BIM adoption in Europe: 7 countries compared

PlanRadar is a SaaS solution (Software as a Service) for construction and real estate projects that supports BIM technology. Originally developed in Austria in 2013, today PlanRadar has customers in over 50 countries. As a result, PlanRadar has gained unique insights into construction technology used around the world. In 2021, Planradar compiled research on BIM adoption in Europe. The research also reviewed the level of support governments have given to BIM technology and digital working practices.

Zastosowanie

BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a broad term that describes the process of creating and managing the digital building model of any construction site or building object at all its stages. The use of a digital model greatly facilitates the design, construction and operation processes in addition to providing an accurate and reliable multi-component information base for decision-making. The construction industry across the world is facing new challenges to increased productivity, cost and time reduction. Modern construction technology enables the building of complex structures quickly and efficiently. Proven efficiency has made BIM technology the central trend in construction, moving it from an “elite” group of adopters to the main construction standard. Moreover, together with government backing and legislative support, BIM’s popularity has increased exponentially in many countries.

BIM technology is not limited to three-dimensional modelling in CAD programs. It involves a whole set of interactions and collaboration between different specialists in a digital format. Its most common use simplifies the realization of projects by clearly showing different scenarios on a virtual model. This way BIM helps prevent errors, optimize costs and accelerate the building process. And at the end of a project, the resulting files provide an important information base for the post-project stages, improving collaboration with managers of a building after completion and extending its lifespan.

Stages of BIM Implementation

Historically, the UK is considered to be the pioneer of BIM technology. It was they who defined the BS1192: 2007 standard, which forms the basis of today’s ISO 19650.  Like any other technology, our understanding of BIM has evolved, and along with it, the functionality and capabilities have changed. However, as many markets are only just embarking on their BIM adoption journeys, it is useful to go back a step.

 

Until recently, it has been common practice in the UK to define BIM maturity through four distinct levels. In order to properly compare markets of different maturity, we have therefore used these older terms. Here is a brief description of each of the BIM Maturity levels:

Level 0

Includes ordinary CAD drawings. The exchange of information between the team remains on paper or, at best, via electronic media, but without the ability to work in a common environment.

Level 1

Data is now uniformly structured and may be supplemented with a 3D format. BIM Level 1 suggests the presence of basic information, a conditional common data environment, but no proper interaction between different specialists. Exchanges of information happen in a digital format, often via a document management system, but the process cannot be described as fully collaborative.

Level 2

This stage is distinguished by collaboration between parties. Various specialists can interact with the model using their own different programs – the data can be then “assembled” in a software application using a common file format. This enables teams to check for collisions between systems and test other possible scenarios, and also makes it possible to analyze what needs to be improved or replaced at the design stage. At this level, you can also track additional parameters such as time and cost (4D and 5D), unlocking the tangible benefits of BIM technology.

Level 3

This stage requires a multi-level unified environment that integrates the work of all project participants – from the architect and systems engineers to the contractor, building owners and facility managers. It implies the integration of all project data and all stages of the process, using an international set of standards and ensuring all data is compatible with the IFC format. At this level, the information model is filled with live, real-time data that can be used not only in the design and construction stages but also in the operational stage, covering the entire lifecycle of a building. Huge amounts of project data will open the door for new opportunities in the management, operation and optimization of any structure.

Overview: BIM adoption in Europe

The countries analysed in this research are nations that are at different stages of BIM adoption. The UK, for example, has long been considered a pioneer in BIM technology, with projects using early BIM technologies dating back to the 80s. Meanwhile, Russia’s first BIM projects only appeared in 2014-15, but the country is on a steep upward trajectory in terms of adoption.

Likewise, closer examination of a highly developed construction market like Germany shows that a large number of construction professionals do use BIM, but that use is often limited to architects and designers and is not always fully collaborative.

Another factor that is of interest is the level of government intervention and investment in BIM. To return to the UK, the national government’s mandate that all state-funded projects should use at least BIM level 2 from 2016 onwards has spurred a great deal of awareness and uptake of BIM technologies. This research, therefore, examines each government’s attitude and official stance on BIM to see if there are trends to be found between government support and change in the industry.

