Global snapshots of BIM

BIM is becoming a driver for change across the world. Who is leading new digital ways of working?

A design competition by BIM: Viking Age Museum at Bygdøy, this project by StatsbyggAART architects.
A design competition by BIM: Viking Age Museum at Bygdøy, this project by StatsbyggAART architects. · Credit: StatsbyggAART architects, Visco

BIM depends on members of the construction industry to work together in a collective space – a single shared working environment. With the global construction industry now, more than ever, in need of open industry standards, buildingSMART – the ‘international home of open BIM’ – works towards this goal to enable all players to exchange information, regardless of their national origin, software or language.  

UK member coBuilder talked to some of the organisation’s leading lights, architects and BIM pioneers to understand their experiences, what governments are doing in their territory and how BIM is becoming the lingua franca of construction. 


Canada: Client owners interested

‘In Canada we have a number of client owners interested in BIM in general. Most understand that from a long-term point of view, it is a better strategic decision to set the requirements for an open standard deliverable. In the public sector we are not telling architects, consultants or contractors how to deliver their buildings in 3D – the important thing is to deliver the information in the tool that everybody else uses and so support that common collective shared environment. We have a couple of clients already, public organisations that have implemented all the (openBIM) standards in their overall strategy, namely The Department of National Defence (DND) Québec and the Ministry of Infrastructure in Alberta, so these are the client owners that are leading the way and incorporating openBIM. In Canada more and more clients are seeing that open standards can deliver value to the industry and all portfolios.’

Susan Keenliside, buildingSMART International, Canadian chapter, president and senior advisor at S8 Inc


Norway: Interoperable BIM the norm

‘In Norway, openBIM has become a normal way to do projects. Luckily, there is more and more focus on data and product information in the projects and all industry players have understood that product data must be made available to others. For instance, in December 2015 more than 100 architect’s offices submitted their proposals for a new Viking Age Museum at Bygdøy in Oslo and one of the main requirements for participation in this international competition was to present an interoperable BIM model of the project. The winner of the project, AART Architects, distinguished itself with the use of openBIM throughout the project – providing proof that the industry in Norway has set high demands for the use of BIM in order to enhance the quality and efficiency of work in the entire construction process, not just in the early design stages.’

Lars Fredenlund, buildingSMART International, Norwegian chapter, CEO of coBuilder AS


France: Industry initiative

‘In France at the moment we are totally oriented towards responding to the requirements of the National Plan for Digital Building, which is supporting the 2017 BIM mandate for all publicly procured projects. This covers everything from devising a BIM Execution Plan Guide to devising a strategy of employing open industry standards for BIM. What is very important in the French chapter of buildingSMART is that we gather all the professional unions of the construction industry – from architects to owners and facilities managers so we can consider everyone’s perspective. This shows that all efforts for BIM normalisation and standardisation in France are coming from inside the industry not from academics even the administration.’

Christoph Castaing, co-chairman of French chapter, buildingSMART


In Australia it was the architects who were taking it on, in the Middle East it was really about bringing designers and contractors together and having a single language, and in Switzerland the push is coming from owners

Ukraine: Clients see BIM as just expensive software

 ‘There is still the lack of practical knowledge in the BIM sphere. With the general dissemination of information about BIM, a lot of companies and specialists have no appropriate understanding about what BIM is: they think it is just expensive software. BIM is not a single technology, not software and not even modelling. It’s already part of daily reality at work. It’s an entire complex, beginning with a common organisation and optimisation of the design process and ending with a model full of data as well as processing, extracting and transferring that to the construction site.’

Denis Tokarev, BIM manager/co-ordinator/modeller, Altis-Holding Corporation, Ukraine


Lithuania: Information is the most important thing

‘You cannot compare an architect, who still makes paper drawings to those who know (at least) how to make a 3D model and export it to, say, IFC. Information is the most important thing in the projects we co-ordinate. BIM for us is Better Information Management. BIM is here to make the construction process more automated and transparent, it evolves from old habits (drawing on a board) to new ones (automating quantity take-offs).’

Virginija Jatkauskaitė, architect – BIM consultant at Intelligent BIM Solutions, Lithuania


Norway: Models going beyond the computer

 ‘Architects in Norway have been using the 3D modelling aspect of BIM when designing a project for years now. However, the 3D models rarely go any further than the architect’s computer; at meetings and on the building site, printed drawings are the standard medium for visualisation of the building plan. Fortunately however, I can see that awareness of the great possibilities offered by open BIM models has been increasing lately.’

Kai Henning Simensen, member of the BIM Expert Team of the Association of Architecture Companies, Norway


Switzerland: International differences

‘I was working in Australia as an architect, but I left eight years ago to work in the Middle East and later on in Switzerland. What was very interesting were the differences I noticed in how BIM was seen in different countries. In Australia it was the architects who were taking it on and using it for design optioning, so they were driving the change. In the Middle East it was really about co-ordination so BIM was the tool for bringing designers and contractors from all parts of the world together and having a single language, so I guess BIM was driven by need. In Switzerland the push is coming from owners and BIM is seen as an asset information model so the important questions people are asking themselves are; how can we request this information as a building owner, how can we control the delivery of that information and how can we use that in the operation of facility?’.

Mark Baldwin, buildingSMART International, Swiss Chapter, Leiter BIM Management at Mensch und Maschine Schweiz AG


Denmark: Mandate before educating

‘Well, Denmark has been a little bit different because it has actually been more of a political initiative. So it's been a question of lowering the cost and improving the quality at the same time. Some people, myself included, thought this was a clever way to do it, but there was one significant drawback connected to this approach – clients have been mandated to do it before being educated about it. Perhaps that is why we have been slow to see the benefits from BIM in comparison to Finland for instance – because we had some difficulties in getting “the field” involved in the process.’

Jan Karlshøj, buildingSMART International, Nordic Chapter


New Zealand: Raising client awareness

‘Getting client drivers is an important step towards BIM implementation, which is why they are trying to get client drivers in New Zealand. One of the key projects of the BIM Acceleration Committee has been to raise the awareness of BIM for major clients, mainly cabinet clients – they were the key target. Ever since, New Zealand has really taken off and especially in the last four months and BIM now receives good government support, though not a mandate as in the UK. There is a driver within the government to lift the productivity of the construction industry and it has a target of 20% across the whole industry by 2020.’

Philip McNeil, buildingSMART International, Australasian Chapter

Nick Tune is CEO of data expert coBuilder UK and a board member of buildingSMART UK