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BIMcert: Answers to the European audience

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by BIMcert team


In this compendium the 7 BIMcert partners give an explanation of the BIMcert project by answering questions from  the European construction audience:

What makes you think BIM is the way forward for the construction sector to meet carbon emission targets?

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) the global buildings sector is now responsible for 36% of global final energy consumption as well as accounting for nearly 40% of total direct and indirect carbon dioxide emissions.


This has resulted in a growing urgency to address energy and emissions from buildings and construction, to meet restrictive 2020 targets as specified by the European Union (EU). Governments, particularly in the EU, are increasing their CO2 and energy efficiency regulations and raising their targets. The EU Energy Roadmap 2050 has rigorous demands and ambitious targets for the building sector. They state that decarbonisation is feasible and affordable.


However, this is not an easy road! Energy savings throughout the system are crucial and a responsibility for all. Mobilisation of investments to incentivise retrofitting are required. A bigger engagement and unity of the wide community of AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) professionals, policy makers, citizens, in common actions is paramount, if we are to achieve those targets. An increase in skills from across the sector, through all the supply chain, management and clients is necessary.


Digitalisation of the AEC industry is a reality, the next revolution, is with BIM in the centre of it. This is improving methods of design, delivery and management of building assets, as it increases efficiency in how the industry collaborates, communicates and interact. BIM can act as an enabling tool hand in hand with energy skills, it can provide a great opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of construction projects.


Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a modern digital technology, “the process of designing, constructing or operating a building or infrastructure asset using electronic object-oriented information.”, according to the former PAS1192-2.


Based on the use of a twin data enriched 3D model and using a set of digital tools, BIM  can help support sustainability trends in the construction sector, increasing the requirement for energy efficiency competences and applicable skills, resulting from the European decarbonisation and sustainable energy long-term strategies.


Building Information Modelling (BIM) can be the backbone of the new ‘informed’ way of working in the construction sector, triggered and targeted by digitisation to manage the ‘full energy content’ of construction. The digital model, when properly enriched with the correct data, and via the use and integration of digital tools can be used to calculate and test optimum design options; and to help deliver a more efficient way to manage site delivery reducing time, wastage, CO2 emission and energy spent. Then, that same data, can continue to be used to properly manage building assets, collecting further data can be reused later on to improve future projects.


BIM can help support sustainable energy in a building life cycle and provide empowering tools to operators within this cycle, to control and reduce the energy used, therefore reducing the carbon footprint of construction, whilst meeting users’ health and life standard requirements. For example: Clients can ask for information relating to energy performance and also material sustainability to be embedded in the BIM model and/ project information.


Designer’s can use the model and data to test their concepts, running simulation of solar patterns, thermal behaviours, M&E systems efficiency, predict costs to be able to convince clients, using data and factual predictions, by showing the advantages of future energy savings versus initial investments: contractors can use time and cost scheduling/simulation, to optimise tender bids, the ordering of materials reducing waste, plan delivery in site saving time, resources, waste, and risks. Facilities Managers will be gifted with enriched data about the building, mainly in Cobie format, that allows them to better manage the asset during its operational lifetime, and to better plan adaptations in the future or ultimately demolitions. Manufacturers can produce digital data enriched models of their products, which will display their most important feature, including thermal performance, and quite possibly in the future, its carbon footprint, giving their products added value, as well as virtual instruction for correct installation and maintenance.


Digitisation and the use of BIM in the AEC sector is in its infancy. Its potential is enormous. Its adoption varies widely from region to region, and with the size of enterprises. Now is the time for the implementation of digitisation in the construction sector to help reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impact of construction.


The EU Energy Roadmap 2050 points out BIM is the most effective supportive technology for: sustainable energy, reducing carbon footprint and increasing the energy efficiency in construction sector.


Here is how BIM tools are used in optimization of the energy performance:


Various components and levels of BIM (3D, 4D, 5D, and 6D) are used for:

  • Optimization of: geometry, orientation, materials selection (in the design phase – analysis and comparison of design alternatives, variation of impact parameters, simulation of outdoor and indoor varying conditions, visualization of scenarios and results).
  • Optimization of scheduling - minimum time and energy consumption; prefabricated elements application; minimum waste and emissions production; clash and delays avoidance (in the construction phase).
  • Minimization of energy consumption (in the operational phase; by implementation of Energy Management System). Optimization of energy consumption patterns.
  • Minimization / recycling of waste (in the demolition phase - applying Design for Demolition principle).

