Which countries have the highest levels of BIM adoption in Europe?

An EU BIM Task Group was established in 2016 to “bring together national efforts into a common aligned European approach to develop a world-class digital construction sector”. But there is still a lack of knowledge of how BIM and its associated digital innovations and artefacts are applied across different European countries. Here Ammar Azzouz, Paul Hill and Eleni Papadonikolaki compare BIM’s adoption in seven countries: Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.

There has been an increasing interest from companies, academics, professionals and governmental institutions to compare how BIM is implemented across geographies. Such comparisons are important for transferring lessons across national and regional boundaries and creating a more balanced understanding of digital transition across the construction sector in Europe.

These needs have led to the emergence of several targets, mandates and national strategies to encourage a common language of BIM and influence professionals in the built environment sector in their shift towards digitalisation.

For instance, Spain has a BIM Commission sponsored by the Ministry of Public Works for BIM to be applied in buildings in 2018 and in infrastructure in 2019. In Denmark, there will be a mandate for all projects in 2022. And in Germany, the government will require a mandate for public infrastructure projects by 2020.

However, despite an increasing interest in BIM comparisons among different geographies, very little research has been carried out to examine this in practice.

To address this gap, we applied Arup’s BIM Maturity Measure to 146 projects in Europe: Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain (respectively 2, 21, 70, 11, 13, 15, 14 projects). These projects were selected from Arup, an international firm with offices in these countries.

The BIM Maturity Measure (BIM-MM) is a tool that assesses BIM at the project level and provides an overall score built on 11 BIM functionalities and artefacts: BIM design data review (BDDR); BIM champions; common data environment (CDE); BIM Execution Plan (BEP); document/model referencing and version control; knowledge sharing; open standard deliverables (OSD); virtual design reviews (VDR); BIM contract; Employer’s Information Requirements (EIRs); and project procurement route (PPR).

BIM maturity across seven countries in Europe

Analysing these criteria allows us a glimpse of how BIM is utilised on real projects. It is important to note that the BIM-MM also measures disciplines such as architecture, structure and mechanical engineering. However, the analyses in this article are only focused on the information management part of the tool.

The findings showed that highest BIM maturity score is in Spain then the Netherlands; followed by Italy and Germany where the BIM maturity scores are very similar. Scores are omitted in this article for confidentiality reasons.

Apart from looking only at the overall BIM scores, delving further into the 11 measured criteria of the BIM-MM, allows us to understand which BIM aspects are mostly used across the sample.

When looking at the 11 criteria, it has been seen that the highest maturity level is in “document/model referencing and version control” as 79% of projects in Europe use this BIM functionality.

This means that all these projects have good practice in project file naming and version control and status.

The levels of applying this criterion in Europe is also varied: Denmark 100%, Germany 71%, Ireland 79%, Italy 82%, the Netherlands 77%, Poland 73%, and Spain 93%.

Another highly mature criterion in Europe is the implementation of BIM Execution Plan (BEP), which is used to specify roles, identify how information is exchanged and formalise strategies for BIM processes, tools and technologies.

Across 146 projects in Europe, 45% have BEP implemented, it is the highest in Denmark (100% of projects – however, there are only two projects), followed by Spain (93% of projects).

These are only some of the analyses undertaken in this research, but full research article “Digital innovation in Europe: Regional differences across one international firm” will be published in September 2018 and presented at the Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM) Conference in Belfast, UK, at Queen’s University.

There are several reasons for these variations of BIM maturity across regions. Some scholars suggest that these differences are associated and influenced by the institutional forces and national policies and mandates in different countries. However, it is important to acknowledge that differences are influenced by the socio-technical factors and the cultural and social contexts in each region as well as team experiences.

Differences can also be impacted by the type of project, its scale, income, the level of complexity and the requirements of clients. Understanding the underpinning influences, that include internal and external forces on projects, requires more detailed observations.

Professionals in the built environment and policy makers are keen to exchange insights and lessons from successful projects across regions, countries, firms and disciplines. The EU BIM Task Group published a Handbook for the Introduction of BIM by the European Public Sector and emphasised on the “opportunity for harmonising a European wide common strategic approach for the introduction of BIM”.

However, this harmonisation in digital construction will not be possible without comparing the BIM implementation on the operational level – for example how are digital innovations and BIM artefacts applied in projects in the built environment domain? Which European country is more BIM mature than others? Why are the fundamental tools, processes, technologies applied in certain countries and not in others?

Only by answering these questions will it be possible to identify the strengths and weaknesses in each country, and enable knowledge transfer to address areas that require development. Arup’s BIM Maturity Measure could become a key tool to assess BIM in Europe and better understand how it is applied across countries.

Dr Eleni Papadonikolaki is a lecturer in Building Information Modelling and management at The Bartlett School of Construction & Project Management/UCL

Ammar Azzouz is a Building Information Modelling maturity analyst and Paul Hill is a BIM specialist at Arup

Top image: Garrykillian/

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  1. Interesting story. Just to add some numbers to the Italian side, Italy started years ago using BIM in national projects. An interesting one is the MuSe by RPBW opened in 2013. Many other followed (Milan skyscrapers are a good example but not the only one). There is a national set of rules, UNI11337, which summarizes studies started about a decade ago. By Jan 1st, 2019 BIM will be mandatory in Public buildings above € 100ml. Most of our main design and building firms are BIM-capable and a lot of them is currenlty working on projects outside Italy. The situation in Italy is peculiar because the national building industry experienced a deep crysis started in 2008 and is now slowly recovering. Said that, an evalutation on BIM maturity in Italy should not focus only on the quality/quantity of BIM projects made there but, IMHO, even on the consistence of the whole framework of competencies and experiences in which Italian firms operate.

  2. @Daniele Cazzaniga, thanks for your comments and insights on BIM implementation and mandates in Italy. Just to clarify, that the findings presented in the article are from one firm in Italy, and does not reflect the industry as a whole. It will be exciting if there is an opportunity to explore the wider implementation of BIM in the Italian construction sector. Thanks again for your thoughts.

  3. @Daniele Cazzaniga, thanks for your thoughts on BIM implementation and mandates in Italy. Just to clarify that the projects presented in the article are from one international firm, and thus, the sample does not represent the construction industry as a whole. It would be exciting if there is a national strategy in Italy to explore how BIM is applied across across different firms in the built environment sector.

  4. @Ammar Azzouz, in reality we have a national strategy on BIM incorporated in some way in Industry 4.0. It’s not all sunshine and puppies, but we are moving forward and many Italian companies are achieving good results here and around the world (many of them don’t have italian-like names, so you wouldn’t think they were). My experience is on the design and PM part and I started working with BIM in 2010 for a well-known “archistar” and then my team helped some of the top 10 Italian design firms in their first BIM projects. Since then many things have changed and there is now a common awareness, at least, on the BIM method and even some excellences in some universities like Politecnico Milano 1863, UNI Turin, UNI Rome and others. On the other side we are experiencing a certain inertia on the construction firms’ side (apart from those working even in foreign countries) and more important, a certain absence of the employer part at the BIM table. Recently something is moving on the Real Estate management side and we hope this will “energize” the whole supply chain. If you are interested in more data and names, ask me freely.

  5. Where is the U.K. on the list. We have not left the EU yet and hopefully won’t.

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