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Working with countries globally to secure a common approach to BIM at the same time as developing the domestic BIM programme has generated practical understanding. Adam Matthews, lead for CDBB International, reflects on this experience and sets out seven ‘big questions’ for national BIM programmes

While BIM continues to be key to digitally transforming the UK construction industry to improve its productivity, deliver better outcomes and de-risk projects, it also brings opportunity to generate strategic benefits beyond our own shores. There is great value in developing innovation collectively and the experience of building a common approach to BIM globally, sharing skills and techniques, delivers benefits to all stakeholders and provides an effective way to increase international trade and growth. 

Lessons from nearly a decade of UK domestic practice have clearly demonstrated the ability to affect digital transformation through public policy and public procurement. In addition, CDBB’s International programme, which reaches across more than 20 European countries growing their own national strategies while aligning a common language, has highlighted both opportunities and challenges. The success of the European programme has informed engagement with countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and our methodology and ideas and technical support are based not on a single country but on the consensus of many. 

We also deliver support to the UK Government’s Prosperity funded Global Infrastructure Programme (GIP), which offers UK infrastructure methodologies for business case development, project preparation and digital construction to partner countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. We work with government officials and industry stakeholders in partner countries to identify the adaptations required to meet local cultural, contractual and legal conditions and, importantly, to deliver on the desired national outcomes for that country.  

The experience of working both nationally and internationally has led CDBB to identify seven questions to be asked by all countries choosing to engage with a digital strategy that is truly transformative. When a country embarks on the process of digital transformation the procedure begins with these questions to bring focus to the challenges that government and industry face in the adoption of BIM as a national digital strategy: 

  1. How do you transform an entire sector? 
  2. What are your goals, ownership and strategy? 
  3. Are you well coordinated? 
  4. Do you need a national and international BIM definition? 
  5. How do you gradually develop learning? 
  6. How do you change mindsets? 
  7. How do you maintain momentum? 

We have learned a lot from collaborating with other countries and it has been a rich two-way experience. It has helped us to learn that there is limited value for a country to develop its own standards and terms in isolation. Conversely, there is real benefit to collaborating to create more opportunities for individual countries to perform better domestically. Our work helps domestic performance by creating a common understanding and increasing prosperity through international trade. Global collaboration is the goal of our work, and it is increasing at pace.