The BIMcert Project provides a solution for the upskilling of the AEC sector, in a holistic way, reaching all the supply chain, from blue collars to white collars and management, without forgetting the clients/ procurement appointing parties and policy makers.


By trying to bridge the gap in relation to BIM knowledge between the regions and industry stakeholders, we are ensuring that the construction sector will have the data and tools to operate in a more ‘informed’ way and to optimize construction through comprehensive deployment of sustainable energy digital tool (BIM) skills.


BIMcert has set  a goal to address the  four segments within the Energy life cycle in construction and is  aimed at providing a comprehensive easy access training and qualification scheme providing the requisite skills for the entire construction supply chain to:


  1. Plan Energy savings targeted during the design phase. It is about utilising BIM tools to proactively reduce the gap between predicted and actual building performance. Utilising BIM as an enabler of effective collaboration between design disciplines. (potential energy)
  2. Enable collaborative working to improve access to and the transition from design to development and delivery of both new build and renovation to achieve energy efficient near zero buildings. (embedded energy)
  3. Achieve efficient and effective ongoing management of the building in terms of energy and fabric (operational energy)
  4. Utilise Building Information Modelling ( virtual construction) as the enabling methodology and tool (sustainable energy)


How important is the role of the lack of standardisation in the fact that Europe is lagging behind?

The modern Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector is facing challenges in terms of:


  • lack of unified competences and qualifications in sustainable construction and sustainable energy with integrated digitalisation skills,
  • lack of  uptake of digital construction skills (which can lead to the acceleration of sustaining the built environment & reducing the performance gap),
  • gaps between skills and competences acquired by education and required by industry needs, across all the range of professional roles,
  • Misunderstanding due to a lack of knowledge and skills,
  • demands for sustainable and energy efficient construction of buildings,
  • low market recognition, uptake and the demand of the workforce qualified in digital construction and sustainable energy skills,
  • Insufficient governance, policy and regulatory framework for support of recognised competences and qualifications.
  • Individual barriers to learning and upskilling  – such as lack of motivation, time and money to learn.

So the variation of skills from region to region in Europe is due to many interrelated factors, lack of investment, lack of market competitiveness, lack of mandates that leads to a lack of demand by private clients and by public procurement, and a loss of drive from companies to push forward away from established conventions and tested workflows. 


However, the lack of standardised knowledge skills is a major factor. Training providers across Europe have yet to create the synergies and an agreed recognised framework that standardises the base knowledge required for any worker in the industry. In addition, training programmes with similar composition occur in the higher levels of education (EQF level 5 and higher) making it unsuited for a great portion of the workers in the industry.


This lack of standardisation, where a specified and agreed framework of knowledge has been set as a norm has led to skills mismatches, under employment, vocational isolation and many construction employees not having the right skills to succeed in a digital, interconnected world, which leads to a weakening of the innovation capacity of companies in the sector. The use of digitalisation, at a large scale, can solve or mitigate a great part of the issues described.


The BIMcert consortium has identified the implementation of a model of integrated, appropriate certification and accreditation, that standardises and combines qualifications and skills around BIM, digitalisation associated technologies while incorporating  energy efficient  construction (sustainable construction, energy savings and efficiency, renewables) as the method that can offer a solution to Europe’s construction skills.


BIMcert seeks to certify core skill sets for any professional in the AEC industry across the EU. The model can be easily adopted in any national context and will be flexible enough to be tailored to the needs of each professional area, while also allowing the possibility of integrating into the existing certification systems of all European Countries, including via National Qualification Platforms, European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and Erasmus programmes, etc. To that end, the BIMcert curriculum maps and incorporates  several curriculums and recognised and common skills across several existing training programmes, to allow a uniform and widely recognised skills pool.


The novel approach taken by this project will be to include training packages, which focus on the particular issues of using collaborative tools, such as BIM and its subsequent successors, from the ground up and integrating it with the energy efficiency goal. This will include considering renovation of existing buildings and structures, as to date, BIM and its benefits have been largely focused on new buildings.


The key BIMcert objective is to develop a programme to change the behaviours of individuals towards a better collaboration that will enable the achievement of better energy efficiency during the design, execution and ongoing maintenance of our built environment.


How did you aim to overcome this problem?

