Building Information Modelling around the world

07 September 2017

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been hailed for its potential to transform construction. Building Sight looks at the hot spots of BIM adoption across the globe.

Over the past decade, BIM has become the buzzword in construction.

Essentially a digital process for designing, constructing and eventually managing built environment assets, it has been increasingly mandated by governments and public clients around the world.

The countries, clients and contractors that adopt the technology fastest are likely to shape this new digital age of construction

BIM in the USA

The USA was arguably at the forefront of global BIM usage. The US General Services Administration pioneered adoption of BIM for public projects and developed a suite for BIM guidelines and standards. More than half of all contractors turning over US$50 million now use BIM in some capacity.

“BIM technology is advancing in the USA and the cost of BIM modelling is becoming more competitive,” says Bill Linney, from Construction Risk Partners in New York, the latest addition to the JLT Construction network.

“However, the degree of BIM utilisation varies widely. Some projects utilise the complete suite of BIM project options where others only use the technology for mechanical, electrical, and building envelope components.”

American construction firms are also using BIM for infrastructure, with BIM-derived driving simulators used for road schemes such as Presidio Parkway in San Francisco.

“We expect greater utilisation of BIM as awareness increases and technology continues to advance,” says Linney.

BIM in the UK

The UK government is an enthusiastic BIM supporter. It mandated use of BIM Level 2 for public sector projects from April 2016 but, in reality, this has not happened.

In this year’s annual NBS BIM survey of more than 1,000 industry professionals, 51 per cent thought government departments are not mandating Level 2 BIM when picking firms for work. However, big names like Interserve and Balfour Beatty have achieved Level 2 accreditation. 

BIM has been used on major new-build projects such as Heathrow Terminal 2 but less so in refurbishment and infrastructure, apart from high-profile schemes such as Crossrail.

“Progress is being made on BIM adoption, but mainly among major contractors, with less take-up among smaller companies,” says Dave Cahill, London-based Construction Partner with JLT Specialty. “Bringing the supply chain up to speed is a major challenge.”

The government’s BIM Task Group is pushing ahead this year with BIM Level 3, where all project parties share one integrated model.

This has caused industry nervousness about copyright and liability. The government’s Digital Built Britain strategy, announced in 2016, aims to address this through more advanced standards and new commercial models.

BIM in Europe

Nordic countries were among the earliest BIM adopters. Finland began using the technology as early as 2002, and BIM has been used for complex infrastructure jobs such as the €1 billion Espoo-Helsinki metro line.

Germany introduced its Digital Building Platform in 2015, a task group to develop a national BIM strategy, while France has its own digital transition plan for construction.

“The movement has been pushed by owners and developers since BIM also has positive effects on the costs of a project in its operational phase,” says Richard Krammer, GrECo JLT’s Practice Leader for Construction, based in Vienna, Austria.

“The concept is not only applied to buildings but also tunnelling and especially road construction, where a further development is the partial automisation of construction processes based on BIM models.”

This was employed by Skanska on Poland’s A1 motorway project, where automatic machine control – using 3D models combined with GPS technology – was used for earthworks.

BIM requires transparent co-operation in an industry characterised by high risk, tight margins and closely-guarded knowledge, and this means a culture shift which carries risks as well as benefits,” observes Krammer. “But the technology is here to stay".

BIM in Asia

Across Asia, BIM hot spots include Japan, South Korea, where BIM is compulsory for all private projects above US$40 million, and Hong Kong. BIM adoption is increasing in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and India, while the Dubai Municipality has mandated BIM on major projects.

“There is a high level of awareness of BIM technology in many Asian countries; however, various impediments have prevented widespread adoption,” says Kieran Curtis, Divisional Director for JLT Specialty in Hong Kong. “In the People’s Republic of China, adoption of BIM technology is limited as procurement for the design and construction elements of projects must be tendered separately.”

One contractor in Asia utilising BIM extensively is, Hong Kong based Gammon Construction.

“Gammon uses BIM on 80 per cent of its projects, and they see the technology as a critical tool for operating effectively in an environment of restricted space, ever increasing construction cost and demanding programmes,” explains Curtis.

However, a key challenge across the region, he adds, “is finding personnel adequately trained to use BIM technology”.

BIM in Australia

The Australian federal government has not mandated BIM, but is a promoter of the technology. A 2016 government- commissioned report urged the setting up of a smart infrastructure task force, modelled on the UK BIM working group.

State governments are pushing for BIM adoption. Queensland ran a BIM pilot, a rail depot project managed by Laing O’Rourke, which identified 25 benefits stemming from BIM. The New South Wales transport department has created a Digital Engineering Task Group and is implementing Australia’s first 5D BIM pilot project, trialling mobile laser scanning, augmented reality and 3D printing. 

Western Australia used BIM to procure the AUS$1.2 billion Perth Children’s Hospital project.

BIM in Latin America

Brazil has turned to UK expertise to drive BIM adoption. The Brazilian government commissioned Teesside University to draft a national BIM plan, and last December agreed a partnership with the UK to exchange information on BIM strategies.

Teesside’s research found that BIM is used by 85 per cent of Brazil’s biggest contractors, with a focus on cost control in the construction phase rather than collaboration at design stage. Brazil’s transport department is embracing BIM with a target of 30 per cent cost savings.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the US$5.2 billion Panama Canal expansion has used BIM from the outset, with designers in five different offices worldwide collaborating on one 3D model. Mexico City’s new airport will also use BIM, including modelling of geotechnical conditions – the site is in a seismic zone – to help civil works.

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