We've been traveling in Denmark and Norway this week and working with the Danish firm MT Højgaard, one of the largest general contractors in Scandinavia. It has been fascinating, insightful, and exciting to explore the similarities and differences in virtual design and construction (VDC) practices across continents. The most interesting perspective is how different locations create VDC strengths within differing labor and market stresses. We wanted to point out one difference in particular.
A major influencing factor in the professional practice of BIM in the United States has been healthcare construction. Healthcare is the largest industry in the US, which means there’s a large amount of construction. California, in particular, has built more than $110 billion worth of hospitals in the last several decades under California State Bill 1953, which required seismic upgrades to critical healthcare facilities. Hospitals are a very complex building product with high standards, lots of building systems, and many regulations. This type of complexity has led the US market to focus on the coordination of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems as a very primary goal of VDC and BIM. MEP coordination, therefore, is a major focus and strength of US BIM practice.
In comparison, Denmark is one of many European countries that uses a "tender" system for project contracting. In a way similar to bidding, the contracting community bases their prices to owners on quantities. The quantities are part of the contract and subcontracts. Due to the importance of this process, a major factor in the Danish BIM experience is a focus on 5D BIM – the use of BIM for estimating. At MT Højgaard, BIM professionals work directly with estimators in an integrated workflow to check, verify, correct, and gain insight into contract quantities using 3D models. The workflow effectively manages the tendering process and adds significant value. This focus on 5D BIM is very different from the focus on MEP coordination in the US.
In summary, great firms practicing VDC on different continents have many commonalities in the practice of building information modeling (BIM), such as passion for process, an understanding of the value of people, and a desire to explore the intersection of professional practice and technology. Localized market stresses, however, often change the focus of BIM processes. This presents new opportunities, including the potential for significant competitive advantages for firms that look for BIM insights from across the globe.
Make sure to check out the work we’re doing in computational BIM and the automation of MEP modeling. BuildingSP is at the forefront of the application of generative design to AEC, and we look forward to better tools changing how we specify BIM on projects. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.