The just finished PRE program of RYM Oy, the SHOK company for the built environment, strengthens Finland’s position as the global leader in BIM research and introduction. BIM can improve construction quality, productivity and customer service radically.
The PRE (Built Environment Process Re-Engineering) program carried out in 2010–2014 involved 37 companies and 6 research institutes. With support from Tekes, they invested a total of about €21.8 million in the development of new BIM (Building Information Management)based procedures and business models.
PRE strengthens Finland’s position as the global leader in BIM research and introduction
The most significant results from the viewpoint of international research were achieved in the Model Nova work package coordinated by Senate Properties. An interactive operational model based on ”knotworking” was created in cooperation with the Institute of Behavioural Sciences at University of Helsinki and the SimLab of Aalto University to enable effective utilization of BIM at the most important phases of construction management, design and building.
Internationally notable is also the DRUM concept developed for distributed data management and information interchange by Tekla and Aalto University. The globally pioneering research of Tekla has made it the leader in international Open BIM development.
The most significant PRE results nationally were attained in promoting the introduction of BIM in the infrastructure sector. The InfraModel format for open data exchange was developed in Finland for that purpose and general infrastructure sector BIM requirements are under preparation.
Utilization of BIM in property use and maintenance has been studied little in the PRE program and generally in BIM studies across the world. Since the potential benefits are very big, it would be very useful to start strong research program in an Asset Information Management.
PRE (Built Environment Process Re-engineering) was the first research programme of RYM Oy in 2010-2013. Its aim is to create totally new procedures and business models for the real estate, construction and infra sectors. They will be more user-centred and supported by product model-based data management over the entire life cycle of the real estate, infrastructures and communities in question. The adoption of new business processes allows a significant increase in productivity and quality.
The PRE programme consisted of 6 work packages each led by an industrial partner:
I was asked to evaluate the results from the international perspective; how well has the programme achieved its aims in the global context, which are the most important results of the programme and which are issues where I see potential for improvements in the future research activities and programmes.
The evaluation is based on several sources: 1) Work package presentations in the PRE Result Seminar 18th November 2013 in Finland, 2) result cards, i.e. short result reports of each project in each work package and programme web site, 3) self evaluation report of the work packages, 4) evaluation report of the research, practical and knowledge contributions, 5) list of publications, and 6) a short Google Scholar study of the visibility and impact of the publications in PRE programme, finalised on 6th June 2014.
My own professional background is in architectural design and my main research competence is related to integrated building information modelling (BIM). In addition, I have been personally interacting with some projects in WP1, WP3 and WP4, which naturally has given me more insights of those projects. However, I believe that the interactions reflect rather the international activity and visibility of those projects than just my personal interest areas. Nevertheless, these limitations should be noted when interpreting this report.
In the Model Nova work package (New Business Model based on Process Network and Building Information Modeling) the potential of BIM has been studied from the standpoints of behavioural sciences and business processes. Benefits are sought for the entire life cycle of the built environment and across the value network.
In general this Model Nova package is in my opinion clearly the best work package of the PRE programme in the international research viewpoint. All in all this work package has published almost 50 % of all publications of the programme and 80% of the journal articles.
Model Nova package is in my opinion clearly the best work package of the PRE programme in the international research viewpoint.
“Knotworking” and “BIM Meets Social Sciences” themes in the Model Nova work package has produced excellent results and the Finnish research in these areas, especially CRADLE in Helsinki University and SIMlab in Aalto University, is in the international forefront. This is a truly multidisciplinary theme creating new insights of the drivers, barriers and impacts of the changes in technology and business environment in the AECOO (Architectural, Engineering, Construction and Owning & Operation) industry.
There has already been two international workshops around the theme “BIM Meets Social Sciences”. In addition Aalto University’s SIMlab has collaborated with Stanford University’s CIFE (Center for Integrated Facility Engineering) which is clearly one of the leading research institute in this research area.
The NewWoW (New Ways of Working) work package is aimed at providing understanding of the changing nature and demands of knowledge work and their impacts on facility management and productivity of organisations. New work space solutions have been developed using BIM in response to the increasing interactiveness and project nature of knowledge work.
