Digital Builder Ep 78: What Europe’s BIM Mandates Really Mean for Construction

If you've been following construction news and developments in Europe, then you know that BIM mandates have been making waves in several countries.

Ireland is one of the latest countries to adopt its own BIM mandate, aiming to enhance project delivery and align with international standards.

It's a fascinating landscape, to say the least. And in this episode of Digital Builder, we have a lively discussion about all things BIM mandates in Europe.

Joining us in the show are David Purdon, Technical Director at Diatech, and Marek Suchocki, Head of Industry Associations and Strategy at Autodesk. Our guests share their perspectives on these mandates, focusing on the implications, misconceptions, and learnings across different regions.

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On this episode 

We discuss:

  • The rollout of BIM mandates in the UK faced challenges in managing the information exchange process
  • The complex intersection of BIM modeling and the production supply chain
  • How BIM modeling and technology integration ensure the longevity of construction organizations
  • The difficulty many organizations face in balancing the long-term vision of digital tools with their immediate needs
  • Why BIM allows organizations to derive better value from public construction investments
  • How to get started making changes if you’re impacted by a BIM mandate.

High-level overview: what are BIM mandates, and why implement them?

BIM mandates are regulations or policies requiring the use of BIM technology and processes for planning and executing infrastructure projects. Governments enforce them to ensure that construction projects are completed more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Marek explains, "The intention of a BIM mandate or a BIM specification is that a client and ideally public sector is demanding better from the industry. We build schools, roads, and prisons, and if we spend too much money on the build and the actual resultant facility doesn't meet needs, then we as taxpayers have had a poor service from our governments. So, a BIM mandate is saying, 'I think BIM can help us get better value from those public construction investments.' And it's up to the industry to embrace what that means."

It's also about consistency and improved outcomes in government projects. 

"The key thing is looking at how a mandate can help better outcomes because the reality is there's such a diverse set of outcomes that's happening across all construction projects," remarks David. 

He adds, "When dealing with local government and the national development plans that are put together, you have to have those contingencies to ensure consistent outcomes. So our mandate becomes a crucial component of that."

How Britain and Ireland implement BIM mandates

To help us better understand the implications of BIM mandates, Marek shares insights into how these mandates came about in the UK.

According to him, the journey towards BIM mandates in the UK reflects a shift from traditional drafting methods to digital processes. Initially, the industry relied on paper and pencil for drawings, a practice that evolved with the advent of AutoCAD.

But as folks started using and sending computer-generated models, the industry faced a new challenge: the lack of oversight and control over the information being exchanged.

"They were just sending each other, and we lost control. So, in a way—from the UK side at least—the BIM mandate was not so much about 'Thou shalt use Revit,' it was more of saying, 'You're using Revit, but you're not using it under control,'" he says. 

"So, we introduced the idea of the common data environment to standardize the information creation exchange and use."

Over in Ireland, the BIM mandates are still in their early days.

"It's earmarked to start in January 2024," shares David. "Essentially, the Irish government and the National Development Plan have set out a 48-month, four-year window to make all national development plan projects have a BIM mandate attached, starting with a hundred million and then gradually going down to any project less than a million by month 48." 

Overcoming challenges and apprehension 

People are naturally resistant to change; misgivings can arise, particularly when someone is required to change. 

This is the case with BIM mandates, especially for those down the supply chain. According to David, while larger, tech-savvy firms are already compliant with BIM mandates, smaller entities may face more challenges adapting to new technologies and methodologies.

"The challenge is the supply chain and the people below, whose general production methodology may be more about shop drawings and fabrication, not building BIM models. So the feedback generally is a little bit of apprehension," he remarks. 

The good news is that increasing support and resources are available to assist these firms in making the transition.

As David says, "What I've seen is that a lot of groups—e.g., the Lean Construction Group, the Construction Industry Federation, and various bodies—are putting together documentation to walk through the supply chain.” 

Marek weighs in, saying that one of the keys to overcoming these challenges is to embrace the concept of information management and data structuring across the industry.

"We can all benefit from the greater good if we start structuring data. If we all understand our role in the food chain of the construction project, then the greater good could be realized. So if somebody in that chain stops doing what they should, it unravels."

The mandate's role, says Marek, is to require teams to deliver in these structured ways, ensuring compliance with set standards and specifications.

Marek points out that compliance doesn't necessarily mean purchasing Revit or other tools. Rather, it's about managing information effectively for the benefit of the project.

It's all about "the 'I' in 'BIM.' Sometimes, all you have to do is provision a little bit of data in the right structured format. So, it's not about everybody doing modeling; it's far from it."

David agrees and reflects on the concept of decoupling data from models.

"That, to me, is the way that you democratize how we do digital construction. And it's not even about digital construction anymore. It's industrialized construction; it's about process engineering. It's about defining outcomes with a proper structure in place, and everybody knows their role and how to do it. And I think we'll see some really exciting examples of how this changes and evolves the industry going forward."

Why we should get excited about BIM mandates

Speaking of excitement, these BIM mandates also bring a host of benefits that we can get enthusiastic about. 

One of them, says Marek, is the ability to attract young people to the construction industry. BIM mandates drive digital processes and tech adoption, which make the field more appealing and relevant to younger generations.

"If we use digital tools—like some of the things we see at events like Autodesk University—they're exciting, and dare I say, even sexy."

Marek continues, "How are we going to attract young people into our industry if it's not by saying, 'Well, if you come and work for this engineering consultant, they're using virtual reality to inspect buildings, and they're bringing their clients in. And when you can even use gaming engines to simulate stuff.'"

"I think that's kind of the real benefit for the organization is that you get the right people in, you get people to stay, and you're still delivering the enhanced service to your customers."

New podcast episode every week

Digital Builder is hosted by me, Eric Thomas. Remember, new episodes of Digital Builder go live every week. Be sure to catch this entire episode to learn the ins and outs of BIM mandates and why they're essential. 

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Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.