A BIM mandate lesson from Denmark

It took seven to eight years after BIM was mandated in Denmark to see the benefits, says Jan Karlshøj, associate professor in the Technical University of Denmark and chairman of the buildingSMART’s Nordic chapter and consultant at Gravicon DK.

How was the mandate established?

An early adopter, the implementation of BIM covering public construction projects in Denmark was first set out by regulation 1365, which was introduced in 2007. The current ICT regulations 118 and 119 for projects fully and partially funded by the government exceeding DKK5m have been in effect since 2013.

Over the past nine years, the Danish government has set regulations, promoting the use of ICT technologies as a main measure against the stagnating productivity growth in the construction sector. Denmark is a particularly interesting case in an international sense, giving us insights into a trend-setting BIM initiative that has had some time to develop.

How has having a BIM mandate in Denmark impacted the industry so far?

We have had the mandate since 2007 and one thing we have certainly achieved is to increase the awareness of BIM. In fact, there has been a survey in the UK and some other countries, and Denmark was actually the country that has the most awareness of IFC. Not that IFC covers the whole BIM story, but I suppose that is due to this mandate.

However, when it comes to actual benefits, people have just started benefiting from BIM now – it took us seven to eight years since BIM was mandated to see the benefits from the new way of working.

It initially took a couple of years after the mandate to get all contractors on board and another three to four years before it became part of the handover. All things considered, the clients have only been implementing this for a few years, therefore we still have a lot to learn.

The BIM mandate in many countries has been driven by the clients. What is the situation in Denmark?

Denmark has been a little bit different because it has actually been more of a political initiative. So it’s been a question of lowering the cost and improving the quality at the same time. Some people, including myself, thought that this is a clever way to do it, but there was one significant drawback connected to this approach – clients have been mandated to do it before being educated about it.

Perhaps that is why we have been slow to see the benefits from BIM in comparison to Finland, for instance, because we had some difficulties in getting “the field” involved in this process. 

From your experience in Denmark, what is the biggest risk to implementing BIM worldwide?

The biggest risk is that important actors in the process don’t accept BIM in practical terms. They might get consultancy, get the tools and cover the minimum requirements, then put it in a drawer somewhere and never really start using it for FM purposes.

The second biggest risk is the ambiguity in national regulations. We had a problem in Denmark that BIM kind of went into the law first and lawyers dislike having something so specific as the required classifications of walls or windows, or the specific version of IFC in the regulations. 

In other words, the mandate has been very open to interpretation, it just said “IFC”. That means it could be more or less anything. There hasn’t been a very good situation in terms of standardisation and a common way of working, because you can just hand in something and then claim it is according to the law.

So it is a kind of chicken and egg situation. You can’t have true BIM without the support of the government, but you also need the support of the industry, because what is the point if everyone is bending the rules?

This interview was conducted as part of a series facilitated by coBuilder at the buildingSMART Standards Summit in Rotterdam earlier this year.

Main image: Dreamstime.com

It is a kind of chicken and egg situation. You can’t have true BIM without the support of the government, but you also need the support of the industry, because what is the point if everyone is bending the rules?– Jan Karlshøj, Technical University of Denmark

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