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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

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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 reverse this trend, the EU-funded BIMplement project has been training on-site workers across Europe on how to use building information modelling.

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The year 2021 marked a turning point for the construction and renovation sector. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive now effectively requires any new construction project to be a nearly zero-energy building (NZEB). By 2050, renovation works will also need to comply. But although the march towards energy efficiency has begun, as soon as you look closer, you realise it’s not without hurdles. “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 Villes Emploi. “This has several explanations, one of which is the lack of a qualified workforce.” Ben Moussa and her partners under the project 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) want the whole value chain to do better. In the Netherlands for instance, they found many cases where excellent building information modelling (BIM) models could not be realised at the construction site because of a lack of interaction between modellers and blue-collar workers. The same happens in France, where few small or midsize construction companies are familiar with BIM processes. Those in the know only implement it during the design phase based on 2D plans, as BIM processes are not even an afterthought in the execution phase. Such approaches can considerably undermine the energy efficiency of NZEB projects.

Reaching the right stakeholders

"We focused on construction companies and on-site workers who had 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. In France for instance, the team’s training on ‘hands-on and on-site airtightness’ doubled or even tripled the level of airtightness on renovation sites compared to projects with no on-site training. This is just one of the project results. The team selected several pilot labs (national or regional BIM-learning Centres or on-site construction projects) where they reinforced training tests of custom tools and learning methods adapted to on-site workers. In the Netherlands for instance, they implemented the BIM maturity scan which can be used by organisations and value chains to detect skill gaps. Once this is done, they can organise targeted upskilling interventions. “BIMplement goes way beyond methodologies, tools and technical training: It considers social acceptance to guarantee successful implementation and appropriation by the targeted groups. Our pilot projects, on the other hand, ensured that the new tools were adapted to each partner’s national or regional context before they could be deployed on real construction,” adds Ben Moussa.

Raising awareness

Perhaps BIMplement’s most critical endeavour was to raise awareness and convince stakeholders of the importance not only of using BIM, but also of conducting on-site training for manual workers. And it worked. In France, national institutions financing training companies have shown interest in upskilling building companies, most of which are still not familiar with BIM processes. Meanwhile in Spain, the Valencian regional government is now banking on training and qualification programmes using digital technologies. The region even adopted and customised the ‘Catalogue of constructive elements’ – a tool providing a wide range of solutions compliant with current regulations that contains information on the likes of thermal, acoustic, waterproof and fire-protection performance. The new version comes as an online application where users can connect their projects from their offices or on-site. Now complete, BIMplement continues to live through the Horizon 2020 ARISE project which builds on the lessons learned through BIMplement. Project partner ASTUS has also developed programmes for training centres, efforts which will certainly help skilled on-site workers avoid errors and improve the quality of buildings over the coming years.


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

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