BIM around the world – country by country
Accompanying our BIM around the world article, below are summaries of BIM progress in some of the major nations of the world.
US: “Deep into the adoption curve”
Population: 324 million
The federal US system, with its 50 different state legislatures, has left a clear imprint on BIM, believes Autodesk vice-president Phil Bernstein: “There is no central government mechanism, no Paul Morrell or Mark Bew. But some of the earliest ideas emerged from the GSA [General Services Administation] – a federal government body that had a lot of interesting ideas about technical standards.”
The GSA provides coordination to federal government, including on the procurement and management of government offices, Bernstein explains. “But since the credit crunch the GSA has been largely de-funded, so it’s not building anything. So you get private sector initiatives, such as the American Institute of Architecture’s protocols, and standards from the construction associations. And you get states such as Maryland or Wisconsin, generating their own standards.
He adds that universities have also been active in publishing standards for clients, for instance the Penn State BIM standard has been widely adopted beyond the campus.
“There’s no argument about whether it’s worth it. BIM is already working.”
Phil Bernstein, Autodesk
Another US client cited as a BIM leader is California-based private healthcare provider Sutter Healthcare. “They started IPD [Integrated Project Delivery], and developing contracts that really embrace collaboration to give contractors an incentive to collaborate,” says Jennifer Whyte, professor at the University of Reading. However, the IPD approach – often manifested in a “Big Room” for co-located, profit-and-loss sharing contractors and consultants, appears to have been stopped in its tracks by the downturn.
But what to UK ears sounds like a confusing picture has not held the sector back: BIM adoption is at about 70% in the US.
“There’s been a lot of entrepreneurial activity and discontinuous efforts to write standards. But we are deep into the adoption curve here. There’s no argument about whether it’s worth it. BIM is already working,” says Bernstein.
China: “Forces not aligned”
Population: 1.46 billion
China has made BIM part of its most recent five-year economic plan. But Autodesk vice-president Phil Bernstein points out that adopting BIM is not necessarily as simple as decreeing it.
“There are some structural differences to the Chinese market: it’s controlled top-down and there’s a lot of entrepreneurial activity. The two forces are not aligned.”
Nor is there alignment in BIM standards. Two approaches compete: a national standard being developed by a forum of academics and one already published by the Ministry of Housing and Rural Development.
“Taiwan is forging ahead in many areas, including the Internet of Things and augmented reality in construction.”
Stuart Green, Reading University
And while the argument for BIM adoption around the world is the promise of greater productivity, efficiency and profitability, that is less of a motivator in China, he says.
“Right now, the use of technology on design and construction in China is quite early on the adoption curve but, as the construction economy continues to mature, it will face the same issues as other markets: commodity prices, managing risk, and informational transparency,” says Bernstein. “It will be interesting to see whether these things push the standards.”
There is another, more immediate, disincentive to invest: “Well over half the software used is pirated, so why bother with BIM?” asks Bernstein.
Meanwhile, Growth Through BIM author Richard Saxon adds that Hong Kong’s BIM-adoption agenda is being led by the Housing Authority.
And Reading University professor Stuart Green FCIOB believes Taiwan is actually a BIM market to watch, as it is “forging ahead in many areas, including integrating the Internet of Things and augmented reality in construction”.
Brazil: “Moving very fast”
Population: 203 million
Brazil has a reputation as an academic BIM centre – its universities are third behind the US and Sweden on publishing BIM-focused academic papers. In terms of practical applications, Brazil’s National Department of Transport Infrastructure is embracing BIM in the hope of making 30% cost savings. Schemes that could benefit include the 937km BR 040 highway linking Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro.
“Brazil is starting to get a grip on BIM,” says Teesside University professor Nashwan Dawood. “One of my colleagues [Mohamad Kassem] did a report on different BIM standards and protocols and the government is taking it forward to enable the adoption from a policy and strategic level. Brazil doesn’t have the same massive growth as in Qatar, but BIM is moving very fast.”
