11 March 2017

How is the EU BIM Task Group getting on?

A year ago, Adam Matthews, Chair of the EU BIM Task Group, reported here that Europe’s public procurers, policymakers and public estate owners are beginning to recognise the positive and transformative effect that digitalisation brings to both public works and the construction sector. European nations are introducing national programmes to encourage Building Information Modelling (BIM) with the common aim of improving value for public money, quality of the public estate and the sustainable competitiveness of markets. To address this opportunity in a common approach for Europe, the EU BIM Task Group was formed in 2016.

This task group includes a mix of public sector representatives and nominated industry advisers from 22 European nations, comprising public estate owners, infrastructure operators, policy officers and procurers. The European Commission awarded the EU BIM Task Group funding for a two-year programme (2016–2017) to deliver ‘a common European network aimed at aligning the use of Building Information Modelling in public works’. This framework will be produced as a handbook describing common practice and definitions to support Europe’s public sector stakeholders who are considering a harmonised introduction of BIM.

Why and how are the European Nations approaching BIM?

As their first activity after its official launch in February 2016, the task group carried out a survey amongst its member states. The purpose of the survey was to establish a better understanding of the current status and practices of the member states regarding BIM implementation programs. This survey was a step towards the development of the handbook. It was designed to collect information in these four areas:

Questions concerning the member states’ current or planned activities have revealed that an increasing number of European governments and public sector organisations have introduced programmes to encourage the wider adoption of BIM at a national, regional or public estate level. The number of national public sector-led BIM programmes has increased significantly since 2011 to approximately 11 active programmes.

The benefits the member states expect from a wider adoption of BIM on public sector projects and to private industry include:

  • Fewer errors;
  • Less waste;
  • Greater certainty of delivery timescales;
  • Improved coordination and collaboration within the supply chain and with the client;
  • Better outcomes for the public client, and users and operators of the facility or infrastructure asset.

The survey identifies that these benefits for the public sector can be categorised as:

  • Economic cost benefits in the capital phase or whole life of the asset;
  • Value benefits such as environmental or social, i.e. growths, sustainability, protection of small and medium enterprises etc.

Understanding the drivers and expectations of the member states forms an essential foundation for a harmonised European framework, addressing the risk of divergence across different European markets. Divergence in definitions and practices for BIM would likely create new barriers for working in different markets and add cost of compliance to the construction sector.

The handbook, which aims to provide guidance and support to the member states, provides two central frameworks for the common introduction of BIM to Europe’s public estate and public works:

  • A strategic framework for public sector-led BIM programmes;
  • A common performance definition of BIM.

These two frameworks complement each other to provide public stakeholders with a holistic methodology for the introduction of BIM as a national, regional or public estate initiative, and an implementation level definition of BIM to provide consistency at the project level.

A common strategic framework for BIM implementation

BIM programmes are change management initiatives that require goals, resources, people, developments, momentum, successes and time. In order to coordinate and align these various elements in order to deliver robust BIM programmes, a strategic framework is required. Based on the analysis of a range of public sector-led BIM programmes, this handbook describes a common strategic framework to provide a common approach for the introduction of BIM by Europe’s public sector.

The framework identifies four strategic areas of action that are important when developing robust and effective BIM initiatives:

1. Establishing public leadership;
2. Communicating vision and foster communities;
3. Developing a collaborative framework;
4. Growing client and industry capability and capacity.

Each of these four high level areas contains specific actions for the public stakeholder to consider. The framework provides a route map for those stakeholders starting the journey and offers a cross-check to those who have already begun.

This framework recommends that public sector-led programmes are most effective and robust when these four strategic areas are well-defined and equally developed. The handbook contains detailed descriptions of the recommended actions for a successful implementation.

A common performance definition of BIM

When BIM is introduced or specified at a project, organisational or national level, there is often a lack of clarity and common understanding of what BIM actually is. Despite more or less common definitions, we often observe that BIM means many things to different people. There is no single international standard or definition of the activities that should be procured and performed on a project for it to be considered ‘a BIM project’. BIM is inconsistently understood as software, a 3D model or a system. This inconsistency causes confusion and divergence for public procurers and private sector suppliers, leading to barriers for successful implementation. Over-production and processing of data and information is a frequently observed result of the technical capability with a lacking ability to identify, specify and procure only the required amount and quality of information at a given point in time.

Experience from the EU BIM Task Group recommends that a clear and specific definition of minimum activities and characteristics, combined with the phased implementation of the strategic framework in a realistic timeframe, seems to be the most promising approach for a successful transformation of the construction sector. The characteristics cover four core definition areas, as shown above. The minimum characteristics described in the handbook will enable the change from a strategic level to the operational use of the BIM methodology at a project level. The common EU BIM performance level provides a signpost to existing and developing standards. It will be most effective when the four definition areas are well defined and equally developed. The handbook will be published in summer 2017. The European Commission has already confirmed further support for a harmonised and aligned European approach to digitisation in the construction sector.


The European Commission has announced its continued support for the Task Group and its aim for a harmonised and aligned European approach to digitisation of the construction sector. Industry engagement with the handbook has already begun, with events and briefings at the European and national levels – and provides useful input and support for its aim.

Image: EU flags, Andrew Gustar, CC BY-ND

This article is taken from the NBS National BIM Report 2017. Find out more and download the full free report including comprehensive analysis of our survey results.