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Future Cities and BIM - Dr Franziska Sielker

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.

In order to realise the full extent of the economic opportunities DBB’s scope was extended in February 2016 beyond construction efficiency to include information to support the growth of our cities, emphasising the strong link between the success of cities and economic growth as well as wider social and environmental benefits of DBB to the built environment. Cities are a key enabler to productivity and economic development. However, they are currently acting as a brake on economic growth. Traffic congestion cost the UK economy £31bn in 2016 and the NHS spends £600m per year treating illnesses caused by living in poor housing conditions. The increase in the UK population and changing demographics (in particular an aging population), will place significant strain on the existing built environment and the services it provides further limiting economic growth. In addition to attempting to realise the full economic benefits of DBB by focusing on cities as well as buildings there are also social and environmental benefits that can flow from coordinating and integrating BIM at different spatial scales. For example, more accurate material ordering leading to less waste to landfill and optimised simulation of energy analysis leading to lower energy demands from the built environment and help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Social impacts can arise from engaging with the public and communities in the assessment of future needs in the built environment, helping better coordinate planned infrastructure investment, building design and location.

Cities are at the forefront of many of the societal challenges that BIM seeks to help address, e.g., housing affordability, the impacts of climate change, ageing infrastructure, traffic growth and congestion. Cities can also help deliver the wider social and environmental benefits of BIM. Yet the relationship between city development and BIM is largely unknown. The fundamental questions that this research seeks to address are ‘how is BIM being used to help address the challenges of future cities and what can be done to help support city development and BIM?’.

In addressing these questions 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. Cities across Europe constitute a ‘policy laboratory’, approaching the integration of common BIM principles in different ways that reflect unique challenges and distinctive political, administrative and legal cultures, ways that could provide valuable lessons and experiences on the roll out of BIM.

The research will therefore seek to address the following questions:

  1. How are European cities adapting to BIM? What awareness is there of BIM in future city thinking and strategies particularly around Smart Cities?
  2. What tools and policies are being used to take forward BIM in city development and thinking?
  3. What are the drivers of BIM? What issues are being addressed through BIM? What are the barriers to BIM in future city thinking?
  4. What are the experiences of BIM and what research, evaluation and policy exists?

The methodology for the project will be case study driven and data will be collected from semi-structured interviews with key actors supplemented by analysis of published material. Within the scope of this project it will be necessary to be selective and focus upon four other European cities plus an initial UK city, Cambridge, making five case studies in all. Cambridge has been chosen because of the unique levels of high growth and development that it is planned over coming years and the potential to shape this through BIM. The four other cases will be selected from those cities that have most experience of BIM and a developed digital urban agenda (work by the Future Cities Catapult alongside our own previous research on Smart Cities and Resilient Cities will be informative here). Our experiences around Smart Cities suggests Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam and Manchester though the final selection will follow from a more detailed analysis and assessment.


Department of Land Economy


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Welcome to the Centre for Digital Built Britain.  

The Centre for Digital Built Britain is a partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of Cambridge to deliver a smart digital economy for infrastructure and construction for the future and transform the UK construction industry’s approach to the way we plan, build, maintain and use our social and economic infrastructure.