“Brazil doesn’t have the same massive growth as in Qatar, but BIM is moving very fast.”
Mohamad Kassem, Teesside University
Kassem has worked with Brazilian professor Sergio Leusin, a consultant in BIM implementation in Brazil, to make recommendations for a strategy.
At the time of his appointment Kassem said: “Brazil is a massive economy and the country is undergoing a huge amount of construction work. Changes that result in efficiency savings, even small ones, have the potential to save the Brazilian economy billions of pounds… BIM can bring real benefits to the construction industry and there is a real momentum towards innovation in the industry and I hope my work can help improve BIM diffusion in Brazil.”
Elsewhere in Latin America, Panama’s ongoing project to add a new set of locks at either end of the Panama Canal has adopted BIM from start, and a new airport for Mexico City will also use it.
Population: 5.6 million
Singapore has the benefit of being a small market – like the Nordics – so it is easier to start adopting new methodologies, says Arto Kiviniemi, professor of digital architectural design at the University of Liverpool.
“In the UK and US, you have to think about formal contracts more. In Singapore, it’s easy to push the whole industry to doing something.” A 2013 survey found 76% of firms using BIM, and this is predicted to rise to 96% by this year.
Autodesk vice-president Phil Bernstein describes “a pretty sophisticated approach, they are convinced that hyper-modernisation of the construction sector is critical to their economy. They’ve put hundreds of millions of dollars into BIM initiatives – including training funds and free software – and are the most advanced construction industry in Asia.”
Singapore’s BIM fund, part of the Construction Productivity and Capability Fund, began in June 2010 and covers costs of training, consultancy, software and hardware.
The BIM agenda is led by the Building and Construction Authority, but with the close involvement of government ministers because of the clear line to national economic policy. It introduced a BIM roadmap in 2010 and has now published the second version, which apparently shares features with level 3 BIM.
Singapore is also a world leader in the digitisation and automation of the issuing of building permits.
“The system is up and running. It’s called Corenet and its development started in the 1990s,” explains Kiviniemi. The process streamlines the process for regulatory building code permissions, while a new e-submission process for architectural designs for all projects over 5,000 sq m has now been added.
But the latest trend in Singapore is a concerted switch to promoting Design for Manufacture and Assembly techniques – a politically-driven decision.
“The Singaporean government is saying we no longer want to be dependent on labour from overseas, so it’s now mandating the number of people you can have on site. So either the project takes longer, or you come up with DfMA ideas, so it’s hopefully fertile ground for us,” says Bryden Wood director Jaimie Johnston.
Qatar: “A mismatch on the ground”
Population: 2.4 million
Nashwan Dawood, professor at Teesside University, is advising the Qatar government on its BIM strategy. His challenge is to a find a modus vivendi with existing practices and ideas.
“There’s a mismatch on the ground between the German, British and US standards adopted by different construction companies, so the idea is to come up with a system that reflects the way the construction is run and the building is managed,” says Dawood.
“For instance, the American Institute of Architects’ Levels of Definition system is heavily used by consulting engineers and US-based project managers – that’s what their training is. So we’re working towards a BIM protocol that will reflect the US approach with some adoption of the UK work.”
Qatar Rail has already appointed Germany’s Hochtief ViCon, a BIM services supplier, as its adviser, while the Qatar 2022 World Cup committee has developed guidelines on testing companies compliance with their information flows.
Dawood says these example show that “big [client] entities might go their own way” on BIM in the future. He also says software providers such as Bentley and Autodesk are active in the market, linking directly to major clients and offering them modified products to suit their workflows.
Scandinavia: “People simply agreed to do it in the new way”
Population: 5.1 million
Population: 5.4 million
Population: 9.7 million
Public sector BIM standards or requirements are already in place for Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, although often at a sub-national level, and led by “intelligent” public sector clients such as Norway’s regional health authorities and its Statsbygg government property agency, Finland’s Senate Properties, a state-owned enterprise, and Stockholm County Council.
