The EU’s BIM-enabled future will need insiders from the tech world

Jason Ruddle, managing director of the UK operation of Elecosoft, the company behind Asta Powerproject BIM, urges the EU BIM Task Group (above) to absorb the insights offered by software companies and their customer base in its “BIM Handbook” initiative. 

The adoption of BIM is growing across Europe at varying rates. It makes absolute sense for those countries that have been implementing BIM for a longer time, and which have overcome some of its implementation challenges, to contribute to a Europe-wide expansion and conversion initiative.

The recent announcement regarding the creation of a “BIM Handbook” by the EU BIM Task Group is a great idea: spreading the principles of BIM can only aid the health and wealth of the European construction industry. 

But while a handbook to aid countries in adopting BIM is laudable, this alone will not be the answer to exporting best BIM practices. The European Parliament’s vote to modernise public works projects and encourage the use of BIM is supportive, but this is also not enough to drive effective change.

The initiative requires a combination of factors, which must include hard-won practical knowledge. If such an initiative is to succeed, it cannot stop at supporting understanding, but must give practical aid to long-term BIM momentum.

Companies are working hard to embrace the benefits of BIM, but there are staging gates to step through when working with colleagues, clients and the supply chain to gain full adoption. In reality, the industry as a whole must line up behind this, including not just contractors, but also the firms that provide the platforms to support digital construction.

Readiness for change varies – many countries are well beyond the need for basic principles. Only a handful of European countries yet require the use of BIM for publicly funded projects, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Finland and the UK. At present, all 28 EU member states can recommend, specify or mandate the use of BIM for public projects, but adoption rates widely across the region.

In France, BIM becomes mandatory for public projects next year, whilst Finland has required the use of BIM since 2007 and has long-held experience. Then, in southern and central Europe, 60% are not using BIM yet. So expanding BIM effectively needs to incorporate the practical experience of all those nations, which are more advanced, to aid those which are less so.

Practical BIM innovations are the other vital keys to long-term positive change. The emergence of a truly integrated view of construction is critical: for instance, the full incorporation of the cost element with “5D” BIM will transform the economy of construction projects to bring cost estimation and cost management into play. Countries need access to practical and affordable solutions that support every aspect of a BIM project, as well as advice.

The UK’s progress on BIM has been driven as much by its industry champions and the hard work of technology providers, as by that of the government. The chair of the EU BIM Task Group, Adam Matthews, talks about applying “common principles” to suit the different contracting arrangements in each country.

This should certainly be the basis of any cross-regional guide. However, it has been the construction and technology firms that have worked the hardest in many cases to break down the barriers to fully embrace BIM. These parties have much to contribute in terms of insights that are based on first-hand experience and effort.

At Elecosoft we work closely with customers in our international markets to discover and understand their specific BIM problems and then engineer solutions within our software. Every incarnation of our flagship product absorbs practical feedback. By working together we can not only provide the best BIM solution but one that is practical, beneficial, and actionable. The same principles should apply to this EU initiative.

Those at the coalface often have the most to give, which is why we call on the EU BIM Task Group to embrace the benefits of wider industry experience as it strives to expand BIM.

Readiness for change varies. At present, all 28 EU member states can recommend, specify or mandate the use of BIM for public projects, but adoption rates widely across the region.– Jason Ruddle, Elecosoft

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