Analysis

Who is winning the international BIM adoption race?

21 July 2016 | By Tom Ravenscrofy

BIM adoption across the globe is a complex matter, says Nick Tune, CEO of coBuilder UK.

Is there an international BIM adoption race?

Things are definitely moving at different speeds in different countries. The important thing to understand is that it is not necessarily true that Europe is going to set the game on this. There has been a lot of work in Asia, Korea and China, and we’ve also seen that New Zealand and Australia are getting ahead.

So different philosophies are in the melting pot at the moment. We have seen that the UK’s approach is really top down – a strategic governmental step that addresses the definition of processes on a high level. On the other hand, many other countries have started with the technical level, as with implementing IFC as a technology first.

Only time will show which is the best approach. One of the key things to be successful in my mind is to keep a steady course, keep this common goal of openBIM and work together, which applies to all players.

Why has coBuilder taken up the ‘BIM Worldwide’ initiative?

BIM adoption across the globe is a complex matter. I am certain that everyone would agree that the construction industry in their home country should have a common digital foundation. However, there is a lot of political struggle on all matters concerning BIM and companies want to know that they are investing in the real deal before they make that important step forward.

That is why it is often the countries with an official BIM mandate that have achieved the sufficient level of credibility to advance their industry. A huge step towards achieving credibility is also to rely on standardisation.

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Globally, the international standardisation body buildingSMART, which is mostly known for the IFC, IFD, and IDM standards, has taken the leading position. Several countries, for example Denmark, have mandated the use of the open interoperable format IFC. The mapping tool buildingSMART Data Dictionary (bSDD) is also gaining traction as it allows industry players from all around the world to share and exchange essential product information.

That is why, as a member and a firm supporter of buildingSMART International, we have ventured to learn more about BIM adoption from experts who are part of BIM adoption activities – both at national and international level.

What is the right ‘formula’ for BIM adoption?

The top down approach that we have seen also in Denmark was really important. I think the BIM Level 2 mandate was what really made us stop, recognise, reconsider and reorganise our inefficient processes in the UK. Today, if you want to contract a government project you must be BIM level 2 compliant. That has made the rest of the industry sit up and take notice – if the government had not mandated BIM, the whole supply chain would not be anywhere near the level of interest and productive discussion of BIM that we see today.

Like every change, be it incremental or revolutionary, strong leaders are needed and we have that in the UK. The Ministry of Justice, for example, is leading the process of defining the data the industry needs through its industry led BIM Special Interest Group “BIM2AIM”.

Moreover, many strong leaders are starting to emerge from the private sector. My feeling is that as big contractors like Skanska make BIM mandatory for their supply chain – we are sure to stay on track with BIM.

How important are standards worldwide?

All BIM evangelists, such as myself, have been preaching that BIM is a process. This process is as strong as the way it is organised, standardised and coordinated. This is where standards are crucial. As seen from Birgitta Foster’s and Roger Grant’s insights from the US there is a lot of effort to include the actual users or stakeholders in both national and international standardisation activities.

The “BIM buzz” has started raising the bar, raising the level of interest, and this is really good because we are getting a broader group of professionals and companies understanding the need to work with data and developing their own ideas of what best practice should look like. This is really important, because BIM needs to be out there and practiced.

Nothing is put into stone, so we need to work collaboratively and see how all of us – merchants, manufacturers, contractors, architects, software vendors etc – can contribute to better ways of working digitally through BIM.