Their BIM expectations are often more demanding in terms of interoperability than the UK’s Level 2 BIM approach, putting pressure on local providers such as Eleco, Solibri or Tekla.
“Their markets are quite small, so have been fairly able to demand open source data,” comments Reading University professor Jennifer Whyte.
The Nordics are also making progress on Singapore-style systems to automate building approvals and planning permission, although no working systems are in place.
“A small market forces you to work in a reliable way. In a huge market, there are more potential partners.”
Arto Kiviniemi, Liverpool University
The Nordics are what Brescia University professor Angelo Ciribini calls the “super-early adopters”: Finland, for instance, has had a public sector mandate since 2007. And Arto Kiviniemi, professor at the University of Liverpool says the Nordics have a natural advantage in their size: there are fewer players and people to convince.
“In Finland, the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries decided in 2002 that BIM is a core element of their technology strategy, and people simply agreed to start working in the new way. It did not require contractual changes as a small market forces you to work in a reliable way. In a huge market, where there are more potential partners, a bad reputation doesn’t follow you so much, so contracts are more important.”
But the Nordics don’t have all the answers. “At the moment I’m having discussions with the Finnish Ministry of Finance about what Finland can learn from the UK,” says Kiviniemi.
France: “It’s a massive business”
Population: 64.9 million
Like Germany, France has recently taken a step forward on BIM, with the establishment of the “Le Plan Transition Numérique dans le Bâtiment” task group to flesh out the details of a BIM mandate from the Ministry of Dwellings (Ministère du Logement), and has been given a budget of €20m [corrected online] over three years.
“Following several years of neglect, suddenly the government woke up!” Angelo Ciribini, professor at Brescia University. “But the mandate from the ministry covers housing and general construction, so it’s not so clear whether it will deal with civil engineering and infrastructure.”
The new group will take forward an outline BIM plan announced last year, which includes the ambition of developing 500,000 houses using BIM by 2017. And also in 2014, France kicked off a research project on BIM for the infrastructure sector, MINnD, to develop and explore open BIM standards for infrastructure projects. It is being funded by contractors and suppliers including Bouygues and Lafarge.
Ciribini points out that the relative size of construction companies in France gives them more control on BIM standard-setting than their counterparts in the UK: “With a €16bn turnover, Vinci can influence the way things are going and the way the government does things. It’s a massive business.”
Germany: “A position of ‘worst practice'”
Population: 82.6 million
Germany’s extensive DIN standard system is embracing BIM, but its legally protected professional titles and fee scales are proving more of a barrier to BIM’s collaborative mindset.
Growth Through BIM author Richard Saxon explains: “The Germans have a particular problem in that [architects and consulting engineers] have a defined Plan of Work and fee scales, so changing that is highly disruptive. It’s not optional: it’s defined and protected in law.”
Autodesk vice-president Phil Bernstein adds: “The German industry is extremely conservative. The Americans will use a piece of software if it does 80% of what they want, whereas the Germans and Japanese want it to be exactly right. The adoption of advanced technology is behind.”
That is not the whole picture: Germany has some of the largest contractors in the world, and Zublin and Hochtief are said to be particularly advanced in BIM. Hochtief, via its Hochtief ViCon arm, is very active in the Middle East.
Germany is also catching up in its home market. In January, government minister Alexander Dobrindt announced the creation of Germany’s Digital Building Platform, a BIM task group set by trade associations to lay the groundwork for public sector BIM adoption, including “standardising of process and device descriptions, developing guidelines for digital planning methods and providing sample contracts”.
The platform is part of Germany’s ongoing Reform Commission for Major Projects – a committee of experts who are examining why a series of big public sector projects in Germany went badly over budget or were late.
“You could say that Germany has started from a position of ‘worst practice’,” says Angelo Ciribini, professor at Brescia University in Italy, adding that Germany’s federal system will make it harder to implement a national BIM mandate. cm