The forthcoming revision of the EU procurement directive is to embrace BIM and digital working on public contracts, paving the way for other EU countries to adopt a UK-style BIM mandate in future.
And discussions triggered by the redrafting process have resulted in plans for an EU BIM conference on 22 October, which will focus on how other countries can draw lessons from the UK’s leadership role on BIM roll-out.
Widespread adoption of BIM across the EU could benefit UK construction businesses that are seen as having more advanced BIM skills than their European competitors – especially if other countries follow the UK’s lead on BIM methodologies and contractual protocols.
“The UK government wants to make sure the EU is open for this kind of business, so they’re not protecting this information – it’s ‘please, here you are’,” commented Richard Saxon, a member of the UK’s BIM Task Group.
The Task Group has been engaging with the ongoing redrafting process in Brussels to ensure a form of wording in the Procurement Directive that “encourages” BIM and its working methods.
The new draft is thought to be close to completion, and is expected to be ratified by the European Parliament in October. Member countries would then have to pass national legislation to enshrine the directive in law.
Richard Saxon, BIM Task Group
The committee responsible for the new draft, chaired by Welsh MEP Malcolm Harbour, has had to consider thousands of proposed amendments. Overall, the new draft is supposed to be more flexible and will allow public procurement to support other agendas, such as sustainability and local employment.
The “encouragement” clause will also remove the theoretical possibility of a legal challenge to the UK’s 2016 BIM mandate, explained Saxon. “In future, countries will be able to have a BIM mandate without it being regarded as anti-competitive. In theory, the UK mandate could be viewed as a way of excluding non-British competition, in contravention of the directive. But the directive is now open to BIM – in fact, BIM is seen as ‘pro-competitive’ because of the efficiency gains, and it’s defined in open-system terms.”
BIM is also the subject of an inter-government conference to be held shortly after the new directive is voted into law. Saxon told CM: “In the process of talking to people, we got a picture of where the various member countries are in the use of BIM. We’re in a group with the Netherlands and Scandinavia that are fairly advanced and going faster, while Germany is to some extent hampered because it still has regulated fee scales and standard services for its professional services sector – in the UK there are no restrictions on what we can do and what we can charge.
“France uses BIM to some extent, but most of southern Europe has frankly not thought about it. But a lot of countries want to swap information and learn more details about the UK’s policy and early adopter projects. The general consensus is that the British policy [based on PAS 1192:2, COBie and the CIC BIM Protocol] is very well thought through.”
Saxon explained that the concept of “Level 2 BIM” – a halfway house between today’s capability and most people’s understanding of full-blown digital construction – has been a revelation in other countries. “It answers a lot of questions they have had,” he said.
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