Digitalisation in a galaxy of construction law

News - 30 August 2022 - Communication BK

“Construction law can be seen as part of a galaxy: different parties, legal frameworks and interests all influence each other,” describes professor Evelien Bruggeman. “Balancing those forcefields is paramount to give technological developments a place in society.” On 16 September, the professor of Building Law at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment will give her inaugural speech, showing how digitisation in the built environment can find a place in the galaxy of construction law and the force field of technological and societal innovation.

Digitisation in the built environment as a concrete challenge

As a legal expert, Bruggeman is intensively engaged in a number of subjects. One of them is the role of the law concerning data and digitalisation of the entire building process in the built environment. Bruggeman: “The law exists in a force field together with technical and social developments. What does the law do, and what function does it have when technical developments occur? Legal experts have to know what kind of developments are taking place in the technology, and simultaneously, people who develop those technologies must be able to grasp the law. Construction law can therefore not be too abstract.” Data flows, digitalisation of construction processes, and data collection for so-called smart cities are concrete examples of digitalisation in the built environment. Such developments go hand in hand with society’s desire to make the built environment sustainable and better for everyone. Construction law can facilitate this desire. “As a legal expert, you make an analysis. Where can the law complement developments, can existing law be followed, or can a standard be interpreted differently? Ultimately, it is a combination of interests and regulations.”

The puzzle that is construction law

Construction law involves different types of law, with various partners, in different moments. Whereas other legal experts work in well-defined domains such as civil law and consumer law, the construction law expert has to deal with a puzzle of different pieces of law: from privacy legislation to intellectual rights, and from contractual agreements to the interface between public and private law. Intellectual property rights, for example, are often seen as an obstacle. “People wonder, why can’t I change this building? Within the context of intellectual property rights, such protections show that we consider creative expressions such as architecture valuable to our society, and therefore want to protect them.” This social value underlines that construction law involves not only legal experts, technicians or construction managers but everyone who plays a role in the built environment. Construction law must help make social developments possible in this force field. “As a legal expert, you facilitate the building process. That is why I enjoy my role as a professor at TU Delft. Here I can help shape the connection between management, technology and law in multidisciplinary collaborations.”

Data exchange in the built environment

For the Dutch Land Registry [Het Kadaster], Bruggeman conducted research into the legal aspects of a future 3D land registry. “The legal consequences of choices made by consumers during the purchase process were incorporated into a 3D model. Information such as the right of way, property rights and neighbours’ rights are already publicly available through the land registry. We were able to include these frameworks in the 3D model by involving the legal perspective early on in the purchase process.” Legal frameworks need not be an obstacle in developing new digital processes in the built environment if legal experts are included in the process early on. “I always say: let us know where the datasets come from, where they are going, and what you want to do with them. Then legal experts can already do a lot.” Particularly now that more and more data exchange is taking place in the built environment (and in law!), such cooperation is becoming increasingly important. During her inaugural address, Bruggeman will explain how legal experts and professionals from the construction industry can operate together in this galaxy of construction law.

More information

On Friday, 16 September, professor Evelien Bruggeman (MBE) will give her inaugural speech ‘Legal implications of data exchange in the built environment - An exploration of the force field between technical and societal developments and law’.

Click here for the link to the online streaming of the inaugural speech.

Find out more about professor Bruggeman on her professor page.

Header image by: Greg Rakozy via Unsplash
Image in the text by: Mingwei Lim via Unsplash