Building Information Modelling (BIM) is transforming the way buildings are designed to perform throughout their entire life cycle. BIM is not simply the use of a 3D software, but a process that integrates all the information related to a construction project from its design phase to the management years after the construction.
This year’s EBC Annual Congress focused on how to make sure small and medium enterprises can tap into the potential of BIM. It presented several aspects of BIM: its latest developments, the issues related to the training needs of construction entrepreneurs, its application to public procurement, small buildings renovation and retrofitting projects.
The Congress was titled "Innovation in construction: BIM for SMEs" and took place in the European Economic and Social Committee on 24 June.
See the hashtag #EBC_Congress on Twitter for the live updates during that day.
You can find a short summary of the speakers’ contribution below.
EBC President Patrick LIEBUS highlights the importance of anticipating and preparing for the challenge and at the same time the opportunity that BIM provides for small construction entrepreneurs. This is why EBC organised its Annual Congress on this topic. BIM has to be adapted to the specific nature of small and medium companies, who are the ones carrying out the construction projects. Only this will ensure construction reaps the benefits of this innovative process. It is also essential to raise awareness among small construction companies and to provide proper training for them to be up to the challenge.
The President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Georges DASSIS welcomes the participants, stressing that the EESC is the house of civil society. He points out that BIM data help transform the way buildings are designed making them efficient throughout their life cycle. In particular, small and medium enterprises are the majority of companies and play a decisive role in terms of quality and expertise in job creation in the construction sector. Mr. Dassis also underlines that the construction industry and SMEs have a key role to play in the future of a competitive European economy.
Gwenole COZIGOU (Director for Industrial Transformation and Advanced Value Chains, DG GROW, European Commission) explains that construction is essential for growth and jobs in the European Union. This sector is at the heart of several recent initiatives of the European Commission. However, construction has a problem of image and of trained labour force. He also stresses that there are low cross-border exchanges in the Internal Market for construction services. So the sector should enter a new era. Digital model tools, such as BIM, create this opportunity. They contribute to build better, more efficiently and at a lower cost. He believes construction companies that innovate today are tomorrow’s winners. Nevertheless, BIM alone cannot digitalise the whole economy. It should be part of the overarching Digital Single Market Strategy. Finally, he expresses his satisfaction about standardisation activities on BIM at European level being well underway.
Adam MATTHEWS (Chair of EU BIM Task Group) shows the low productivity of the construction sector in the recent years. He explains that BIM is an opportunity for the sector, because it can increase its productivity. Moreover, the money spent in public procurement is ultimately paid by citizens, so policy-makers have the responsibility to tackle inefficiencies. The European Commission mandated the EU BIM Task Group to deliver a common European network. The focus of the group is to develop a handbook containing the common principles for public procurers and policy makers to consider when introducing BIM to their public works or strategies. The digitalisation of the sector can attract more young people. BIM requires a change in the mind-set and creating a network can be useful for this purpose.
Alejandro NUÑEZ (Technical Director at IMC) shows concrete projects of buildings in Spain that used BIM and new technologies, stressing the great added-value of BIM for renovation projects in dense urban areas where timing and coordination of different construction trades and craftsmen become essential.
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Ignasi PÉREZ ARNAL is the manager of the European BIM Summit and the co-founder of BIM ACADEMY, an institute created to respond to an emerging demand for new processes in construction. He believes that people should not be frightened by embracing BIM, because it makes it very easy to access all the relevant information digitally. But he emphasises that SMEs are the most affected ones because they don’t have enough training.
Ignasi Pérez Arnal moderates the panel debate with Bertrand Delcambre, Francesco Ruperto, Lutz Koppen, Patrick Liébus, Adam Matthews and Alejandro Nuñez
Bertrand DELCAMBRE (French Ambassador of the digital transformation plan for buildings) presents the actions of the French government to promote the digitalisation of the construction sector, namely the digital transformation plan for buildings. The aim of this plan is to give a boost to the construction sector, with a special focus on small companies. The plan started in January 2015 with a public budget of 20 million euros. The plan has three priorities: 1) Stimulating the interest in digitalisation 2) Upskilling small companies 3) Ensuring the trust of companies. The role of standardisation is essential for this. He explains that two third of French small construction companies recognise the need to digitalise their services and half think they need training. At national level there is still much to do to adapt the training to small construction businesses.
Francesco RUPERTO (Scientific coordinator of the Master on BIM at La Sapienza University) says that if construction SMEs think that BIM is strategic they must invest and get involved in it. However, raising the awareness of construction SMEs is fundamental. In Italy this approach is not sufficiently spread. He mentions that in Italy BIM applies to renovation works in existing buildings rather than new buildings. Since the adoption of the new public procurement code in Italy, public authorities have the possibility to include the use of BIM among the award criteria. This will help with the seamless transition of ‘traditional’ public procurement methods towards BIM-based one. Moreover, the training system on BIM for small construction companies has to be deeply strengthened. There is a big enthusiasm in Italy about the use of BIM, but there is still a lack of coordination. A technical forum for training gathering all relevant stakeholders exists but it has not been formalised yet.
Lutz KOPPEN (Adviser in DG GROW at the European Commission) explained that the Public Procurement Directive promotes the introduction of electronic procurement. However, it doesn’t set any obligations to use BIM, unless some conditions are matched - among which the general availability of the tools. The Commission prefers a market-driven approach, because the uptake of BIM is possible even without any obligations.