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BIM-trained on-site workers deliver better nearly zero-energy buildings

Nearly zero-energy buildings tend to be more promising on paper than they are in real-life. To revert this trend, the EU-funded BIMplement project has been training on-site workers across Europe on how to use building information modelling.


This year marked a turning point for the construction and renovation sector. As of January, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive effectively requires any new public building to be a nearly zero-energy building (NZEB). By 2021, this obligation will extend to all new construction projects, while renovation works will also need to comply by 2050. So, the march towards energy efficiency has begun. But as soon as you look closer, you realise it’s not without stumbles. “There is still a considerable gap between designed and actual performance, in terms of both energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality,” says Narjisse Ben Moussa, Sustainable Development and Europe Project Officer at Alliance Ville Emploi. “This has several explanations, one of which is the lack of a qualified workforce.” The answer, according to Ben Moussa, lies in building information modelling (BIM): Instead of the usual 2D plans, construction and site operators should now work with 3D representations enhanced with detailed schematics and documents, in a coordinated manner. This is particularly true for NZEBs which are much more complex than traditional buildings. Here, the smallest conflict or misunderstanding between the different actors involved can easily lead to major errors directly impacting energy efficiency.

Reaching the right stakeholders

This is where BIMplement (Towards a learning building sector by setting up a large-scale and flexible qualification methodology integrating technical, cross-craft and BIM related skills and competences) comes into play. “The project focuses on construction companies and on-site workers who have so far been mostly left behind in BIM process strategies. We strongly believe that they are in fact the very stakeholders who can guarantee that implementation complies with design,” Ben Moussa explains. The project focused specifically on ventilation and airtightness. The team developed different types of BIM-focused training depending on stakeholders and skill levels. From there, they selected several pilot labs (national or regional BIM-learning Centres or on-site construction projects) where the training and the first tests of BIMplement’s tools and learning methods adapted to on-site workers would take place. “This is an important step for approaching different actors of the construction value chain. BIMplement goes way beyond methodologies, tools and technical training: It considers social acceptance to guarantee successful implementation and appropriation by the targeted groups. Moreover, pilot projects are being developed to ensure that new tools are adapted to each partner’s national or regional context. These first results will then be implemented and tested within so-called ‘experimental sites’, i.e. real construction projects, where they will be validated in different contexts,” says Ben Moussa.

Raising awareness

Perhaps BIMplement’s most critical endeavour is to raise awareness and convince stakeholders of the importance not only of using BIM in their projects, but also of conducting on-site training for manual workers with BIM models suitable for their needs. According to Ben Moussa, it is also one of the team’s most difficult tasks. “The rather low level of BIM maturity, and sometimes the low NZEB maturity of the whole value chain, makes it very difficult to interact directly with manual workers. In fact, convincing all involved stakeholders of the importance and added value of BIM and BIMplement has required much more time and effort than we initially planned,” Ben Moussa points out. No matter how difficult, this convincing is crucial for the future of the sector. Skilled on-site workers will help avoid errors and improve the quality of buildings, and ultimately they are key to meeting the EU’s energy efficiency objectives by 2050.


BIMplement, construction, zero-energy, NZEB, energy efficiency, BIM, building information modelling

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