The History of ITeC
ITeC was set up in 1978 when it was considered necessary to find a tool to enable progress to be made in the construction sector and to represent the concerns of the multiple agents involved from both private and public sectors. From the outset, it was decided to give the institute a legal status of non-profit-making private foundation, supervised by a board representing different professional associations, Catalan Government departments related to the sector, as well as the world of business and universities. This framework is still recognisable in the current ITeC board, although over the years the range of represented agents has been broadened.
At that time, the offer of postgraduate training was practically inexistent; as such, one of the first tasks of ITeC consisted in specialised graduate training, such as the construction site manager course, one of the most successful proposals. As the various technical colleges began correcting these deficiencies, the Institute gradually withdrew from the area of teaching, which is nowadays limited to BREEAM certifier training courses and for ITeC TCQ software users and methodology.
Another important concern of that time was the normalisation of the Catalan language in the construction sector. ITec promoted a lexicographical commission, which led to the publishing of a Catalan dictionary of construction vocabulary, one of the books almost certainly to be found on any professional’s bookshelf during the eighties. In addition to this example, publishing at ITeC has followed an intense rhythm, with over 600 books produced throughout its history.
Among the classic points of conflict in the construction process are project prescription and budgeting. ITeC contributed by developing data bases which would act, in the first place, as a reference point for extremely precise definitions of materials, construction elements and building works and as an attempt to find a balance between common practices in the sector and regulatory requirements. Secondly, prices were assigned to all these elements to provide additional reference points for costing. The first operative data base dates from the year 1983 and was designed specifically for the building work promoted by the Barcelona City Council. A year later, the first book of building and town planning costing was published under the name of BEDEC (Structured Data Bank of Construction Elements) and since then ITeC has been committed to extending, updating and perfecting the contents.
What at first was merely a data base of definitions and prices, restricted to the area of building and town planning, has now expanded to completely cover all of the different market niches. The various expansions have included civil engineering (1989), safety and health and quality control testing (1992), maintenance (1998), rehabilitation (2000) and restoration (2003). Since 2004 it has also been possible to consult both the volume and type of waste materials associated with each element of the data bank as well as C02 emissions and energy costs, with a view to planning administrative procedure.
During the decade of the nineties, it was soon evident that the growing complexity of BEDEC along with the popularisation of PCs, underlined the limits of using books as consulting material and, as a result, more powerful computerised versions began to be developed. Apart from a broader scope, the data banks published from 1994 onwards provided more facilities for the user in defining element parameters. On the other hand, BEDEC was increasingly linked to the commercial offers of different suppliers of materials.
Since 2001, the BEDEC bank can be consulted from the ITeC web site and has become the most visited digital resource specialising in construction throughout the country.
The data base is currently expanding the environmental sector as a way of facilitating the application of eco-design criteria in projects. This is the intention of the new web site created in 2016 offering consultation on environmental product and system information with more useful parameters for life cycle analysis. Unlike the first versions of BEDEC where only generic data on environmental impact could be consulted, applied to a wide range of products, it is now possible to find specific data provided by each manufacturer permitting the drawing up of a more precise and environmentally more responsible prescription. ITeC is committed to maintaining this information in line with further investigations by the materials industry into their products’ life cycles, at the same time as widening the spectrum of quantifiable environmental parameters.
PCs reached maturity at more or less the same time as ITeC itself, the Institute recognising a valuable opportunity for the sector with regards to what was then known as “computerisation”. ITeC organised the first international symposium on computer-aided design for architects and civil engineers, coinciding with the Construmat trade fair in 1987, an event subsequently repeated in 1989 and 1991.
Prior to CAD software taking its place in the sector, ITeC was already marketing software for budget preparation. From 1985 onwards, the Cost:ITEC program enabled the sector to use the construction element data base which had been already in operation for three years. Later on, the SEGUI:ITEC program took advantage of all the details contained in the budget to provide follow-up of the building work in real-time.
The performance of this software and data base could be put to the test during the building work for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, where a new method of construction process management was applied, monitoring time, cost and quality parameters.
