Adam Matthews

Matthews talks about EU BIM progress

UK Construction onlineIn a two-part interview in UK Construction Online, Adam Matthews, chair of the EU BIM Task Group, talks about the the European Common Network, the drive for BIM, and Brexit and BIM.

In Part I, Adam is asked How is the European Common Network developing?

Adam MatthewsThe UK with Norway started the group in late 2013 with 12 other European countries by holding a get-to-know-you session in Brussels.  Since it formed as the EU BIM Task Group, it has grown to over 20 European nations with support and co-funding from the European Commission.  The aim of the group is simple – create a common understanding of BIM in Europe and aim to spread common practice across public clients introducing BIM to public policy or public works. …

We have just completed a survey of European practices by public stakeholders and now starting to draft a guide for public procurers on BIM. This BIM handbook will make recommendations for good practice based on the current European experience.

Do you think the EU would ever have a BIM mandate?

Mandate is a strong word. Technically the UK BIM ‘mandate’ is policy encouragement to the UK’s public construction client group to require the delivery of BIM information on centrally funded projects.  It is not easy to see how a single BIM mandate would be applied across Europe – however, do I see common approaches and requirements for BIM being adopted by European governments and public clients? Yes, absolutely.  And looking forward, I see these requirements aligning across Europe.

Over the next three to five years it is likely there will be a growing momentum of consistent BIM requirements in public tenders at national and public estate levels.  We are beginning to see this already. Clients are recognising it is not enough simply to request “It should be BIM” in public tenders: they want to specify standard digital information datasets at key project milestones.

What impact will Brexit have on closer collaboration with BIM in Europe?

In my view, the collaboration has been a European exercise, not just EU – it actually includes members of the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) such as Norway (a leading partner in the project) and Iceland.

With regards to Brexit, the EU BIM Task Group is a two year project until end of 2017 which would mean the UK will be a full EU member at that time. And the goal of the group is to align the European approach to introduction of BIM. Beyond Europe, there is recognition that BIM is a global language – construction will transform to a global ‘digital construction’ sector over the next five to ten years.  The group is collaborating to place the European sector to compete effectively in this market.

I would add that it is a European success – nations sharing approaches and implementation descriptions in order to agree a common performance level to describe what BIM is to encourage trade across borders.  It continues to be a positive and collaborative experience.

In Part II, Adam answers Where would you say the majority of countries are on their BIM journey?

This will be answered more fully in the report of the survey recently conducted. I wouldn’t want to pre-empt its findings and conclusions. However, the group recognises that there is a full range from those just starting to explore what BIM means to a public stakeholder/client to those like Norway, UK and Netherlands that are implementing their programme with industry.

What is remarkable has been the journey since 2013, where we started the group with a just handful of nations with active programmes to now – with over 20 nations involved and the European Commission on-board. I think that speaks volumes about the recognition of the value proposition of BIM to the public sector.

… For me, one of the most impressive things about the EU BIM Task Group is that all nations are approaching with an open mind and prepared to debate different aspects of adoption and there is no sense at this time of protecting national positions to the detriment of harmonisation.

After all, BIM is just part of a broader digital transition across governments, across Europe and across the world.

A phased approach to national BIM adoption

strategic framework 2I have started to think about how countries might develop national public sector BIM programmes.

Starting at the bottom of the diagram (right) and moving clockwise, my thesis is that successful BIM programmes require a strong foundation of public leadership and support. In the UK in 2011, for example, the UK Government make BIM a key part of its construction strategy, and set a target for the first phase of adoption of BIM.

This in turn led to the growth of various BIM interest groups. Existing industry stakeholders – professional institutions, trade organisations, industry confederations, and other groups representing both pan-industry interests and vertical industry sectors – began to build BIM-focused communities. Regional BIM groups also began to develop. These communities were encouraged to hold events and also to share their ideas, knowledge and skills via printed media, the web, social media, etc. From general introductions and explanations of BIM to detailed protocols for BIM implementation, core industry understanding was quickly developed and disseminated across an otherwise fragmented and geographically dispersed industry sector.

Talking about BIM is all very well, but “walking the talk” is vital. The UK’s BIM Task Group, in partnership with various central government departments and other leading industry clients, instigated pilot projects to test the processes and protocols, and to gauge if supply chain knowledge and skills in BIM were sufficiently developed – in short, to demonstrate the industry’s capabilities. Learning – good and bad – from these case studies was then shared via the trade press, industry conferences and via the internet.

As a result of these first three steps, what began to develop was a wider understanding of the required legal and regulatory framework, new data and process standards, and industry-proven guidance on all the key areas of BIM implementation and exploitation.

However, the process does not stop once the initial capabilities and collaborative frameworks are in place. Continuous performance improvement is very much the objective – and public leadership is again pivotal in providing a new vision of the industry’s future (in the UK, this was outlined in the February 2015 strategy, Digital Built Britain, and reinforced in the next five-year government construction strategy covering the years 2016 to 2020). And so the cycle continues….

strategic framework


EU BIM Task Group talks about convergence

Fifteen European countries sent delegates to a meeting in Brussels last week of the EU BIM Task Group, a group working towards Europe-wide convergence on BIM standards (reports UK website BIM+).

Representatives of public sector client organisations, policy units and national task groups for the UK, Italy, Portugal, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Iceland all attended the meeting, held at the European Commission’s conference centre.

The meeting was co-chaired by Adam Matthews, head of EU and international for the UK government’s BIM Task Group. He said: “We’re looking to collaborate, align and converge best practice for the introduction of BIM to achieve better value for public money – that’s the central theme of the group.”

The group has previously met three times on a voluntary basis, but this time it was facilitated by the European Commission, which provided the conference room and interpreters. Further meetings are planned later this year and up to the middle of 2016.

The UK was also represented by Mark Bew, chair of the UK BIM Task Group, and Task Group member Barry Blackwell from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Germany’s delegates included Arup’s Ilka May, recently appointed as chief executive of its industry-led “Planen-Bauen 4.0” BIM Task Group.

Matthews added: “The group is currently defining how it will share best practice and converge on the adoption of BIM into the European public estate.”

He identified three areas of interest: technical best practice; client leadership; and cultural and people issues, such as skills development and change management.

Two delegates from Hong Kong were also present as observers, with Ada Fung representing the Ministry of Housing and Ivan Ko the local Construction Industry Council. “It shows the level of interest from the Asia Pacific region to collaborate and help create a global common market – it’s becoming a global conversation,” Matthews said.