It is the year 2020, January to be precise. At the end of the year, it will become mandatory for every new public infrastructure construction project of the German government to be carried out using Building Information Modelling (BIM).
In other words, you have to work with BIM to be able to apply for these tenders at all. More fields of the building industry will surely follow soon, first all parts of public building projects, eventually also all private building projects. It is only a question of time, that is clear. Too great are the possibilities of increasing efficiencies, reducing costs, of better overview and predictability, in order to let this possibility pass.
The German construction industry’s answer for this new possibility is — with some exceptions — a tired shrug of the shoulders. If you rummage through the depths of reporting, studies and surveys, you get the feeling that many don’t yet know what will hit them. This is how the opportunity becomes a threat.
What is written here is law
In order to start from scratch, we should clarify what BIM actually means. All deeper technical aspects aside (that are explained profoundly elsewhere), the whole thing can be broken down into a simple concept: A digital model that everyone is working on. Live and in real time, with up-to-date data, automatic calculations and 100% transparency. The architect designs here, the structural engineer as well, the construction company refers to it on site and in the office, just like all other stakeholders at any point. If a number is changed at one position, all relevant calculations change accordingly. What is written here is law.
This gives us a new planning certainty and overview to an unprecedented degree. It is no less than the overdue leap into the digital present, an impact that will later be compared with the transition from architectural hand drawings to CAD. At the end of the development stands a 5D model, which brings the dimensions cost and time into play in addition to 3D illustration, to calculate the costs of the complete life cycle of a building.
Germany lagging behind despite construction boom
The adaptation rate of BIM is currently still extremely uneven, with the Scandinavian countries and Great Britain leading the way in Europe. Years ago, comprehensive government BIM strategies were designed and implemented in those countries, forcing the construction industry to adapt to standards. In Germany, development is still lagging behind. Comprehensive binding standards are being sought in vain, there is a lack of training, further education and certificates. If one couples this with the full order books and the shortage of skilled workers in the industry that finds itself in the middle of a construction boom, it is not surprising that developments are creeping. Nobody wants to be the one investing in the wrong technologies, and the shoe doesn’t pinch enough. Not yet, at least.