The application of new technologies to industrial processes has been changing our way of doing things for many years now. Digitalization has grown from being a dominant trend to becoming a necessity in every business sector. The construction industry has been taking steps to implement it so that it can take advantages of its benefits. Many studies also stress that it is one of the great challenges to be overcome. In 2017, on the occasion of the last edition of Barcelona Building Construmat (BBConstrumat), a report by the Building Technology Institute of Catalonia (ITeC), one of the bodies that is doing the most to explain what digitalization means, was already saying that innovation was a revolution waiting to happen.

In this sense, the main European sector associations, such as the European Builders Confederation (EBC) yand the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) launched their European Construction Industry Manifesto on Digitalisation in July 2018, in which they pointed out that the sector is implementing digital transformation and they demanded that the European Union adopt political, financial and legal measures.

Those signing this Manifesto also affirmed that “the digitalization of the building industry must be a political priority for all European institutions”. In Europe, the sector includes 3.1 million companies (95% of which are SMEs) that employ 14.5 million people, which accounts for 6.4% of all employment in the EU.

In Spain, the Spanish Association for Standardization (UNE) has recently published its Specification UNE 0061, which establishes what is required for an industry to be considered as digital. Among other requirements, it calls for the use of technologies and processes such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) or additive manufacturing.

The building sector seems to have a term of its own for digitalization, which is BIM (Building Information Modelling), a method designed to improve building processes from the start of the project to its maintenance after completion. For this reason, and as another display of its support for the sector, the next edition of BBConstrumat, from 14 to 17 May, the building sector fair organized by Fira de Barcelona will give this system pride of place with The BIM Spot, an area set aside to inform about this and other models of collaborative management that have emerged from the application of digitalization processes, such as the LEAN methodology or the collaborative contracts known as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).

There have been several projects built using this methodology since it was first introduced, with Barcelona University’s new Health Sciences Campus (Campus de les Ciències de la Salut) in Bellvitge as a notable example. There is also the renovation project of the Nou Camp Nou and the Espai Barça by the prestigious Japanese studio Nikken Sekkei, in association with those of Joan Pascual and Ramon Ausió, which was also created using BIM.

Cost savings

According to the report “Digitalization of the construction sector: the revolution is underway” by the U.S. consultancy Oliver Wyman, the implementation of BIM can achieve savings in building processes of 15-20%.