BIM Pioneers – What We Can Learn From the Dutch [Interview]
The Netherlands are amongst the leading countries when it comes to BIM: nearly 60% of construction projects are carried out using a digital model. Charles Lekx, senior sales engineer at MEPcontent, talks about BIM standards in the Netherlands and what can we learn from the Dutch when it comes to BIM.
The Netherlands seem to be doing great when it comes to BIM adoption. How do you think the Dutch compare to other countries?
“I do think that the Netherlands are at the forefront when it comes to 3D modelling compared to many other countries – and BIM awareness is very high. Everyone is talking about it and is sharing their experiences, which is very important to give BIM a good start. I also think that in other countries people may be more hesitant when it comes to new technologies. It’s great to see that Dutch contractors haven’t been afraid to simply start working with BIM, to start experimenting and learn from their mistakes. However, there are still a few challenges. One issue is that clients demand projects being realized with BIM, but do not exactly know what this means. There is a knowledge gap that needs to be bridged. We also see that the really big contractors are taking on BIM, but struggle with carrying this out towards their construction partners – collaborating successfully with all external parties is a challenge. And it’s only if we really communicate and collaborate with each other we can say we have adopted BIM successfully.”
“Only if we really communicate and really collaborate, we can say we are working in BIM”
BIM standards: from local to global
Are there any governmental regulations or standards in place in the Netherlands?
“Not really. There has been one governmental publication: the RVB BIM norm, but this norm doesn’t formulate any real demands or general requirements and hasn’t been updated the last few years. However, the fact that there is no official BIM mandate in the Netherlands hasn’t prevented companies here from starting with BIM and come up with their own definitions, which is very good. Because by simply starting with BIM we can learn from and with each other.”
“By simply starting with BIM we can learn from each other and learn with each other”
What are the challenges when it comes to BIM standards?
“In the Netherlands we see that the lack of general guidelines has resulted in the rise of different private initiatives for BIM protocols, which can be confusing. Also, the risk with BIM protocols and regulations is that you might be limiting possibilities and putting restrictions on collaboration.
On a European scale, we face a similar challenge. Every country has its own regulations, which makes it difficult to come to an agreement on European or even global BIM standards. But BIM doesn’t stop at national borders – globalization is a major trend. Content from one country may be perfectly useful in another and something we learn in one country can be applied somewhere else. The biggest challenge is to come to an understanding of global rules that we can all work with . And in order to work successfully in BIM, we need to make agreements in a language that we all understand.”
“BIM doesn’t stop at national borders.”
The rise of BIM
Why is it so important to increase BIM adoption?
“It’s a promising example of the fourth industrial revolution and BIM delivers unprecedented opportunities. Just think of the design of a building: things we thought wouldn’t be possible just a few years ago are now actually put to practice thanks to Building Information Modelling. With BIM we are much better prepared for gas-free construction or new energy standards. We can visualize and simulate buildings and we can build and design much more accurately. When it comes to new and stricter requirements in construction, BIM will make a huge difference.”
“When it comes to new requirements in construction, BIM will make a huge difference.”
How can we get everyone on board?
“By keeping the benefits in mind and make sure everyone is aware of them. Benefits include improved communication and increased efficiency, for example when it comes to logistics on the building site. The overall construction planning and the management of time, people and money can be done much more efficiently.”
What BIM trends are coming up in the Netherlands?
“We see the application of the BIM model not only in the building process, but in the complete building life cycle. Think for example of construction layout, placing orders or planning maintenance. All this becomes possible and much easier because there’s a model that contains all accurate information. Traditional roles in construction will also shift – it’s imaginable that the wholesaler will become a logistics partner for example.”
Why is content so important when it comes to BIM?
“Content is essential to the BIM process, but more specifically: the information attached to it. We see that engineers often start designing with generic content, but a pipe in a project is not just a pipe. It’s a pipe that needs to be ordered and it needs to be of a certain quality. Therefore you need parameters with additional information about a component. Moreover, because of new and stricter energy requirements, engineers need to make sure that specific components in a system deliver a certain level of performance. In case of a pump for example, you’ll need information on the pressure stage. And in case of an air terminal, you’ll need to check the right flow rate and whether it fits the design. That’s why it’s important to have manufacturer specific content in your model.”
How do you ensure high quality content?
“This is where the Extended MEPcontent Standard comes in. The EMCS is great because it’s a universal and open standard, based on our 28 years of experience of working with MEP content. More than a local BIM standard, content that meets the EMCS matches the requirements of MEP engineers globally. This standard is the foundation of the content we create for our BIM library MEPcontent, and it also works perfectly together with tools like the Export and Import Excel App for Revit. The EMCS clearly describes how content is built up and can be easily used by MEP engineers. It’s ensures both high-quality content and a consistent workflow throughout the building cycle. Both manufacturers and engineers benefit from it, ensuring the best possible collaboration.”
Do you have any tips when it comes to exchanging information?
“Firstly, make sure that everyone knows what is asked from each other in a BIM project. Which information is really necessary? And secondly, realize that in order to retrieve information from a model, it needs to be put into the model first. Here, you need to be as comprehensive as possible, while keeping your design goals in mind. That’s much more important than adhering to a BIM protocol or regulations.”
Finally, what can we learn from the Dutch when it comes to BIM?
“I think the better question is: what we can learn from each other? With BIM it is incredibly important to share experiences and exchange lessons learnt. But if there is one thing we can learn from the Dutch, it’s the will and the guts to just get on with it. Even with little experience and without clear standards, contractors haven’t been afraid to start working with BIM. And that’s the only way to learn, grow and realize better buildings.”
Charles Lekx is senior sales engineer at MEPcontent, part of Stabiplan, a Trimble company.