The central themes were 1) demands of work and changes in it, 2) impact of ways of working and work space arrangements on productivity and sustainable development, and 3) use of BIM in management that support new ways of working.”
WP2 is very different in almost all aspects compared to all other work packages. Based on the available information it seems that WP2 concentrated quite strongly to direct business development of the participating companies.
NewWoW is aimed at providing understanding of the changing nature and demands of knowledge work
WP2 has very few projects and based on the result cards it has not published very actively; 4 conference papers and 3 book chapters. On the positive side, all publications are in English and this is the only WP that has written chapters on books, which are academically stronger merits than conference papers. In addition, the collaboration with the Stanford University (Renate Fruchter) is an indication of good international level in project #5 (The success of a new concept to support distributed work – the office of choice).
The aim of the BIMCON work package was to create a comprehensive product data management system for industrialised building based on the use of BIM in the integration and management of data of the parties to the supply chain. The goal was to improve the organisation of the operational process of construction which will increase the productivity and profitability of supply chains.
WP3 continues the long and strong Finnish research and development efforts related to the use of BIM in construction. It has not opened any totally new research issues, but continued to gain new knowledge in the impacts of BIM in constructability, productivity, safety, sustainability and supply chain management.
…new knowledge in the impacts of BIM in constructability, productivity, safety, sustainability and supply chain management
The international collaborators have been Georgia Tech and Brescia University, from which the former is without doubt one of the globally leading research institutes in BIM area and the collaboration with them indicates high academic quality.
The aim of the DRUM (Distributed transactional BIM) work package was to develop transaction-based data transfer methods and technology that enable utilisation of BIM in actual building processes. The key themes dealt with include software architecture that supports transaction-based data management, transaction distribution systems and application interfaces.
“Semantic Linking of Building Information Models” and the work related to it has been from the technical viewpoint a refreshing new proposal to solve the model server problems currently preventing efficient sharing of BIM data. Using common web technologies would bring much more interest and potential resources in the research and commercial BIM development.
One of WP4 presentations, “Web-based BIM – distributed sharing and utilization of building information”, in the PRE programme Result Seminar in November 2013 was in my opinion the best presentation in the event. The research provided a fresh view into solving current technical problems in the centralised model server development. In addition, the work did not start from scratch but was built on the previous work in the development of IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) standard.
Using common web technologies would bring much more interest and potential resources in the research and commercial BIM development
This work in the cross-model linkage using distributed web technologies has already led into two international LDAC (Linked Data in Architecture and Construction) workshops and strongly growing international interest and collaboration. In addition, as a part of WP4 Tekla has taken a leading role in the international development of Open BIM and collaboration platforms for the industry.
The vision of the Infra FINBIM work package was that in 2014 the big infrastructure owners will order only BIM-based service. The aim was systemic change where traditional sequential thinking is replaced by intelligent BIM-based service production that considers the entire life cycle and all sub-areas, actors and functions.
The Infra FINBIM work package is an outstanding example of the radical change in the markets. Efficiency and productivity can be increased significantly when highly advanced technology is exploited fully. Participation of the biggest infra client (Traffic Agency) and leading sector companies in the research program created sufficient critical mass for bringing about a change in the sector.
An outstanding example of the radical change in the markets
WP5 has really changed the way the Finnish infra-sector collaborates, not only in the research and development, but also in their work practises. In my opinion WP5 has created on the national level the most important results of the PRE programme both in the short and long term. However, compared to the national impact it has only limited international merit.
BIMCity (Simulation platform for IFC based technologies and solutions) aimed at 1) defining and creating a common functional environment for land use and construction databases, 2) establishing information model as a way of conduct in land use planning (e.g. building inspection, planning, interaction with concerned parties), 3) improving exchange of information between different sectors of planning and thus accelerating processes concerning land use, and 4) developing an open environment for business concepts serving land use and construction.
Work in BIMCity was strongly based on pilot projects, which represent different levels of planning starting from regional dimensions through city plans down to construction of individual buildings, as well as interaction and data exchange between these levels.”
