We recently talked with Arto Kiviniemi, Honorary Research Senior Fellow at University of Liverpool, about the current state and future of BIM adoption in Europe. The following is an excerpt from our interview.
The full interview will be available in an upcoming white paper: BIM adoption in Europe – Current state, challenges, and a vision of tomorrow.
Countries are currently in very different stages of BIM adoption. What do you see as the next step in the expansion of BIM?
I see three levels of increasing BIM adoption in the near future.
1. Geographical expansion led mainly by the governmental or other official mandates. This is often the first step and it is happening at the moment all around the world. UK’s BIM mandate has been the main driver for this. For example, it led to forming the EU BIM work group, and thus the development of BIM requirements has been strongest in Europe, but it is also a global phenomenon.
2. Business driven adoption driven mainly by large global construction companies who have seen the benefits of integrated BIM in their projects and want their suppliers to start adopting it. This is already a reality in many companies, and it is now expanding to smaller and more local enterprises. In my opinion this will become the main driver, as in the long term the business benefits are more feasible than the public mandate.
3. Improving interoperability is also a strong driver for the BIM adoption. The main driver are the demands from companies which are sharing the BIM data and the implementation is naturally dependent on software providers.
How do you see the standardisation of BIM developing? Will it continue to be driven by national programs or can you see the emergence of an international cooperative body?
Standardisation is an absolutely crucial part of integrated BIM and sharing data, but there are two main layers of standardisation. The classification systems are local and so deeply rooted in the AEC industry that I don’t think we can change them into a global standardisation. However, this is not in contradiction with the need to global development of data interoperability because the data structures can have a placeholder for the local classification systems – as is already the case with IFC.
The data interoperability must be an international effort because of the nature of software industry. Most software providers are committed to Open BIM standards, because it is in their business interest and their customers demand it. I don’t see any reason why it could not be developed and maintained by buildingSMART International (bSI) also in the future. bSI is currently going through significant changes which in my opinion will make their role and contribution much stronger. The main reason are the increased resources, which is in my opinion currently the second most important development in this area after the governmental BIM mandates.
Is the development of BIM software going to reflect the expansion of BIM to construction and management to cover the entire project lifecycle?
At the moment BIM is mainly used in design and construction processes and the benefits of BIM in those activities are relatively well understood, although there is still a lot to improve also in these areas. However, there are still very limited examples of the use of BIM in facility management and operations despite of the constantly presented claim of its lifecycle value. In fact, most owners, especially on the private sector, are not at all interested in BIM as they see no value in using it in their activities. However, this does not mean that BIM would not have value in the FM and operation phases. The problem is more related to the lack of concrete evidence of benefits, insufficient research of the area and wrong type of communication. Most BIM experts have either design or construction background and they cannot communicate or even understand the FM and operation benefits of BIM. We need to analyse the daily activities and problems of the owners and operators in detail before we can understand the specific value of technology in their processes. I am sure that the lifecycle value of BIM will become a crucial part of the technology, but it will require both time and efforts.
How do you see the role of BIM in the face of today’s environmental challenges?
Environmental assessment is a complex issue and requires a lot of data. BIM can help the assessment process significantly, as on some level it already does. The issue is that the models must contain sufficient, correct and reliable data. The main challenge is to produce such data and make it easily available for end-users. The product manufacturers should take a crucial role in providing such data, but unfortunately the existing product libraries are often focusing more on visualisation than the useful data content for different phases of the building lifecycle. However, there are some exceptions, such as MagiCAD product libraries which make the products functioning components of the technical systems. Regarding the whole industry, the data structures and content should also be verified by impartial third parties so that the data of different projects will be comparable.
In addition to smart buildings, many visions of tomorrow’s built environment introduce the concept of smart cities. How do you see the role of BIM in the urban landscape of tomorrow?
There is currently a lot of discussion about Digital Twins as the solution to connect the virtual and physical worlds. I believe that this connection will be crucial part of smart cities. However, we must remember that a model is an abstraction of a reality for a purpose. This means that we must always define the purpose before we can define and build the model, and that there will always be several models for different purposes. Those can – and must – be linked to each other so that we can keep them updated and use their data efficiently, but we cannot build one model that would cover everything and be usable for practical purposes.
A Digital Twin is a concept where sensors in the real building are used to connect to the cloud, and ideally, all is connected to the BIM. Building Information Models feed the FM environment, including sources like energy usage data, service requests, and preventative maintenance.
The future potential involves linking BIM to FM on a city-wide basis, not just on an individual building level.
Digital Twin is the User Interface: Information comes from many sources
Dr. Arto Kiviniemi, Honorary Research Senior Fellow, is one of the internationally leading experts in integrated BIM. In 1997-2002 Arto lead the Finnish national R&D programme which created the foundation for Finland’s position as one of the leading countries in adopting BIM. He later initiated the first MSc BIM programme in the UK at the University of Salford and has subsequently worked at the University of Liverpool.