to view a model on a screen in the virtual environment or lack of experience in the medium.

However, overall the respondents supported this type of technology for future use in terms of being closer to replicating face-to-face interaction than current virtual solutions.

Tomorrow’s world

The future of this type of collaborative environment may result in the ability to attend a virtual site meeting in a BIM model with avatars of the team members walking down the site and interacting spontaneously to resolve issues with the building design before it is built.

It is clear that this global pandemic is very disruptive to our industry. I believe it is escalating the adoption of digital construction processes in particular remote collaborative working.

The implementation of collaborative virtual environments may help to improve the communication and collaboration experience for the project teams. The long-term benefit that this may have for the industry is that remote or virtual teams will become more normal.

As the Irish construction industry competes in a global economy to deliver building projects faster and at a more competitive cost, project teams will be able to utilise geographically dispersed teams with different expertise or from low cost centres throughout their network to collaborate on a project.

by Emma Hayes Emma Hayes No Comments

The inaugural Digital Built Consultants Bishopland Beginners Polo Tournament – Mens Match

(L to R: Team West Wicklow Hunt: Ronan Brophy, Lena Wegner, Ray Fisher, Neil Kinsella, Ella Stynes (Support Team), Alejo Tagle (Umpire/ Bishopland Polo), Ana Tagle (Support Team), Team South County Dublin Hunt: Andrew Stynes, Shane Cowley, Jimmy Byrne, Niall Clancy. Foreground: Lily the Beagle (Bishopland Polo Mascot)) Photo Emma Hayes

Amidst the beautiful backdrop of the Wicklow hills, Bishopland Polo, Ballymore Eustace was the stage for the Mens match held on 12th Sept 2018. Yellow Team; West Wicklow Hunt (WWH): Ronan Brophy, Lena Wegner (Honorary man for the challenge), Ray Fisher & Neil Kinsella took on Grey Team; South County Dublin Hunt (SCDH): Andrew Stynes, Shane Cowley, Jimmy Byrne & Niall Clancy for two adrenaline filled ten minute chukkas. Bishopland Polo owner Alejo Aita Tagle had the challenging task of adjudicating between the two teams and their interpretation of the rules.   The Mens match brought the tournament to an end and closes the beginner’s polo season. Alejo’s expert and patient coaching along with his experienced polo ponies has taken a mixed group of equestrians from their hunting, eventing, show jumping, dressage and hacking backgrounds into the exciting world of polo. The teams competed for the prestigious Bishopland Polo medals sponsored by local business Digital Built Consultants (

A balmy Indian summer evening provided perfect conditions for the encounter where spectators enjoyed watching an exciting sport along with some light refreshments. With cheers from the sideline the teams lined up and Alejo threw in the ball to get the game underway.

Laken local, Neil Kinsella, wasted no time and scored for Team WWH in the first few minutes. Despite the challenges by Team SCDH Neil put the ball between the post for a second time for WWH. The game was on now with high octane tackles from Andrew (SCDH) and Lena (WWH). Heavy hitters for both sides ,Hollywood Horse and Pony Trekking owner, Ray (WWH) and local Ballymore man Shane (SCDH) got the game moving. The teams charged up and down the pitch aboard their skillful polo ponies for a very exciting first chucca. WWH kept the pressure on but through roars of ‘foul’ and ‘c’mon ref’ SCDH were awarded a penalty which went wide. Unperturbed Jimmy challenged the goal again and scored for SCDH. Another goal for WWH just before the whistle blew to end the first chucca had the scoreboard at 3:1 to WWH.

L to R: Ray Fisher, Jimmy Byrne, Andrew Stynes, Neil Kinsella, Niall Clancy, Ronan Brophy (Photo Emma Hayes)

After a ten minute break in the evening sunshine and a few refreshments the rested polo ponies and riders went into battle for the second and final chukka. It was all to play for now and both teams came out goal hungry. WWH won the ball from the throw in and a ride off between Ray and Niall earned SDCH the ball. The ball passed between Niall and Jimmy who was challenged by Ronan. A full shot from Shane lobbed the ball down the pitch to Andrew who placed it between the posts. Ray kept the pressure on SDCH with a massive shot down the pitch for WWH which was chased down by Niall and Neil. A tackle from Ronan got the ball back but a quick move by Lena and her nimble steed stole the ball from SDCH which resulted in another goal on the scoreboard for WWH. Leading 4:2 WWH were gaining confidence only to be put back in their place with another goal from Andrew for SCDH. As the pressure mounted long hits from Ray and Shane were chased down by Niall and Neil for an exciting second chucca. Tackles from Jimmy, Andrew, Ronan and Lena kept the supporters cheering. Another score for Team SCDH evened up the scoreboard and a final challenge from Shane put the ball between the posts just before the final whistle blew. The final score for this thrilling match was Team South County Dublin Hunt – 5: Team West Wicklow Hunt – 4.

