Everyone invented it - BIM in Switzerland

Digitisation has finally arrived in the construction industry - and thus also BIM (Building Information Modelling). Following the pioneering role of the UK and Scandinavia in Europe, further countries will now follow with their own BIM mandate. The declared aim is to ensure the competitiveness of the construction industry - worldwide. We interviewed Birgitta Schock, architect and specialist for BIM and Lean solutions, who is also a member of the advisory board of Bauen digital Schweiz| buildingSMART Switzerland and the sia. In the first part of the interview, she reports in this context on the status of digital development in the Swiss construction industry.

A recent study has examined the status quo of the transition process in German engineering offices and civil engineering companies. One result was that the potential of BIM has not yet been fully exploited by the previous users and in many places there is still a need for persuasion. Is a similar picture emerging in Switzerland?

Birgitta Schock: Indeed, a very similar picture is emerging in Switzerland. BIM is gaining momentum wherever those involved are open, curious and courageous enough to enter new digital territory and are willing to help shape the future of the construction industry with foresight. This development is of course reinforced by companies such as SBB, who now make project planning with BIM mandatory for building construction projects with a value of CHF 5 million or more. The other camp comprises of those who are holding on to the present at all costs.

What could be the reason for this?

The reasons for this reluctance to adopt BIM and even the reluctance towards other developments are very different in Switzerland. For cultural reasons, we are still planning, building and operating in a very fragmented manner. The diverse and different approaches to construction projects in the individual cantons also play a role: There are 26 cantons, four languages and 2202 municipalities. And "everyone invented it" as the saying goes. In addition to these different views and opinions, there is a widespread lack of transparency in the respective business and procurement models. Traditionally, people are reluctant to show their cards. All these hurdles must first be overcome in order to reach a common and open consensus.

From your own experience with BIM - what do you consider to be the decisive success factors for successful project implementation?

This may sound obvious: The "human being" as planner, designer or architect must understand why BIM helps him and simplifies work in the medium and long term. Interestingly enough, we all no longer have such a hard time with this in our private lives. Smartphone, Alexa, Siri and Co. already make so many things easier for us that we are almost subconsciously making our everyday lives more and more digital. In a business context, however, such a "digital mindset" is suddenly missing and people prefer to stay within their familiar comfort zones. There is already a lot of software available that can whet the appetite for digital design, construction and operation and can simplify the implementation of BIM in one's own company. However, these offers themselves are very fragmented, not optimally coordinated with one another and in some cases very technically focused. More promising, in my view, are solution-oriented forums in which participants clearly state the challenges with BIM and then sometimes even join forces with other competitors to jointly find the best digital project solution for all parties involved.

The second part of our interview with Birgitta Schock deals with the current and future effects of the digitisation of construction in Switzerland, on the cooperation between the respective project partners and with the supply industry.