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Building Information Modelling; a license to operate?

If somebody were to ask me what the key trend in the construction industry is, I would answer with digitalization or more specifically BIM (building information modeling). Obviously, there are more trends like the labour shortage , prefabrication, all electric and many more. However, I think digitalization and BIM is at the centre of it. BIM allows for faster and easier construction (and is one of the solutions to combat the labour shortage) with less failure costs. Prefabrication is also made more easy when BIM is used. For me, BIM will be (and already is in some cases) a license to operate. That being said, in Europe the adoption of BIM is different per country. In some cases there are significant differences. I would like to give you my opinion on the reasons why.

I have based my opinion on findings out of the Q4 2017 Building Information Modeling report of the European Architectural Barometer. In this report, based on 200 successful interviews with architects per country (1,600 in total) a wide variety of topics are addressed ranging from LOD levels to adoption and requirements they have towards the manufacturers.

The Netherlands

From the moment we started to measure BIM adoption in 2013, the Netherlands have been at the forefront of BIM adoption. In general, Dutch architects are one of the most digital and innovative from all European countries. The BIM adoption is well above 60% in the Netherlands and even more important, if BIM is used in projects it provides a disproportionally large share of the total turnover of the architectural firm. This is not surprisingly, as BIM is typically used for the larger non-residential projects. In the Netherlands however, it’s also used for new build residential when multiple identical houses are being build (the Dutch terrace/row houses). The main reason for using BIM in the Netherlands is the demand from the market.

The UK

Together with the Netherlands, the UK is the frontrunner when it comes to BIM adoption. However, the BIM adoption is hardly growing over the last years. It is more or less steady at just below 40%. I would even go as far as to say the UK will be caught up by France in the upcoming years when it comes to BIM adoption. The reasons for this stagnation? I believe it has to do with the fact that new build residential is an important driver for the UK construction growth and unlike in the Netherlands BIM is not used as often in these projects. Furthermore, the demand from the market seems much lower than in the Netherlands and there is little to know government push to adopt BIM. If you ask the architects that are not using BIM why they don’t use it, the number answer is that there is little to no demand form their principles.


In France, the highest growth of BIM adoption is visible. In 2013, the BIM adoption was below 10%, in 2017 it was already well above 30%. The main reason for this surprisingly high growth is the fact that the market and the government are asking/forcing it. Furthermore, French architects have high expectations for future demand for BIM.


In Spain a similar development can be seen as in France, although the growth is less radical. The demand (or even forced regulation) from public principles is also strong, but less so than in France. In France, almost 40% of all projects are assigned by public clients (who demand BIM usage), in Spain this figure is much lower. Nevertheless, Spain is moving towards the mid field when it comes to BIM usage and no longer belongs to the bottom countries.


In Belgium, the BIM adoption in 2017 has more or less tripled compared to 2013. Almost half of all architects working with BIM, state they started to do so because it was forced by the market. The reasons behind this growth are less obvious, because residential new build & renovation is strong in Belgium and typically don’t lead to higher BIM usage. An explanation could be that the influence of their neighbours in the Netherlands and France is having an effect on Belgium architects as well.


BIM adoption in Germany is happening very slowly. Only 1 in 5 German architects are using BIM at the moment. This rates them near the bottom of the list when it comes to BIM adoption in Europe. The German architects feel far less pressure from public clients to implement BIM, whilst we have seen in other countries that this is an important driver for BIM adoption. A couple of years ago, the German government did stimulate BIM usage, but apparently this is not having the effect they were after. Furthermore, the German market is relying heavily on renovation. In renovation projects BIM is hardly used.

Italy & Poland

In Italy and Poland, BIM adoption is not growing. It’s not being stimulated by the government and the architects in these countries seem less willing to invest in adopting BIM. Italy is a country where renovation makes up a large part of the total construction value, so unless the government there starts to stimulate adoption, it’s unlikely that we will so a strong growth in Italy. The Polish market is more new build orientated, so the potential for growing BIM adoption is there. However, it will need governmental pressure to adopt BIM as it seems that without it BIM adoption is not increasing in Poland.

A license to operate?

As already mentioned in the intro, I strongly believe that BIM will be or already is a license to operate. The majority of the big commercial and public assignments are already commissioned with BIM usage being one of the requirements. As BIM is becoming more commonplace, more actors in construction are (forced) to use BIM. We already see a strong growth of BIM adoption at contractors, engineers and installers. This will create an environment where BIM will become the norm and the benefits clear to all involved. Primarily BIM usage will be restricted to new build commercial and public buildings, but in some cases also for residential new build. I expect BIM adoption and usage to continue to grow in the Netherlands, France, Spain and Belgium. To a lesser degree in the UK and Germany. However in Italy and Poland BIM adoption will not increase significantly unless the government will force the matter.

For manufacturers of building materials, BIM will be/is both a drain on resources (getting all products in BIM format, getting the strategy rights etc.) and a new chance to add more value to the brand.