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

This website remains as a legacy of the achievements of our five-year foundational journey towards a digital built Britain
Blog: International - Estonian Delegation Visits Cambridge

Hosting visiting delegations to the UK is an important part of the CDBB International Programme providing a significant opportunity for valuable knowledge exchange. Richard Lane, International Programme Manager reflects on the success of the recent Estonian Digital Construction Cluster Study Visit.

Growing the global digital construction market in a way that is open and facilitates trade across national borders is a key aim of the Centre for Digital Built Britain’s international programme. The international team works in a number of ways to develop capabilities of foreign governments and public sector stakeholders in relation to driving digital construction, and this includes sharing the UK BIM experience of the past seven years that has seen the delivery of a proven value proposition, a strategic programme and a standards based approach.

A significant part of our work involves direct engagement with governments, public sector stakeholders and industry representatives in Europe, Latin America, North America, Asia and Africa to build relationships, share learning and secure the collaborative agreements that underpin the strategic implementation of BIM across partner countries.

This is a programme where, as participating countries, we learn from each other. Hosting visits in the UK presents an additional opportunity for interested parties to observe our BIM experience and, importantly, have access to a wide range of expertise based here. There is real value in seeing first hand the work completed around the country that is contributing to the bigger picture of digital transformation and we can now present a strong and diverse portfolio of case studies, from start-ups and SMEs to large global organisations. BIM is often associated with big infrastructure projects, like Crossrail and HS2, but it is very much an inclusive solution that has advantages for everybody so it is really valuable to hear directly from SMEs about the success of working digitally and the benefits delivered.

Every visit is bespoke and arranged to meet the specific needs and interests of the visiting delegation, and we have already completed a number of visits including Hong Kong, Belarus and Japan. This month marked the first time we have hosted a visit here at the University of Cambridge, where the Centre is based, and it proved highly successful because it provided an opportunity to combine three key elements; the strategic and long-term vision of CDBB; the framework and methodology of the international programme; and a live project taking place at the University’s West Cambridge Site that demonstrates strategy as work in progress. 


Our visitors, the Estonian Digital Construction Cluster, comprised a community of companies, academics and public sector representatives that are collaborating on BIM implementation in Estonia where the government and public sector are driving the use of digital technology to secure efficiencies and boost the economy. The Estonian construction industry is part of the programme and high-level executive study visits to the U.S. and Singapore to learn more about the experience of implementing BIM have already taken place. The Construction Cluster chose the UK as its final destination and 30 delegates spent a week visiting a diverse range of organisations based in London and Newcastle, including High Speed 2, Zaha Hadid Architects, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Space Group and BIM Academy. This allowed them to meet a number of professionals working at different stages within the whole lifecycle of construction – from planning and designing to delivery and operation.

2018EstonianVisit2During the day spent at Cambridge, Amelia Burnett, CDBB's Head of Engagement, introduced the Centre as a national focal point and custodian of the integrity of the UK BIM and Digital Built Britain programme that operates within a collaborative framework taking a government, industry and academic partnership approach. The international team presented many of the insights and experiences gained through collaborating internationally and also our expertise learned from working with the UK BIM Task Group and Government Construction Strategy. A large part of this presentation brought in the strategic framework explained in the EU BIM Handbook and each member of the delegation was presented with a copy translated into Estonian to support the visit. We brought in experts from the University of Cambridge Estate Management team and its contractor SDC to present a project case study on campus – the new UKCRIC (United Kingdom Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities)-funded building on the West Cambridge Site that will house the national centre for infrastructure sensing that is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2019. Following the presentations the Estonian delegation visited the project site.

Being able to combine the big picture with visiting a live project enabled us to present the whole journey; Cambridge Estate spoke about its experience as the BIM client, from figuring out required organisational changes through to project implementation working with the contractors on the building. The delegates spoke very highly of having the opportunity to engage with the programme at all of these different levels, and finding out first hand about some of the specific challenges of that project as well.

It was apparent that, while professionals speaking about their digital experiences did so from a range of different roles and perspectives, and some details reflected these differences, the underlying structure that underpins the range of activity was consistent.  This reflects the success of the national programme for the introduction of BIM to the UK; the professionals talking about BIM from different experiences all refer to the common principles, approaches and benefits. That level of consistency is fairly unique to the UK – the core of the message remains consistent from presenter to presenter and that is a very powerful message and solution.