A comprehensive state-of-the-art literature review of current BIM teaching initiatives that represent best practice for knowledge transfer was carried out. The report identified many potential training methodologies that could be applied to the Energy BIMcert platform. The proposed methods include Problem Project Based Learning (PBL), which is recognised as a capable student-centered pedagogical approach focusing on real-world issues, which allows students to build knowledge and to develop critical thinking, creativity, leadership, and communication. This approach is to fully support  the software elements of BIM and is widely used in engineering and construction management education to build the ideal scaffold to student learning for sustainable living and includes narrative videos and in-house video tutorials enabling the student the opportunity to self-learn.


As mentioned previously, that standardises and combines qualifications and skills around BIM, digitalisation associated technologies while incorporating  energy efficient  construction (sustainable construction, energy savings and efficiency, renewables). The BIMcert curriculum maps and incorporates several guidance curriculums and common skills, to allow a uniformed and widely accepted skills pool and learning pathways.


The novel BIMcert approach has been to develop training packages so that instead of a standard lengthy and non-flexible set multi module accreditation process, BIMcert will deliver a digital Micro Accreditation process that provides the learner with a digital BIM skills passport. This bite-sized micro-accreditation allows learners to follow their own path adaptable to their skills enhancement and not a prescribed standardised journey. BIMcert accreditation and standardisation will enable the onboarding of a pan-European micro-accreditation scheme, one that is Brexit proof.

This process enhances skills mobility and reduces vocational barriers and serves multiple purposes:

  • It provides recognition for bite-sized pieces of learning (of benefit both to individuals and SMEs)
  • It enables appropriate Recognition of Prior Learning (rpl) including from existing EU-funded projects such as BUILD UP SKILLs and MeNS
  • It supports the ladders of progression aligned with levels of BIM maturity
  • It enables workers to collect learning modules as building blocks towards attainment of qualifications recognised by National Qualification Frameworks

BIMcert will stimulate and contribute to increasing the number of skilled building professionals and tradespeople by designing and launching a certification scheme of digital skills leveraging sustainable energy skills, delivered digitally, in an easy and accessible way. The skills acquired will have confirmable effects. The certification scheme will be internationally recognised and related to the CPD system, which will ensure its marketability and meet demand to apply. That will also result in demand stimulation, increased company and workforce willingness for upskilling and professional development.


BIMcert modules for upskilling / qualifications are tailored for professionals and other participants (owners, facility mangers) and for different construction activities – new and renovated buildings. Special learning content has been created for the main market drivers   - public administrators and investors, Their upskilling will pull industry stakeholders to engage in the professional development and implementation of digital + sustainable energy skills. BIMcert modules will be interoperable and translated initially into project partner languages and eventually it is planned that they will be available in all EU languages.


BIMcert personalisation of content and delivery takes into account barriers to learning and are designed to provide motivation for people to engage and learn.  The course structure provides behavioural nudges that increase the agency of participants as they learn. The inclusion of Practitioner Pop-Ups to engage with trainers demonstrates the project’s commitment to reach all sides of the target audience not just the blue collar workers.


Digitalization alone cannot stimulate demand, but a unified certification scheme, widely recognizable, that comprises professional modules for all participants, can.


What would you say makes your training model particularly innovative?

Our training model is particularly innovative on many levels:

  1. Firstly on how it is informed and industry relevant,
  2. Secondly on how it is designed to be flexible, non-linear and tailored to meet individual needs:
  3. Finally on how it is delivered in a beyond blended methodology enabling wider participation in the process.


Using our innovative BIMcert Strategy Compass – which drew upon information and advice from the target groups and key actors  will inform the strategic direction, our envisaged training and the delivery method are key aspects to ensuring the successful delivery for all stakeholders. Our consortium core partners are a mix of industry and academia, and all are experts in providing BIM solutions, skills and training across the supply chain of the construction industry. This collaboration harnesses key partners strengths, unity of purpose and facilitates comprehensive project partner wide interaction.


The BIMcert training program has been created based on a wide, pan European survey of all professional roles in the industry, capturing about 550 responses, both from individual professionals and industry. Therefore, BIMcert is a program that responds to the scanned industry needs, filling the gaps between the professional education and modern sector job requirements. As such, it can be fitted not only in the professional courses programmes, but is compatible to academic programmes as well.


A specific of the educational approach applied is also the use of the experience of the professionals to get them familiar with the new digital technology. Across the learning modules, the comparison of the new and traditional method of work was demonstrated, emphasizing all the benefits of the digitalization at an individual professional and sector / industry level.