This methodology was transferred in 1997 to the new TCQ application, designed in modular form with specific tools for the stages of project design, contracting, planning and follow-up. The latest module to be included in the TCQ suite refers to environmental project management, involving the quantifying of environmental, energy and waste impact. The methodology has been adapted to the new collaborative tools with the inclusion of BIM, first in the budgeting phase (2016) offering the possibility of extracting information from the BIM models using the IFC format and subsequently in the certification phase (2017) with the possibility of communicating to the BIM model the real progress being made in the work and developing a graphic follow-up of the budget units completed.
The latest tool being developed is TCQi, which will enable users to work in a virtual space in the cloud from any medium, with the respective program and data storage updating. As this is a virtual tool it will enable work documentation and management to be accessed at all times and will form an even more integral part of BIM collaborative environments.
If nowadays rehabilitation is seen as playing an overly secondary role to new building work, in the eighties the situation was even more extreme. In 1983 ITeC was already aware of the potential of this market and organised the first rehabilitation symposium in Spain. Furthermore, in 1989, ITeC moved to a new head office as a result of the renovation of an old factory next to the Poble Nou district in Barcelona.
During the nineties, ITeC developed different protocols for the identification and repair of building pathologies, particularly structural elements. Possibly the most well-known of these protocols concerns ceilings built using calcium aluminate cement which enabled structures built with this material to be rapidly identified using limited resources. This protocol was applied on a large scale as part of an urgent campaign to draw up an inventory of public housing stock. ITeC also promoted the publishing of the NRE-AEOR-93 regulation which corrected a legal loophole regarding structural rehabilitation work on residential building ceilings.
ITeC regarded maintenance as being just one more discipline within the construction sector and therefore included it in their digitalisation strategy. In 1992 the Manten:IETC software was presented to facilitate technical and economic follow-up not only of corrective maintenance of existing pathologies but also preventative maintenance planned to minimise future pathologies. The successor to this program was DicPla, which led to the developing of the Building Book, presented in 1997. The PGMe software (1998) covering maintenance planning also provided an answer to the specific needs of large-scale property asset administration. Currently, further steps have been made in improving all the building and town-planning maintenance tool supports and transferring them to cloud computing with the new TCQi MNT application.
At one time, Spanish building regulations were notoriously out of step. Looking back to 2006, the year when the new Technical Building Code (CTE) was published, some of the regulations overturned had been in circulation since the seventies. Prior to the necessary modernisation by the CTE, various Catalan governments had attempted to patch some of the most urgent regulatory gaps as far as their authority permitted. Given this situation, ITeC acted as a neutral reference point with regard to the interests of professionals, companies and the administration itself, taking an active part in the drawing-up of regulations for fly ash concrete (1985), water, gas, electricity and telephone installations (1986) and thermal insulation in buildings (1987). ITeC also provided consultancy for the Andorran government between 1988-1989, developing a regulation for design loads for buildings that took into account the orography and climate of the country.
Another line of work was related to the promotion of waste recycling which was not initially permitted by on-going regulations. As a result, a proposal was drawn up for the guaranteed use of granulate produced by the crushing of building debris (1993-95) and another to incorporate rubber pellets in bituminous mixtures for road surfacing (1998).
Moving on to a different sector from specific building solutions, ITeC has also provided consultancy services in the drawing-up of the 1983 school building regulations, the 1985 Barcelona Metropolitan Corporation rehabilitation bylaw and the habitability regulations of 1983 and 2009.
As we have said, the Technical Code has proved to be a wide-ranging reform for the sector, and as such, ITeC could not fail to contribute to its preparation. Between 2001 and 2003, the Institute intervened in a series of workshops dealing with different topics: masonry structures; reinforced, pre-stressed and confined masonry structures; non-reinforced masonry structures; waste removal; waste water within the Basic Public Health Document. After its publication, collaboration has continued by addressing the unresolved question of the inclusion of rehabilitation in the CTE.
