Zero-energy buildings are hoped to become the norm by 2050 – with building information modelling (BIM) as a key enabler. However, while the train towards an energy-efficient Europe is already in motion, a large share of the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector is still trying to catch up. The problems they face? A lack of competences in sustainable construction; the slow uptake of digital construction skills; the absence of standards; and individual barriers such as a lack of motivation, time and money. “BIM is becoming the backbone of a new, informed way of working in the construction sector. It can model energy consumption throughout a building’s life cycle and provide empowering tools for operators to work together,” says Paul McCormack, Innovation Manager at Belfast Metropolitan College and coordinator of the BIMcert project. “But while its potential is enormous, the use of BIM is still in its infancy. It varies from region to region and with the size of enterprises.” McCormack knows this for a fact. Thanks to a survey capturing a total of 550 responses from both individual professionals and industry, the BIMcert consortium has found that 29 % of companies believe that disappointing BIM adoption is due to a lack of knowledge. Another 38 % attribute it to budgetary issues, and the same percentage to a lack of support among employees. BIMcert tackles all three problems at once, with a comprehensive, easily accessible training and qualification platform aiming to level the playing field. “We have developed training packages that, instead of a lengthy and rigid multi-module accreditation process, follow a digital micro-accreditation process. Such bite-sized micro-accreditation allows learners to follow their own learning path rather than a prescribed standardised journey,” McCormack explains.
An unexpected journey
The journey itself is quite different from usual training schemes. A key innovation lies in personalisation: the system automatically adapts to the experience of learning professionals to get them familiar with new BIM tools and related digital technologies. Comparisons between the various tools and technologies are also provided, emphasising their benefits at both individual and industry level. Different modules exist for different participants (owners, facility managers, etc.) and different construction activities (new or renovated buildings). The project team has also devised specific content for public administrators and investors: “Their own upskilling will push industry stakeholders to engage in professional development and implementation of digital and sustainable energy skills,” McCormack enthuses.
A digital CV
At the end of the learning process, the platform establishes a student profile listing newly-acquired skills. Users can compile their own digital CV (a BIM Skills Passport) and, thanks to the project’s third-party certification, can easily have their skills acknowledged anywhere in Europe. Such standardisation is expected to increase demand for BIM skills while ensuring that companies and workforces have enough incentives to invest in upskilling and professional development. The consortium is now focusing on its commercial exploitation plan and has formed the BIMalliance to provide digital solutions, skills and training to the construction sector. “The most important outcome will be a construction sector workforce skilled at improving the sustainability of buildings. This is essential, as 70 % of construction companies believe that those who do not adopt digital tools will go out of business,” McCormack concludes. BIMcert will not only allow them to compete in a new construction environment driven by sustainability, it will also reaffirm BIM’s status as the most effective technology for a lower carbon footprint and increased energy efficiency in the construction sector.
BIMcert, construction, energy efficiency, digitalisation, BIM, building information modelling, e-learning