Easy-to-use BIM tools for collaborative construction energy renovation works: new Horizon 2020 project BIM4REN

With 3 million enterprises and 18 million workers, the construction industry represents around 9% of the European Union GDP. However, the sector is among the least digitalised industries of the European economy. The construction industry is also responsible for about 40% of final energy consumption in the EU and generates 36% of greenhouse gases in Europe. In this context, the EU-funded project BIM4REN, gathering 23 construction stakeholders under the lead of French Research and Technology Centre (RTO) Nobatek/INEF4, aims at developing user-friendly Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools and services in the field of energy renovation of existing buildings. The kick-off meeting of this 4-year project, financed up to € 7 million by Horizon 2020, took place on 24-25 October in Bordeaux, France. The vision of the project was already exposed to some BIM experts, renovation practitioners or public bodies in a public conference called Digital Conference 2018 – Digitalise or die: New tools for the construction sectorattracting 80 people to discuss about the need of a digital revolution of the construction sector to improve collaboration, productivity and quality.

Digital transformation is happening at a slow pace in the European construction industry. This means a huge gap between the theoretical digital opportunities and construction on-site realities. More energy efficient buildings require innovative or adapted methods and tools for construction professionals, especially construction SMEs, and efficient and collaborative processes along the whole construction value chain. The project “BIM based tools & technologies towards a fast and efficient RENovation of residential buildings – BIM4REN” aims at introducing state-of-the-art and easy-to-use BIM tools for collaborative construction energy renovation processes to face these issues, building in particular on the results of three pilot sites (Paris, San Sebastian and Venice) providing solid elements to evaluate the performance of the BIM4REN innovations.

BIM is too often perceived as a collection of complex tools and work methods that require several weeks of heavy training, often inaccessible to small companies from a financial and practical point of view. The BIM4REN partnership aims to make full use of BIM technology to improve the energy efficiency in situations of refurbishment and renovation of the existing building stock, with a particular attention for construction micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Top-notch RTOs active in the built environment domain (NobatekCSTBTecnaliaTNO and Fraunhofer ISE) will work alongside key industrial actors (EDFCMB Carpi and ATI Project), Universities (Aachen University and Vilnius University), R&D firms (R2M SolutionCOMET and Ekodenge), technology providers (IESEnerBIMWiseBIMVRM and AEC3), SME contractors (Kursaal and Termoline), a social housing organisation (Logirep), the Green Building Council- Italy and the European Builders Confederation EBC, the European organisation representing micro, small and medium-sized construction companies.

Our sector is 94.1% of companies with fewer than 10 employees and 99.4% of less than 49 employees; however, while the digital transformation of the construction sector cannot be done without SMEs, these companies do not have access to it or do not use it, says Eugenio Quintieri, EBC Secretary General, who adds: “Digital tools and methods make it possible to alleviate heavy tasks and avoid doubling actions, to improve the image of our professions, to go towards more efficiency, more energy saving and better communication within the value chain, as long as they are financially and technically accessible for SMEs and constitute a real added value!

Responsible of 40% of final energy consumption in the EU, the construction industry must contribute to the decarbonisation of the European economy by 2050, in order to reach EU targets of reducing its CO2 emissions by at least 80% and its energy consumption by as much as 50%. The digital transformation brings results in terms of productivity and energy consumption, especially by bringing the real consumption of the building closer to the expected consumption“, adds Thomas Messervey, CEO of R2M Solutions; who warns that within 5 or 10 years, the transformation lead by digital technology will be even more radical: “In addition to collaborative platforms and digital models, we will have to learn to work with artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, stand-alone bulldozers, digital twins, cloud and edge computing, and many more digital and intelligent tools.

BIM should not only be regarded as a tool for creating and managing high quality construction projects in a faster and cheaper way, but also as a significant opportunity that could reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases emissions, and as the ultimate trigger for a better collaboration along the whole construction value chain. Given the gap between how the use of BIM is designed and the reality of its use by micro, small and medium-sized companies, we must develop powerful tools to attract and involve construction professionals in the deployment of BIM, concludes Antoine Dugué, the coordinator of BIM4REN.

Indeed, BIM4REN aims at developing a collaborative service platform that engages all stakeholders across the value chain in order to steer digital-driven workflowsIn this sense, the BIM4REN consortium will reunite a broad construction stakeholders community, for liaison activities with construction-related entities that might be interested in the results and findings of the BIM4REN project. Feel free to manifest your interest in joining the BIM4REN stakeholders community!