Of course, individual nations have different population sizes, different construction ecosystems and a range of budgets available for investment in technology. The most advanced companies in each region probably have more in common with each other than they do with their compatriots who haven’t adopted this technology. However, it is still of value to see how much of a conversation is being had around BIM and where we can expect to see swift growth in BIM use in the coming years.

Results

Here are the overall results of the research, featuring the UK, Germany, Poland, France, Croatia, Austria and Russia. The table shows the level of BIM adoption in European construction companies, the most common BIM maturity level and the date BIM use became mandatory on certain kinds of projects.

Country Most common BIM maturity level Date BIM become mandatory Percentage of construction companies that use BIM
UK 2, with development towards 3 2016 for government projects 73%
Germany 2, with some 1 and 3 2017 for projects worth over €100 million 70%
Poland 1, growing rates of 2 2030 for capital construction projects with a state budget 43%
France 2 1st January 2022 35% – real estate

50-60% of construction companies

Croatia 0, some cases of 1 Not currently mandatory 25% of designers

4% of contractors

Austria 1, with local standards pushing for 3 2018-20 for cost control in public buildings 20%
Russia 1, growing rates of 2 and 3 1st March 2022 for all government-funded projects 12%

 

Country by country breakdown of BIM adoption in Europe

United Kingdom

Uptake by construction companies

Statistics from the NBS show that in 2020, 73% of companies were both familiar with BIM and use the technology in their projects.  Statistics from 2011 show that only a decade earlier, only 13% of developers used BIM and 43% were not even aware of it. In 2020, only 1% of UK companies were not aware of BIM. This demonstrates that despite the relatively long history of BIM in the UK, the majority of awareness and uptake has come in the last decade. For a range of reasons, small businesses are less likely to use BIM: only 62% of small businesses in the UK (<15 staff) use BIM, compared to 80% of large businesses that actively implement BIM.

Maturity level

Level 2 is now common (and is mandatory for state projects), and there are also a number of large-scale projects using BIM level 3.

When did BIM use begin?

The UK is the most advanced country on our list in terms of using BIM. One of the earliest projects using BIM was the Heathrow Airport reconstruction in the 80s, and projects gradually increased in number and complexity. From 2007,  BS 1192:2007 was adopted as an industry standard. This standard and its later variants formed the basis of the new ISO 19650 series of standards which were published in 2019.

When did BIM become mandatory?

In 2011, the British government stated that they would aim for all state-funded projects to achieve the use of at least BIM level 2 by 2016. After 2016, this goal became a mandatory part of procurement for government projects. For private projects, BIM usage is advised but not mandatory. So, for all government projects, including infrastructure and public buildings, 3D BIM is used including information about projects and assets, documentation and other data in electronic formats that enables a certain degree of collaboration throughout the design and build phases.

Germany

Percentage of use by construction companies

Approximately 70% of construction companies use BIM at different levels. However, between 70 and 80% of them are architects and design companies.

Maturity level

The average maturity level is level 2, but level 1 is still widely used. Several high-profile projects are using level 3.

When did BIM use begin?

While the first German BIM projects were carried out between 2006 and 2009, BIM has been consistently used in large-scale projects with a budget of 25 million euros or more since 2015. These projects cover about one-third of designers and contractors in Germany. However, small design bureaus hardly use collaborative BIM.

Since April 2016, public contracting organizations have the right to request the contractor to apply BIM. This also applies to the design of transport systems, drinking water infrastructure and energy projects. However, they do not have the right to demand that contractors use BIM.

At present, there are no specific BIM standard clauses for design and construction contracts in use in Germany outside of the ISO standards.

The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) has announced that it will provide financial support to small and medium-sized enterprises in the transition to BIM. The government will also encourage pilot projects to help companies find the best approaches to enable BIM.

Numerous associations and companies have founded the Planen Bauen 4.0 group in Germany that actively supports the implementation of BIM in the country. There are also two levels of official standardization activities, the first level being represented by the VDI (Association of German Engineers). The organization is responsible for developing legal security standards such as VDI2552, and it will develop the German national BIM standard to be approved by the German Standards Institute – DIN.

