European Building Summit 2023

“We need to be very careful about the way we explain what BIM is because it is not a magic wand for solving all our shortcomings”

“With BIM, we avoid stupid things like beginning with a budget of ten and ending up with a cost of twenty, or calculating fourteen months for a project that ultimately takes twenty-six” 

The architect Rafael Capdevila is head of the BIM Manager Postgraduate at the Col·legi d’Aparelladors, Arquitectes Tècnics i Enginyers d’Edificació de Barcelona [Association of Surveyors, Technical Architects and Building Engineers of Barcelona]. He has been working in the architecture and construction trade since 1996. He is in charge of project and site management and execution based on the BIM methodology. In the first part of this interview he placed the emphasis on the importance of data management. In the second part he warns about how it is important to explain what Building Information Modelling (BIM) is properly in order to avoid false expectations and frustration. 

To what extent is the construction sector really committed to working with BIM methodology? 

BIM delivers benefits but you need to know why you want to apply it. Some people just want projects with BIM because it is “in”. It is true that it does reduce cost overruns and the uncertainty that we are used to working with in projects because we are building things that someone has forecast in an executive project without actually knowing how they will be built. This involves a great deal of improvisation that eventually affects the quality of the work, because neither does it allow us to forecast what we will have to do in ten months’ time, for example, in order to install the conducts in an installation. And the truth is that we do quite a good job, because our buildings do not fall down. BIM reduces all these problems, but people do not realise this and simply want BIM because they think the project will work out cheaper and that we will finish it sooner. 

And if that not the case? 

With BIM, the project costs what it has to cost. We avoid stupid things like beginning with a budget of ten and ending up with a cost of twenty, or calculating fourteen months for a project that ultimately takes twenty-six. There will always be contingencies, but if we use our tools and leverage our data and models then we can pre-empt situations in which we currently have to improvise. 

What is the universities’ role in spreading the BIM methodology? 

I took my degree in the 1990s. At that time people had been using Autocad for years, although I ended up doing drawings on paper, and I think we still have that problem. The digital work methodology is residual when it ought to be part of a technical project’s bone marrow. My postgrad students do not know what BIM is. Universities tend to be wary of change when they really ought to be key actors in the connection between the real world, bricks and mortar and the digital world. But they are failing to do this, which is why other stakeholders have to take on this role. 

In Norway, kids in schools do design with Minecraft… 

That is BIM. When we were young and used to make things with Lego we were actually applying BIM. In this country, we drop everything for masters and postgrads, which is not the role that they should be playing. Knowledge and expertise should be acquired before that; masters and postgraduates should be complements. We think that mastering BIM means using a specific design software, but the truth is that in my opinion the most useful tool on the market is Excel, because it allows me to manage the data that I must have in order to work with BIM. BIM is that coffee you go for with the site manager and you do some drawings on a piece of paper to deal with a contingency and then add it to the model. It is way of managing information in order to be able to model and execute. 

Are there places where BIM is consolidated? 

One case of which I have first-hand experience was when I went to work in Peru. I thought I knew a lot about BIM. I was invited to give a presentation before the Peruvian Chamber of Construction, and when the Q&A started I realised that they knew a lot more about collaborative work than I did. In Peru, the executive project is not produced by the architect, he comes up with what they call a concept project, which broadly speaking is an advanced basic project, and the project is then awarded to the builder, who plans it under the supervision of a figure that we do not have here, the civil engineer, who is aware of the tools available to them to execute the project. The architect is present throughout the entire process to make sure that the project matches his or her idea. Not a single stone is laid until the project has been validated by everyone involved. That is definitely an “IKEA model”, a simulation; that is BIM, although they do not sell it to you as BIM because it is simply their way of doing things. They do not need to announce it wrapped up in hype. 

As far as other countries are concerned, I know what I read and what I learn at conferences and congresses, although I do tend to be a little sceptic. If BIM is working properly in Norway then it is probably because they were already doing things properly in the construction sector. It all depends on each country’s idiosyncrasy. In Spain we cannot attempt to build like they do in Norway because our construction needs are different. What we have to do is adapt the methodology to our characteristics to make the most of it. 

Are there too many hopes pinned on BIM? 

We need to be very careful about the way we explain what BIM is because it is not a magic wand for solving all our shortcomings. This leads to frustration afterwards. I will never tire of saying that BIM is a work methodology with a great potential to improve building processes, but that we must make an effort to adapt them. There is no magic software for applying BIM simply by hitting a button. 


The European BIM Summit is possible thanks to the contribution of our sponsors: Roca, as Main sponsor; Finalcad, as Gold sponsor; Agència Catalana de l’Aigua, ATL, Bentley, CIAT, FGC, Knauf Industries, MUSAAT, PREMAAT, Graphisoft Archicad and SIMBIM Solutions, as Silver sponsors; Calaf Constructora, Copisa, and Fundación Laboral de la Construcción, as Pro sponsors; and BASF, as Sustainability sponsor. It has also the support and the collaboration of the Departament de Territori i Sostenibilitat of the Generalitat de Catalunya.