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Transforming the construction industry through Building Information Modelling

The construction sector worldwide is in the process of a technical revolution facilitated by digitalisation. Northumbria researchers are at the forefront of this digital revolution, helping over 80 UK and international companies to transform how buildings are designed, constructed, and managed. Researchers also influence policy, helping governments across the world to create and implement national roadmaps for digitalisation of construction. 

In 2011, the UK Government announced that Building Information Modelling (BIM) would become mandatory on all centrally-procured construction projects from 2016. BIM is a process of digitally managing construction data across project lifecycles that transforms how buildings and infrastructure assets are designed, constructed, operated, and maintained. BIM benefits extend over the entire life cycle of built assets; from improved quality and predictability of design, through increased confidence in construction schedules and budgets, to enhanced sustainability of physical assets. It can also contribute to delivering built assets of all types, including infrastructure such as road systems, stadiums, and power stations. However, there are still important challenges to the successful adoption of BIM at project, organisation, and market levels. 

Northumbria researchers, including Professor David Greenwood, Professor Mohamad Kassem, and others, specialise in BIM. In 2013, a spin-out company BIM Academy Enterprises Ltd was created as a collaboration between Northumbria and industrial partners, becoming a centre of excellence for digital construction. Through project management and consulting services, it helps clients across the world to achieve a digitally-enabled future. To date, over 80 UK and international clients have benefitted from their work, including the iconic Sydney Opera House in Australia, Forest City in Malaysia, and BMW Group in Europe. In 2017, BIM Academy Enterprises Ltd received Times Higher Education award for the UK’s ‘Most Innovative Collaboration between Business and Academia’. 

In collaboration with Australian colleague Bilal Succar, Professor Kassem developed novel conceptual models and tools for assisting policymakers in assessing the maturity of BIM in their countries. These new conceptual models are now used in over 10 countries across the world (Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Canada, and others). They guide policymakers in implementation of BIM, enabling new digital transformation policies and initiatives. This work became the first international standard for BIM maturity, setting a benchmark that continues to be used by countries around the world to identify policy gaps and promote policy learning. This work results in economic and social benefits in the form of improved performance of project delivery and assets operation, sales of digital solutions, new employment and improved job prospects, and saving duplicated efforts and avoiding gaps in policies. It helps to pave the digital revolution in construction.  

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