The Bishopland Beginners polo season takes a break for the winter but will be back in full swing in April 2019. Roll on next season!

(L to R: Niall Clancy, Neil Kinsella, Shane Cowley, Ray Fisher, Lena Wegner, Andrew Stynes, Jimmy Byrne (Photo Emma Hayes)

by Emma Hayes Emma Hayes No Comments

Digital Built Consultants sponsor the inaugural Bishopland Beginners Polo Tournament

(L to R: Alejo Tagle (Umpire/ Bishopland Polo), Team Digital Built Consultants: Felicity McCartan, Emma Hayes (Sponsor: Digital Built Consultants), Jimmy Byrne, Clodagh Brophy, Steve Hayes (Sponsor: Digital Built Consultants), Team Hollywood Horse and Pony Trekking: Noella Beaumont, Aishling Doyle, Ger McCarthy, Karyn Jamieson, James Sheeran (Umpire)) (Photo Ray Fisher)

The polo pitch in Bishopland Polo, Ballymore Eustace was the battle ground for the Ladies match last Wednesday (5th Sept 2018). Black Team: Digital Built Consultants (Jimmy Byrne (honorary lady for the evening), Clodagh Brophy, Emma Hayes, Felicity McCartan) took on Yellow Team: Hollywood Horse and Pony Trekking (Aishling Doyle, Karyn Jamieson, Geraldine (Ger) McCarthy, Noella Beaumont) in an exciting match of two ten minute chukkas. The game was closely umpired by Bishopland Polo owner Alejo Aita Tagle and local Equine Vet James Sheeran. The tournament closes the beginner’s polo season, where under Alejo’s expert and patient coaching along with his experienced polo ponies, keen horse riders can get a taste of the very exciting sport of polo. The teams battled it out for the prestigious Bishopland Polo medals sponsored by local business Digital Built Consultants (

(L to R: Emma Hayes, Felicity McCartan, Alejo Tagle, Karyn Jamieson, Jimmy Byrne, Aishling Doyle, Clodagh Brophy, Ger McCarthy) (Photo Steve Hayes)

The teams lined up for the throw in from Umpire James Sheeran which kicked off the first match of the Bishopland Polo Beginners Tournament.  Team Digital Built Consultants took an early lead with a goal scored in the first few minutes of play by hard hitter Jimmy and his agile polo pony. Following the rules of polo the teams switched sides after a score. Hollywood Horse And Pony Trekking (HHPT) played well to defend against the goal hungry Digital Built Consultants (DBC) team for the next few minutes. A brave tackle from Ger and a pass to Aishling gave HHPT a chance at goal but DBC’s defence was too much for HHPT. A foul by DBC gave HHPT another chance at goal with a penalty shot but the ball was wide. The ten minute chukka could not end soon enough for HHPT after a pass from Clodagh to Jimmy ended in another goal for DBC. Heavy rain did not deter the two teams from battling it out to the end of the first chukka but all were relieved when the whistle blew.


(L to R: Karyn Jamieson, Emma Hayes (Photo Steve Hayes)

After a ten minute break sheltering from the rain in the back of James’ horse lorry and few refreshments the rested polo ponies and riders braved the slippery ground conditions for the second and final chukka (the professionals play four chukkas with a different pony for each chukka). Once again, the teams lined up for the throw in and HHPT won the ball. Aishling cantered up the field towards their goal with Karyn supporting and defending the whole way but a tackle by Emma passed the ball back to Clodagh who took off at full speed towards the goal where Jimmy completed the play by putting the ball between the goal posts for a third time. Keen marking by Felicity and Noella kept the pressure on both teams throughout the match but Team Digital Built Consultants where not to be beaten with a final goal by their hired assassin Jimmy Byrne to seal the deal. The final score was Team Digital Built Consultants – 4: Team Hollywood Horse and Pony Trekking – 0.

The next match of the Bishopland Polo Beginners Polo Tournament will be held on the 13th September between the beginner’s men’s teams of the West Wicklow Hunt and South County Dublin Hunt.