When did BIM become mandatory?

BIM has been mandatory for projects worth over €100 million since 2017.

Today, there is a government initiative named the BIM4INFRA2020 Project, whose mandate is to implement the BIM roadmap. Within the framework of the BIM4INFRA2020 project, seven pilot BIM projects were carried out, including transport infrastructure projects. As a result, 10 comprehensive BIM implementation guides have been created. From 31st December 2020, the use of BIM became mandatory for all public contracts relating to the building of federal infrastructure or buildings related to infrastructure.

The German government also recently opened the German Center for Digitization of the Construction Industry, which will promote, like the BIM4INFRA2020 Project, BIM standardization,  to develop skills training and offer consultation and support for BIM projects, as well as creating a vision for the future digitalization of the German construction sector.

France

Percentage of use by construction companies

Despite the use of BIM not being mandatory for capital construction projects, whether public or private, 35% of developers in France use BIM for their real estate projects. In addition, 50 to 60% of the leaders in the French construction market have switched to BIM. 30% of design bureaus also have a BIM manager in their teams.

Maturity level

The most common maturity level is level 2.

When did BIM use begin?

BIM became popular in France in 2006-2007, but only within a limited number of professions – mainly architects and designers. The first projects began to be implemented in the 2010s. At the moment, the government of the country has used BIM (design) for the housing sector for 500,000 houses.

When did BIM become mandatory?

France does not yet have a single BIM standard enshrined in law or regulation. But the state encourages this initiative, especially in relation to large public projects. In 2017, a roadmap for BIM standardization was released: in the document, the government recognized the need for standardization, which is an important aspect when it comes to collaboration in BIM processes. At the end of 2018, BIM Plan 2022 was launched to encourage construction participants to integrate BIM into their workflows – the industry hoped that this could be implemented across the country by 2022. But so far, difficulties have been caused by scattered formats and different programs – it is difficult for construction companies to come to an agreement since there is no single approved BIM standard.

Poland

Percentage of use by construction companies

In 2019, Kantar Polska, on behalf of Autodesk, conducted a BIM awareness survey among 287 Polish architectural and construction companies. At most, 43% of survey participants reported that they had used BIM in their projects, and 76% confirmed that they had contact with BIM methodology in their work.

When did BIM use begin?

Previous research conducted by Millward Brown on behalf of Autodesk in 2015 revealed that 25% of survey participants were already using BIM in their projects. This trend intensified at the end of 2016 when the Ministry of Infrastructure and Construction of Poland prepared an analysis of the existing implementation of BIM and considered regulations on its use.

At the end of 2019, it announced that more than 70 projects in the country had used BIM – all of them were public or state objects, as well as road and infrastructure projects

When and where is BIM mandatory?

Polish Laws regulating the use of BIM in public procurement were first introduced in 2014, as a result of the adoption of Directives 2014/24/EU and 2014/25/EU on public procurement of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 26 February 2014. The first public procurement for which the use of BIM was mandatory, was the construction of the Jozef Pilsudski Museum Complex in Sulejówek. However, due to numerous controversies concerning the procurement guidelines, BIM was withdrawn from this project. Early attempts by the state to make BIM adoption mandatory were therefore unsuccessful.

In 2020, The Ministry of Development, Labour and Technology published a roadmap of BIM implementation for public procurement in Poland. However, according to forecasts, the use of BIM will only become mandatory in Poland for capital construction projects with a state budget no earlier than 2030.

Poland’s standardised BIM protocol is called BIM Standard PL. However, in order to use BIM in a project, everything is usually stipulated in advance in the contract, including all definitions, roles and requirements regarding individual parties, the degree of detail of projects, procedures, and more.

Austria

Percentage of use by construction companies

Austria can boast open and advanced BIM standards – ÖNORM A 6241-2 (all levels up to 3), developed by the Austrian Standards Institute. However, only 20% of small and medium construction companies use BIM.

