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Centre for Digital Built Britain completed its five-year mission and closed its doors at the end of September 2022

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This project seeks to address the question of how European cities are adapting to BIM, and what awareness there is of BIM in future city thinking and strategies, particularly around Smart Cities. It will also look at what tools and policies are being used to take forward BIM in city development and thinking. In addition it will consider what the drivers of BIM are, and what issues are being addressed through BIM, as well as what the barriers are to BIM in future city thinking, and what the experiences of BIM are and what research, evaluation and policy exists.

[Full Report]

At the same time as the digitalisation of the construction industry rose in the form of Building Information Modelling (BIM), global urbanisation has developed apace, with more than half of the population world-wide living in cities. These developments coincide with increasing calls for low carbon societies and energy efficient buildings. BIM solutions are widely claimed to allow improvements in energy and cost-efficient building allowing cities to develop more sustainable. The use of information modelling in BIM can therefore be of particular interest to city development. It is worth noting that BIM is not a uniquely UK phenomenon and work is underway in different countries to develop and deliver the advantages of digitalization in the built environment. On the contrary: in a worldwide comparison the UK is a relatively late-starter, with now, however, a substantial commitment. Against this background the goals of this research project are 

  • to review cities engagement with BIM, 
  • to provide a comparative analysis of international experiences with BIM, 
  • to inform policy making through a set of recommendations and identify further research needs. 

Our initial research findings revealed that cities play a much smaller role than expected given the push for smart city development. In coherence with the CDBB Mini-project on Urban Planning and BIM, we instead found that contemporary BIM strategies are largely driven by national governments: local planners and stakeholders are not yet aware of BIM and far from having a vision of a BIM supported city development. Despite a general awareness of BIM in cities with dedicated smart city strategies, as a rule, cities have no BIM strategies, representatives or in most of the cases awareness for the potential use of BIM for their city development. 

In order to identify how cities’ engagement with BIM can be supported, the questions this research addresses are twofold: 

  1. Cities and BIM: (I) How are cities adapting to BIM? What awareness is there of BIM in future city thinking and strategies particularly around Smart Cities? (II) What are the drivers of BIM? What issues are being addressed through BIM? What are the barriers to BIM in future city thinking? (III) What are the experiences of BIM and what research, evaluation and policy exist? 
  2. International experiences and BIM: (IV) Which countries commit to BIM, and why? In what ways do national strategies target city development? (V) What tools and policies are being used in different countries to take forward BIM and how do countries aim to foster sustainable city development through BIM? (VI) What are the success factors for some countries? What makes a successful BIM strategy? Why are some countries more advanced than others? 

We commence the review of international and European experiences by summarising world-wide activities and describe the European policy framework. Methodologically, we address this research through desk research, including academic literature, blogs, company websites, governmental publications and policy documents as well as through semi-structured interviews. Given the relatively recent development of digitalisation of the construction industry it is not surprising that the broad set of policies is still under development, or in many countries just at the stage of experimentation. 

We analyse six case studies by presenting national governmental strategies and their policy framework and by presenting illustrative examples of BIM implementation. The case studies include European and international forerunners in BIM: USA, United Kingdom Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Singapore. 3  

The analysis of different countries’ strategies to foster the use of BIM in the construction industry shows a significant diversity in the mix of regulatory, financial and other elements. In short, strategies include the public sector taking the lead, standardisation, incentives for BIM adopters and requirements on calls, removal of impediments, capacity building and best practice examples. Common elements in BIM strategies are the definition of standards and support of BIM through BIM Level performance of case study countries.requirements in tenders on governmental projects, in particular for infrastructure projects. Few countries have developed a particular financial incentive through dedicated BIM funds and through education measures. In general, the research suggests that a provision of a governmental framework and the amendment of the legal systems plus the definition of standards are somewhat the basis for BIM development. 

BIM can give a new momentum to rethink the future city development. We conclude that in order to better make use of BIM for city development, the momentum of smart cities strategies can be better exploited. The opportunity to link data from BIM modelled construction sites for the wider city development is captured under the concept of City Information modelling (CIM). BIM and CIM can be understood as enablers for smart city development. City Information Modelling can lift smart city development up to the next level, and integrate the information provided by BIM for city planning and development. The recognition of the urban level would however be needed to be recognised in national strategies, e.g. through the planning provisions, support of e-planning or education. Further research is needed to explore how planning and national strategies can support the lower levels to integrate BIM and collaborate with the construction industry. 



Department of Land Economy