Just as BIM maps to the full building/constructed asset lifecycle, so the BIMcert consortium spans the full construction sector, as demonstrated in the project’s cohesive use of the Industrial Advisory Panel and Technical Advisory panel.


The project consortium is fully aware that BIM modules are currently part of some course curriculums at several levels of education, but not always in an integrated and industry-driven way, and not based in a direct employability skill set that targets all key holders.


One USP of BIMcert, is the involvement and targeting of all actors and stakeholders that influence the upskilling of the AEC industry. The gap between academic focus on disciplinary principles and the industry’s need for proficiency in specific practical applications is an issue for the acceleration of  BIM implementation. To address this,  at the core of BIMCERT  there is industry focus; uniting professional skills for energy efficiency in construction with a modern construction method, including software tools and associated processes (BIM). BIMcert training materials try as far as possible to ground training  in real work situations and  case studies, thus making training more relevant to professionals.


In addition, we have to make sure that this scheme will be accepted by or at least compatible with national frameworks; therefore, they should be willing to implement it.


As National frameworks across the EU work differently, the proposed certification scheme of qualifications is seeking connection to the CPD qualification that can provide recognition, and acceptance by governments and industry, and transferability throughout European markets.


BIMcert is developing to demonstrate and test a new certification scheme of digital skills leveraging sustainable energy skills in construction. Qualifications will encompass not only the workforce and professionals included in the  construction processes, but also the important stakeholders, and public administration. Qualifications that are being designed for appointing parties, for example Public Administration (PA), will enable them to initiate, run and implement processes of digitally supported energy skills and to require such skills from industry.


BIMcert will deliver mutual recognition of energy skills and qualifications by the EU wide recognition of the digitization scheme, and transferability of qualifications, providing market recognition and demand on an international level, passports / register and mobile applications for international recognition of skills utilising data authentication technologies.


Skills acquired by the BIMcert program will have confirmable long –term benefits, in energy, environment and economy aspects, for buildings’ owners and users. This has attracted support for certification in upskilling.


All the curriculum has been developed in the shape of micro bites, to allow a better uptake and delivery by the industry.


All these revised methods are being employed to deliver the BIMcert training via it’s own purposely build e- platform, which combines interactive delivery with a gamification aspect to increase and track engagement and progress or learners. The platform will generate a student profile that will record their achieved skills, and allow the compilation of a digital CV, a passport for job mobility.


What has been the feedback of the construction sector so far?

The feedback from the construction sector to date has been extremely positive. All of our work and strategic direction has been ( and will continue to be)  informed by industry via our BIMcert Strategy Compass. This direction assisted the planning, delivery, and continual evaluation and validation to ensure the project is meeting industry needs. The program has conducted three rounds of trials in a year (October 2018 – November 2019), on: concepts and methods, models and tools and on the complete integrated system.


The BIMcert consortium has established a detailed and exhaustive process in determining the training methodologies, associated curriculum, trials and delivery. An initial pan European wide survey of the industry was undertaken to ascertain the current level of BIM maturity, knowledge and understanding as well as needs and gaps within the Built Environment practitioners and academia and to establish current standards of sustainable design and construction practice.


The results from the survey have been continually cross-referenced with workshops within the project stakeholders’ jurisdictions. The results from the survey and workshops were used to establish the training courses that best-matched industry needs. In parallel, TU Dublin completed a state-of-the-art literature review of the current global status of BIM regarding education and what pedagogical methodologies are applied to deliver these courses. In the First report on the BIMcert platform, IST have also performed an analysis and comparison of current professional courses, academic and certification programs. The survey and workshop findings were cross-referenced with the results from the state-of-the-art literature review in the production of a rolling matrix of concepts and methodologies aligned to the best practice for knowledge transfer. Both the initial findings for the suggested training courses and matrix of concepts and methodologies have been trialled and tested through a series of reality check workshops with industry . The outcomes from the reality check workshops resulted in the establishment of the final training methodologies, learning outcomes, suggested syllabi, and delivery details.


Thus BIMcert has ensured that the industry has been involved  every step of the way, and that its input has been incorporated into the BIMcert training programme. The AEC industry engagement has been significant.


What are, according to you, the most important outcomes of the project?

The most important outcome will be a construction sector workforce skilled at improving the sustainability of the built environment, through more efficient and sustainable  ways of designing and constructing, through the use of BIM processes.