ITeC’s main role is to provide technical services but we are fully aware that the sector is affected by market forces. As a result, in order to act within the construction sector it is essential to know and understand the market: the reason why some are growth areas and others are not, what is to be expected in the future and what makes a construction product successful.
In the eighties, the tools used to measure the financial progress of the construction sector were very modest: it is worth remembering that an extremely basic statistic such as Building and Housing was not introduced until 1990. It was in this context that in 1983, ITeC was given the assignment of drawing up a census of construction sector companies in Catalonia, which compiled figures of 16,140 companies, a fraction of the over 90,000 companies at the peak of the cycle in 2007.
In 1990, ITeC entered into collaboration with Euroconstruct, a group of independent bodies dedicated to the economic analysis of the construction sector, taking on the commitment of drawing up six-monthly reports on the state of the Spanish market with forecasts for 2-3 years ahead. Euroconstruct was also an interesting opportunity to view the reality of the construction market in other European countries (currently 18) and to compare analysis methods with those of other experts. Through Euroconstruct, ITeC has been able to explain to the rest of Europe the extraordinary cycle of the sector’s growth and decline, which has understandably been the main topic of the last fifteen years.
We are now totally accustomed to our role within the European market but this was not always the case. At one time, the sector was extremely uncertain about the lifting of restrictions for the free circulation of construction products, effective from 1993 onwards, and requested ITeC to forecast scenarios regarding the changes in supply and distribution, the increase in competitive pressure and the harmonisation of quality regulations and requirements. Ten years later, it was undeniable that the forecasts of that report had become a reality: globalisation had even reached a market as locally based as construction.
Throughout its history, ITeC has measured and analysed different market niches both for private and public clients. Private commissions have given us the chance of acquiring in-depth knowledge of the state of supply and demand in sectors as varied as roofing, insulation, pre-cast components, light façade systems, piping and air conditioning. Within the public sector, we have carried out studies on stone resources (1993) and aggregate recycling (1995) which have contributed to define public strategy on these subjects. ITcC has also participated in drawing up the Catalan Input-Output Tables of 2001 and 2011 with regard to estimating inputs within the construction sector.
Quality and innovation
Before the European Construction Product Directive came into effect, innovative products found it difficult to demonstrate their worth, given that they were not included in the field of application of the testing regulations. The Directive set out an alternative circuit formed by specialised institutes from different member states with sufficient technical ability to oversee the certification process of products not included within conventional protocols. ITeC received authorisation from the European Commission in 1996 to award the previously named DITE (European Technical Approval Documents). A year later, we formed part of the EOTA (European Organisation for Technical Assessment), the body which grouped together and supervised different assessment organisations within the European Union.
In 2002, ITeC was authorised to issue two other types of voluntary certificates. One consisted of the DAU (Usage Adaptation Document), also directed towards non-standardised products and manufacturers who wished to formalise the construction solutions which they considered optimum for product output. The second ApTO (Technical Aptitude in Building Work), was directed to installation companies who wished to accredit their technical ability when developing a specific construction system. The first DAU was awarded in 2000, and a year later, the first ApTO. In 2010 both types of certification were formally accepted as Recognised Documents in the new Technical Building Code. Over 100 DAU certificates have now been awarded to products both on a national and European level.
The very nature of ITeC’s certification work, specialising in innovative products, meant that the Institute had acquired substantial experience in the process of transferring research results to the marketplace. As a result, the Institute has offered counselling and consultancy to companies to identify the strong points of their new products, clarify their legal and regulatory status and, in short, to reduce time and costs in marketing (time to market).
In 2006, ITeC promoted the creation of iMat, a technological centre specifically designed for the development of new products and construction techniques, which has currently been integrated into Eurecat.
The substitution of the previous European Product Directive for the new 2011 Regulation has produced changes in the certification procedure and naming. As a result, ITeC now issues European Technical Assessments instead of the previous DITE, as well as continuing to provide advice for the CE marking and for the Performance Declarations and services for the Assessment and Verification of Constancy of Performance.