Digital construction case studies discussed at Portugal BIMcert partner meeting

Paul McCormack, BIMcert Programme Manager, Fernando Pinho,
Co-Ordinator of the South Civil Engineering Council of the Portuguese Order
of Engineers, and Antonio Aguiar Costa, IST/CERIS, Portugal

The international conference ‘Digital Competencies in Construction: Standardization, Capacitation and Internationalization’ took place on the 2nd of July at the auditorium of the Portuguese Engineering Chamber, Lisbon, Portugal. More than one hundred fifty participants attended the conference, representing all stakeholders in the construction industry.

The opening session had the participation of the President of the Engineering Chamber, Eng. Carlos Mineiro Aires, and the coordinator of the Regional Civil Engineering College, Eng. Fernando Pinho. Afterwards, António Aguiar Costa, a member of the Regional College of Civil Engineering, partner of BIMcert and chair of the organization committee of this conference, presented the challenges of digitization and the contribution of each of the conference speakers to the discussion of the theme.

The conference program included groups of recognized merit in the national and international industry, which discussed the progressive digitalization of the industry and  the importance of standardization, training and internationalization in the context of digital innovation. The experience and cases of the following entities were presented:

– DST (construction company) shared its experience and identified some challenges of digitization and BIM;

– COTEC (National Association for Innovation) inspired and sensitized the audience to the importance of innovation and, in particular, to the inevitability of industry digitization;

– IPQ, the Portuguese Institute for Quality, presented the standardization process in Portugal and highlighted its crucial role in more complex contexts;

– CT197-BIM, BIM standardization committee coordinated by the Instituto Superior Técnico (university), presented the latest normative work in the scope of BIM;

– TOP Informática (software company) presented digital and collaborative solutions capable of encouraging change;

– Mineral Rocks Cluster, presented its Inovstone 4.0 project and the challenge of integrating the industry around BIM and the digitization of processes;

– University of Minho (university) presented the master BIM European BIM A+ and the opportunities for a European BIM education;

– Technological University of Dublin shared the experience of renewing their educational curriculum to integrate BIM;

– Belfast Met presented the ambitious European project BIMCERT, which aims to create and provide BIM certifications;

– APCER (Portuguese Association for Certification)  discussed certification in the context of construction and future development opportunities;

– IEFP (National Institute for Employment and Professional Qualification) presented its vision for vocational training in the context of digital skills;

and the Architecture, Engineer, and Construction Cluster shared some of its initiatives towards the transformation of the industry.

The closing session had the participation of Eng. Jorge Grade Mendes, coordinator of the Southern Region of the Engineering Chamber.

The conference allowed people to share experiences, as well as  discuss the next steps of the digital transformation in construction, valuing the human role in the paradigm shift. Digital skills are not just technological skills. They are also social and managerial skills, which have been very clear throughout the various testimonies. The challenge now is to think about the future, which must be underpinned by a robust normative component, aligned with good international practice and be geared towards qualified professionals.

Antonio Aguiar Costa, IST/CERIS, Portugal

The BIMcert partners have produced a new paper called, ‘Delivering Energy savings for the supply chain through Building Information Modelling as a result of the Horizon 2020 Energy BIMcert project’.

Barry McAuley
Technical University Dublin

The exploitation and utilisation of energy resources have caused severe ecological and environmental problems, including the production of emissions that contribute to global warming (Enshassi et al., 2018). The construction industry consumes up to 50% of mineral resources excavated from nature, generates about 33% of CO2 present in the atmosphere and is responsible for 40% of total global energy through both construction and operational emissions (Ajayi et al., 2016 and Zhou and Azar, 2018). This has resulted in the AEC Sector (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) out of necessity being forced to investigate new methods of practice and how best to apply resource-efficient techniques from the extraction of the raw materials to the demolition and disposal of its components.

The realisation that practices now face globalization, sustainability, and environmental concern, as well as ever-changing legislation requirements and new skills needed for the information age has resulted in technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) becoming a key enabler in navigating these concerns (Jaradet, 2014). BIM can be defined as a modelling technology and associated set of processes to produce, communicate, and analyze building models (Sacks et al., 2018). BIM provides an opportunity for the Architectural, Engineering, Construction, and Operation (AECO) industry stakeholders to evaluate possible solutions and identify potential problems of the final product before the start of actual construction (Badrinath et al., 2016).

However, changing from traditional practices to BIM requires a shift not only in the technology used but also in the way design and construction teams work together (Shelbourn et al., 2017). To achieve the associated benefits that are accustomed to BIM a number of existing challenges to ICT (Information, Communication, Technology) utilisation in construction site management must be overcome which include a lack of knowledge, skills and competence, depth of understanding of decision makers and low ICT literacy (Ozumba and Shakantu, 2017). This BIM movement has also resulted in a clear, direct, and automatic impact upon engineering education systems (Jäväjä and Salin, 2014).

To assist in overcoming these barriers, so as to reach EU energy-related targets a number of funding initiatives have been put in place through Horizon 2020 with a focus on BIM, as a result of it having the potential to rapidly produce energy outputs that enable design teams to analyse and compare the most cost-effective, energy-efficient options. Such an initiative is the Energy BIMcert project, which aims to educate all areas of the supply chain in the use of BIM, to achieve better energy efficiency during the design, construction and ongoing maintenance of an asset.