Other project outcomes will include:


  1. Created a training program based on identified industry needs and compatible to academic and professional education,
  2. Transnationality and therefore the market transferability of skills acquired,
  3. Affordability for individuals and companies, In time and finance terms, provided by the online method of delivery,
  4. System thinking approach applied in the consideration of builidings as complex energy systems that are the responsibility of all stakeholders,
  5. Union of digital and sustainable energy skills,
  6. Being able to assist countries with the lowest BIM level. Ensuring active  inclusion in the program; impacting policy, legislation and industry, the pan  European cross sectoral dimension of the program therefore providing a  streamflow of knowledge, experience and skills from areas of high potential; towards areas of lower potential, not only in geographic terms, but also in terms of expertise – an example of academia creating for industry.

BIMcert will improve the market demand and increase the energy performance of buildings by untapping the huge latent potential of the construction workforce. Digitalisation is a game-changing strategy that will empower the construction sector to thrive and deliver the expertise for sustainable energy skills. This will be the tool to stimulate demand. The main headline for us is that 70% of construction companies believe that those who do not adopt digital tools will go out of business. We will assist industry to adopt digital tools, stay in business and drastically reduce the carbon emissions of the construction sector.


The rate of digital disruption is escalating in almost every industry. However, despite being one of the fastest-growing industries globally—construction has been one of the last to get hit. The bottom line is to illustrate how the technologies help solve the four major challenge areas that the construction industry struggles with: productivity, safety and training, labour shortages, and collaboration.


The output from the global construction industry is expected to rise to $12.7 trillion in 2022, up from $10.6 trillion in 2017. Despite this promising outlook, the construction industry has gained only 1% of productivity in the last 20 years due to lack of digitization. This creates an opportunity for an added $1.6 trillion by innovating in this area.


Both employers and employees are hesitant about adopting new technologies, due, in part, to the lack of knowledge surrounding them. More specifically, 29% of companies agree that lack of knowledge is a barrier for adoption, while 38% believe that it is due to lack of budget. A further 38% believe it is the lack of support from employees that inhibits mass adoption.


Despite these barriers, 52% of innovation leaders claim that technologies like artificial intelligence and cognitive machine learning will become commonplace within the industry over the next five years.


One of the BIMcert specifics and its uniqueness is the inclusion of partners from European countries and regions with a low BIM maturity level, thus imposing a strong impact on their construction sector and therefore overall economy and even the initialization of legislative changes in construction policy, by providing the government’s endorsement of the BIMcert project.


Construction companies are now in a race to go digital, with the hope that the technology will enhance profitability while also fending off competitors. BIMcert will deliver the digital tools that industry and the environment need to become sustainable.


What are your follow-up plans, if any?

Our sustainability plans and commercial exploitation are already well in place. In partnership with several other BIM projects we have formed BIMALLIANCE, a collaborative industry and academia partnership with experts in providing digitalisation solutions, skills and training for the construction industry. In effect a union of professional skills for energy efficiency in construction, developing modern software tools for planning, design and construction follow up that will enhance the effects of improved knowledge and competence. BIMALLIANCE is representing 50 partners and 20 countries across Europe.


We are currently developing a BIMALLIANCE Commercial exploitation plan which, includes collating all current materials, designing innovative e-learning mechanisms, creating ‘BIM Light’ practical short modules and also developing new materials and resources. Initially the BIMalliance partnership will gather all the materials developed and compile an inventory of modules and qualifications ready for commercial exploitation and time schedule of completion of other modules to expand the offer. This will be in effect a digital library of outputs which, will be open and accessible to all partners and associate partners.


The BIMALLIANCE plan is to combine all of the skills and training modules into one comprehensive skills training platform. This platform will be developed on the basis of previously developed tools and concepts from successful EU, regional and national projects. Subsequent improvements will be made on an ongoing basis, and will be financed through income earned through the licensing and consulting arrangements with construction industry and training stakeholders. It is anticipated that the training platform will be strongly customised according to the needs of each customer, and that many developments will be paid for by these customers as their needs evolve over time.


In order to achieve market acceptance, and ensure comprehensive EU coverage, we will also further enhance and develop BIMALLIANCE through collaboration and/or alignment with other international accreditation bodies, organisations and commercial avenues.


We are also pursuing non- commercial exploitation activities for wider recognition of certified skills, including the dissemination of the importance and benefits of digitalisation and energy skills, as well as supporting legislative changes for market uptake of certified skills.