Maturity level

The most common maturity level is level 1, level 2 is actively developing. However, ÖNORM A 6241-2 covers level 3 as well, so there is a structure for companies who intend to reach full maturity.

When did BIM use begin?

BIM has been used in Austria by individual companies since 2011. However, since 2015 and following the publication of the ÖNORM A 6241 series of standards, implementation has intensified among large developers.

One problem in Austria is that the international IFC format for the exchange of BIM model data is only used by a small number of Austrian design companies, which limits the amount of collaboration between partners.  59% of planners and designers surveyed by Frauenhofer IAO reported that different formats and different standards for CAD programs caused issues in their projects. Despite this, there are a large number of Austrian projects that used BIM  – mainly state-funded facilities or large-scale commercial projects.

When and where is BIM mandatory?

Since 2018, BIM has been mandatory for budget control in the construction of public buildings. In accordance with a recommendation by the European Commission, BIM has been mandatory in Austria for tenders and public works contracts since 2020.

However, legislation enforcing the use of BIM in Austria more broadly has not been passed. Instead, the decision to use BIM rests with the customer and can be stipulated in the contract. There are only officially accepted technical standards for BIM – ÖNORM A 6241-1 and A 6241-2.

With only 6% of industry professionals surveyed by Frauenhofer IAO believing that BIM should be required by law, it is not surprising that there are currently no legislative plans or proposals for this technology in Austria. Despite this, there are quite a few projects in the country that have used BIM technology in their design and execution, and this number is expected to grow.

Russia

Percentage of use by construction companies

According to the most recent data (March 2021) in Russia, about 12% of developers use BIM for design. In 2020, statistics demonstrated that 7% of Russian construction companies were using BIM. Currently, BIM maturity level 1 dominates in Russia, but the number of level 2 projects is increasing. Large sports facilities and isolated commercial complex buildings have been documented as using level 3.

When was BIM first used?

A new chapter in the development of BIM in Russian construction began in 2019 – the year that  BIM began its official existence in Russia. Since 2019, a number of standards have been approved and since 2020 the standards for the formation and maintenance of BIM have come into effect.

However, the use of BIM technologies in the field of industrial and civil construction predates its legal status. In 2014, the Minister of Construction issued an order on the phased introduction of Information Modeling in the field of industrial and civil construction and its usage in Moscow’s construction projects. Then in 2015, the decision was made to create a unified classification system that will include more than 70,000 prefabricated structures and building materials. In the same year, 25 state-funded pilot projects were identified, including Krasnoyarsk Regional Clinical Hospital; The Center for Palliative Medicine in Kolpino near St. Petersburg and the emergency department at the Alexander Hospital in St. Petersburg, where BIM level 1 was applied for the first time.

From March 1, 2018 – a set of rules on Information Modeling entered into force. Just two years later, in 2020, the process of BIM standardisation in Russia accelerated again. On September 17, 2020, the rules for the formation and maintenance of the information model, including the type of information to be included, and the rules for maintaining the GISOGD* of the Russian Federation were approved. As of now, there are 15 national standards (GOSTs) and 8 sets of rules for information modelling in the country.

*GISOGD refers to the information management system for town planning activities.

When and where did BIM become mandatory?

The introduction of mandatory use of BIM technology at state-funded construction sites in Russia has been postponed and rescheduled several times, however, on March 5, 2021, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed Government Decree No. 331. The document contains a provision stating that “from March 1, 2022, the formation and maintenance of an information model of a capital construction object becomes mandatory for customers, developers, technical customers, and operating organizations, if funds for this object are allocated from the budgets of all levels of government – municipal, regional or federal.”

Moreover, where this rule previously referred only to building projects with a budget of over 500 million rubles, now there is no such limit: from March 2022, all government projects are required to use BIM technology. On December 1, 2022, the Rules for maintaining GIS to ensure urban planning development will come into effect. So, government support for BIM standards will definitely be a catalyst for its active implementation and development of maturity levels.

Croatia

Percentage of use by construction companies

Approximately 25% of all Croatian designers use entry-level BIM, meaning level 0, or two-dimensional CAD projects.