BIMcert aims to develop a series of training interventions using digital technology and improved blended techniques to support, enhance and maximise the impact of energy efficient skills at all operational levels within the construction industry.  Central to this is the creation of an accredited curriculum and framework of qualifications developed through the work and output from each work package, within the context of a National and European wide framework.  Establishing an accredited curriculum framework, with associated qualifications will provide the learners and stakeholders with an assurance of the qualification and standards of training.

However, for the curriculum to have an impact it must be informed by industry requirements and responsive to this need.  From the outset of BIMcert this relationship with industry has been core to the work, as identified via the innovative BIMcert Strategy Compass, with CITB NI a core partner and local businesses such as O’Hare & McGovern and Creagh Concrete Products part of the Industry Advisory Panel.  Guidance from these partners along with feedback from our industry workshops, across the partner regions, has identified a gap in the market in terms of the offering for upskilling with BIM qualifications, with most currently offered at Masters level.  This is daunting for those businesses and workers who want to learn about BIM with the promise of some accreditation but do not wish, or have time to study at this level.  One workshop participant recommended ‘Democratising’ BIM, so that it’s not a top down skill but accessible to all involved in the project, from clients to designers, contractors to supply chain.  As such there is a responsibility to teach others about BIM, ensuring the project is not only BIM compliant but work environments from architect’s offices to construction sites are BIM inclusive.  It was also proposed that a lack of understanding and knowledge of BIM could also be leading to a mistrust of BIM and the resulting slow uptake across certain sectors of the industry.  This resistance in adopting BIM processes and tools is impeding the transition to more energy efficient construction and reduction in CO emissions within the built environment.

Following a review of existing qualifications BIMcert proceeded with the development and creation of a UK Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 3 qualification (European Qualification Framework Level 4).  The rational for a Level 3 (4) qualification was to provide an entry point that is accessible to all construction industry workers.  BIMcert working in conjunction with Open College Network Northern Ireland (OCN NI) has developed a range of Digital Construction with Building Information Modelling (BIM) qualifications.  These offer a range of competencies and skills, starting with an introduction to BIM Principles and associated digital skills.  Authoring skills, including models and families, are also addressed along with information management.  Recognising the three pillars of BIM and the need to understand the built aspect of both the model and project, a specific energy related qualification is under development.

Together we must work to demystify and democratise BIM – breaking down the barriers faced by an industry wishing to upskill and avail of the benefits.

As part of the next phase of trials BIMcert intent to offer the Digital Construction with Building Information Modelling (BIM) Award via the BIMcert platform and website.  For more details and to sign up please visit

The construction industry and researchers have been exploring new techniques to improve the sustainability of buildings. One such solution is the use of a recent technology such as building information modelling (BIM). Accordingly, the present article reviews the current state of literature on sustainable construction and BIM, including the latter’s evolution. In contrast to previous reviews on this subject, the present work has a broader scope that covers the environmental, economic, and social dimensions and their combinations. To obtain a comprehensive review, the authors conducted an informetric analysis of the literature and categorised it based on a content analysis. A total of 11 different terms and 28 combinations were used to collect relevant literature on this subject, resulting in a total of 317 journal articles for the period between 2008 and 2017. The information obtained from informetric analysis was later validated by a content analysis, in which gaps and trends were identified. It was observed that publications on this subject registered an exponential growth, with 90% of the articles being published in the last five years. The authors identified a gap in literature pertaining to the integration of the three dimensions of sustainability; however, literature on the integration of sustainable performance and BIM has grown considerably in recent years, which indicates that BIM is increasingly being used as a reliable method for sustainable construction practices.



There is a growing concern in society for the environmental impacts of a built environment. In this regard, the use of building information modelling (BIM) tools has arisen as a new trend in the construction industry to improve the sustainable assessments of buildings in the design phase. For that purpose, current approaches either focus on the use of BIM together with several programs, or solely use it for an automatic quantity take-off. However, as noted in the literature, the lack of semantic information within BIM models can lead to ineffective decision-making processes and models that are unsuitable for the operation and maintenance stages. Therefore, the present study explores the potential of BIM as a repository for the life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle costing (LCC) information, and how that information should be used for an environmental and economic analysis. By doing so, the authors intend to discuss the potential of BIM as a data repository and its capacity for supporting an automatic/semi-automatic environmental and economic assessment.

A BIM-LCA/LCC framework was proposed, which led to the development of an information delivery manual and a model view definition (IDM/MVD), using the industry foundation classes (IFC) schema, for the integration and exchange of information within a BIM-based environment. Finally, the authors implemented the proposed framework with a case study. It is observed that, although most recent IFC schemes already consider some of the required information, a considerable number of properties are still required to conduct a comprehensive LCA and LCC analysis. Thus, the work presented here contributes to the existing background knowledge necessary for future implementations of BIM-based LCA/LCC and for software developers to develop a suitable BIM-LCA/LCC tool.