BIMCity was strongly based on pilot projects, which represent different levels of planning
The documented goals of WP6 are somewhat more open than in the other work packages. The publications include relatively many “non-traditional” documents, i.e. videos in YouTube and other platforms, but also a reasonable amount traditional conference papers. There is also one master’s thesis. However, as stated later in this report, lack of journal publications is a general short-coming in the whole PRE programme. International collaboration or participation in the development of international standards would have been extremely important.
The programme team has classified the impacts of the projects into four categories:
1. What is the behavioural change of end users (human/organizations)?
2. What is the resulting systemic change in customer interface and value network?
3. How the latest technologies foster the change of the whole branch’s business paradigm?
4. What is the change of the business models of Built Environment?
The categorisation was done by the PRE management team for all 58 projects in the PRE programme. As Figure 1 indicates the work packages have quite clear differences in their focus, which indicates good programme structure. In total the main focus of the PRE programme is slightly in #3 (How the latest technologies foster the change of the whole branch’s business paradigm?) which is recognised in 50% of all projects. The second emphasis is in #2 (What is the resulting systemic change in customer interface and value network?) which is recognised in 41% of all projects.
All aspects are naturally important, but my opinion, supported by the international interest in WP1 results, is that the social science and value network aspects of BIM need more emphasis in the further research.
Figure 1: Impact categories of projects by work package
Figure 2: PRE programme results by project phase
Figure 2 represents the results of the PRE programme categorised by lifecycle phases. Almost half of the results are related to design phases (47.3%) and only 4% are related to the use and maintenance. This indicates the persistent problem that has been in the global BIM research for almost for two decades; BIM is still seen as a technology for design and construction, and the research related to the operation and maintenance is almost totally missing, although it is much more important part of the lifecycle of built environment. This problem has created a wicked circle; it is difficult to convince the owners and end-users of the importance and value of BIM and because of that they are not interested in participating in the research and development efforts in this area. It would be extremely important to move from BIM (Building Information Modelling) to AIM (Asset Information Management) and focus the future research and development efforts in this area.
Figure 3: Distribution by publication language and type, comparison of list of publications and result cards
In total the projects in the PRE programme have produced 77…87 publications depending on the source. Majority of the publications are conference papers (31…27), only relatively few are journal articles (5) and book chapters (3), which can be considered as a short-coming in the programme in the international comparison.
Table 1: Total number of publications, comparison of list of publications and result cards
I also tested several searches using Google Scholar looking for publications which were done in the work packages of PRE programme. This search resulted in total 154 hits, from which only 38 were actually related to the PRE programme. The findings were about 50% of the publications listed in the result cards or list of publications. From these articles majority, 23 articles were written in Finnish (60.5%) and 15 in English (39.5%).
The most cited articles in the Google Scholar search were:
The Google Scholar findings support my personal opinion that internationally the two most important work packages in the PRE programme have been WP1 Model Nova and WP4 DRUM. In WP1 the internationally most interesting results are related to the Knotworking concept and “BIM Meets Social Sciences” theme and in WP4 to the Semantic Linking of Building Information Models.
The results of the Google Scholar search are in clear contradiction with the information in the result cards and list of publications. It seems that about 50 % publications have not acknowledged PRE programme, which makes the programme and also RYM internationally less visible than it should be.
It would be important to raise the awareness of RYM and its programmes internationally. Therefore it would be advisable to include the requirement to acknowledge the funding programme in all publications, which is a normal international practice and, as said, mandatory for example in USA and UK.
Some of the work packages have not been publishing much in English although the results would be both interesting and important internationally. Although it is clear that communication with the Finnish companies requires publications in Finnish, from the international viewpoint the emphasis of research publications should be in English. Some work packages have produced several Master thesis. This is a typically Finnish phenomenon. In many countries Masters thesis are not allowed as a part of research projects and therefore these results would be ignored in most international evaluations. At least the best results of the thesis should be brought systematically into international forums through conference papers or journal articles in collaboration with the supervisors.
The focus in publications has clearly been in conference papers. While presenting new ideas and networking in the conferences is extremely important part of international collaboration, the projects should have produced clearly more journal articles and reviewed chapters in books or complete books. Cross-organisational and -disciplinary authoring could be improved significantly and this could produce more innovative insights.
More info: List of publications
Professor, University of Liverpool