Like many other European countries, Croatia has recently turned its attention to the digitalization of the industry and, in particular, to increasingly work using BIM. But at the moment there are no figures, official or unofficial, that give a definitive answer to how many construction companies use BIM.

Maturity level

As a result of low levels of uptake, and the focus of BIM use within architecture and design, the average maturity level is 0 but with a positive trend towards level 1. There are several large projects which work at level 1 or above but these are exceptions.

When was BIM first used?

Early projects using BIM arrived in Croatia in 2015, although this use has been almost exclusively in the design phase. While Croatian construction professionals are promoting this technology, since 2017 there have been no significant changes in this area. However, there are active initiatives taking the first steps towards BIM standardization with the help of the Croatian Standards Institute. But so far, these initiatives concern educational and scientific circles, and have little to do with practical construction.

Currently, feedback from the implemented BIM pilot projects in Croatia is either lacking or not transparent enough to be used as a training tool for projects, as well as to further develop BIM or support the implementation of BIM in the Croatian construction industry. It can definitely be said that as of 2020, the country can still be ranked at  BIM maturity level 0.

However, since 2017, there has been a positive trend towards level 1, so there is room for optimism. Studies on the implementation of BIM in Croatia have shown that many participants in the construction market do not quite correctly understand BIM technology, often implying only 3D design. With the translation of ISO standards into Croatian and the country’s membership of the EU BIM Task Group, the level of understanding and therefore implementation could increase considerably in the coming years.

When and where is BIM use mandatory?

BIM does not currently feature in Croatian building legislation.

In general, the Croatian market is not yet ready for the adoption of BIM standards, as there is a lack of knowledge and understanding outside of academic and engineering circles. As soon as the broader construction community  – not only architects and designers, but also investors, suppliers, chief engineers – in the country is sufficiently interested in the application of this technology, then it is possible that BIM standardization will join the agenda. Most importantly, so far, customers have not seen a direct benefit from adopting BIM.

Conclusion: BIM adoption in Europe is uneven

As of 2021, the UK remains the undisputed leader in the earliest use and implementation of BIM in construction projects. For one thing, since 2007 it has developed and adopted BIM standards which were both approved at the national level and formed the basis of the ISO 19650. Additionally, since 2016 all state-funded projects must use at least BIM level 2. This led to a huge surge in awareness and use of BIM between 2011 and 2020. However, when it comes to the amount of legislation that mandates BIM use,  Russia is the clear leader. No other country in this ranking has adopted so many laws on standardization and the mandatory implementation of BIM in the construction industry.

The lowest-ranked in terms of BIM implementation at the state level is Croatia. In this region, BIM is used in isolated special cases and the level of its maturity is generally at level 0, limited to architects and engineers with little collaboration throughout the design and build process.

Countries that are actively practising the use of BIM technology at level 2 and beyond:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Germany
  3. France

Countries that have also joined the modern digitalization of construction:

  1. Austria
  2. Russia
  3. Poland

 

As of 2021, with the business environment impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, construction businesses around the world are accelerating their digitization process. The effectiveness of the technologies themselves and the ability to apply them in the context of remote control and project coordination has become even more obvious. As a result, in several countries, long-awaited government mandates for BIM have finally received the green light after years of being shelved or subjected to constant revisions. One example of this is Russia, which has shown progress by approving important documents on BIM at the end of 2020, giving many construction companies a clear directive to use BIM in their projects.

Overall, however, it was surprising to find that the level of BIM maturity, even in developed European countries, does not usually exceed level 2 except for certain exceptional projects. This is due to the same obstacles everywhere:

  • lack of unified standards and norms, classifiers, state regulatory framework for BIM, or a lack of knowledge about the necessary standards;
  • lack of government support for similar technologies in many countries;
  • scarcity of specialists and professional body for instruction and retraining;
  • low demand for such technology among customers due to insufficient awareness of the benefits;
  • a conservative culture within local construction industries, where innovation is slow.

 

If the industry, governments and software providers can come together to solve some of these common issues, we should see BIM adoption in Europe accelerate – not only among the countries that are currently leading the way but also among those who have not made as much progress yet.

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