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Thomas Vandenbergh: "Belgium is not a front runner, but sub topper on European level and caching up the toppers very fast"

He is the chairman of the Technical committee on BIM and ICT from the Belgian Building Research Institute

Published: 26/02/2018

Country: United Kingdom
Who is Thomas Vandenbergh? Thomas Vandenbergh is the head of BIM, Systems Engineering, Sustainability and New Developments the BESIX Engineering dpt. Furthermore, he's the chairman of the innovation board of BESIX Group, the chairman of the Technical committee on BIM and ICT from the Belgian Building Research Institute.

BC:  This last December BESIX became the Belgium's first construction company to obtain BIM Level 2 certification by BSI Group. What does it mean for BESIX and which were the key factors that lead to this achievement according your opinion?

T.V: Obtaining the BIM level 2 certification, is not only an important recognition of our BIM competencies towards the external world, but it also significantly contributes to the internal valorization of our BIM departments. We proved that all the efforts we have undertaken on BIM since 2010 lead to an international certificate. Key to this succes is the ability to translate our daily information management activities in clear activity flowchart and templates. A correct documentation of your procedures is fundamental to a correct understanding and an efficient roll out.

BC: Which has been the hardest part of the BESIX Group's BIM Journey?

T.V: To successfully integrate a new working method in your company you shall focus on tools, processes and people. It is definitely the last one which was, and still is, the most challenging part. People need to understand why information shall be managed differently. Especially the compatibility with current processes and the risk aversity in project context need(ed) the appropriate attention.

BC: As the Chairman of the Technical Committee on BIM and ICT at Belgian Building Research Institute, what do you think is the main challenge for Belgium to implement BIM in public and private institutions?

T.V: The Belgian AECOM market is characterized by a very high amount a small players. This important market fragmentation does not facilitate the implementation of new technologies and methodologies: they are more companies to train with fewer resources. On the other hand, even for large players/projects, we still have too many non-integrated contract types. Design & Build, Bouwteam or DBFM projects are typically better contractual environments to promote BIM.

BC: How does the Belgian construction sector integrate the digital information management? Which is the role/part of BBRI on this?

T.V: Some recent studies show that Belgium is not a front runner, but sub topper on European level and is caching up the toppers, like the Netherlands, very fast. The different initiatives lead by the BBRI, are certainly contributing to the faster and better adoption of BIM and new opportunities created by digitization. 2 examples: the BBRI recently launched a very practical guideline to establish a BIM protocol and execution plan on a project, and in a couple of weeks they will also publish a tool to efficiently look for BIM trainings given in Belgium, based on a very user friendly and efficient data base.

BC: Is the Government involved in boosting and promoting BIM in the Belgium AEC sector (any national strategy, mandates, relative regulations)?

T.V: Indirectly. For the moment, there is no national or regional obligation to adopt BIM on public projects. The government's boot comes by sponsoring many BIM promotion, research and implementation initiatives from construction federations, research institutes and private players. The technical committee from the Belgian Building Research Insititute with more than 65 BIM experts and the Flemmish BIM cluster with more than 50 companies are good examples.

BC: According to your experience, in which stage can BIM methodology be applied to a project, when only few of the disciplines involved are working under BIM principles? Is this a common state to industries that are now entering to the digital transformation field as well as to the BIM journey?

T.V: It is obvious that the more the stakeholders have BIM experience and the more integrated the contract type, the higher the BIM adoption on a project. Nevertheless, we try to have a very 'tailor made' BIM approach. On every project one shall set up a Building Information Management strategy and objectives which are in line with the project risks and opportunities. Starting from this logic, BIM can be implemented everywhere, by everyone. But adapted to the context. Hence there is no single way to do BIM.

BC: Please, let us know something about your participation to the upcoming European BIM Summit on the 8th and 9th of March. What we can expect from your presentation?

T.V: Given the expert audience I'll be presenting to, I did not want to sell or convince about the necessity of BIM. Neither will I show any project example (despite the amazing +50 BIM project BESIX has been working on). We prefer to very pragmatically show how Belgium, through its Building Research Institute, and by closely involving the driving market players, is accelerating significantly the pace of its BIM adatoption since 2016. Hope I can inspire and be inspired!

Know more about European BIM Summit here.

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