Embracing the Future: Making the Case for Mandatory BIM in Public Construction Projects

Public construction projects are among the largest public investments we make. They represent a significant portion of public capital and ultimately form the backbone of public infrastructure.

Public construction projects, however, are notoriously complex and are frequently bogged down by delays or cost overruns.

Which is why it would be wise to consider Building Information Modeling (BIM) mandates for public construction projects. BIM has proven to be one of the most impressive tools for improving efficiency and quality in construction.

When it comes to public projects, there are many issues that owners face throughout the lifecycle of a building. Most public builds fail to hit cost and schedule targets and – because approximately 30% of construction cost is rework and approximately 55% of costs happen post-build – in maintenance spend. By using BIM, there’s an opportunity to be more proactive and gain better overall visibility on construction projects. This is not just about saving costs during the build phase, but about reducing expenses over the entire life of the structure by minimizing delays, rework, and reactive maintenance.

The proven results of BIM, including more successful project delivery and improved budgeting, can dramatically improve the inefficiencies inherent to current public construction processes and standards. BIM offers the prospect of more successful project delivery and the retention of a greater share of the tax dollars spent to fund them.

Requiring stakeholders to employ BIM promises to transform how we think about public construction projects and is a logical and forward-thinking policy for officials and agencies to consider.

Government Role in Supporting BIM and Information Management Adoption

For governments, the adoption of BIM, and we’d go even a step further and speak of information management mandates, will serve society well. These mandates will improve the efficiency, quality, and sustainability of public infrastructure, and, when mandated, they’ll guarantee that the benefits follow through to all public projects.

83% of U.S. construction firms struggle to meet project deadlines because they couldn’t find skilled workers, according to a 2019 Commercial Construction Index. Since much of the cost of projects is found in rework, avoiding rework is a key strategy for mitigating labor shortages. With its capacity to help teams avoid miscommunication and errors, BIM empowers companies to increase productivity without adding extra hires.

For the construction sector, BIM mandates on public construction projects are another positive step in the modernization of construction methods. Mandates promote the industry’s established best practice and demonstrate a commitment to economic and environmental sustainability. There are challenges, but the opportunities and benefits far outweigh them. BIM, with its capacity to empower users to increase accuracy and transparency and avoid errors and miscommunication, is changing the AECO industry. We are in position to establish a new normal. With BIM mandates, more work can be completed in less time – and with more transparency.

Global Trends and Leadership

Some countries have been ahead of the curve on BIM, mandating its adoption for public projects from the start.

The United Kingdom has mandated BIM for all government-funded projects since 2016. In Spain, BIM has been mandatory for all public projects over €50 million since 2018. A strategic timeline will require all contracting authorities there to use BIM starting in 2024, with complete integration mandated by 2030. As a result, Spain is taking full advantage of the benefits of BIM — cost savings, a faster construction process, and enhanced sustainability. In Québec, all projects by the Société Québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) must use BIM.

Similar national mandates in North America could position Canada and the United States as leaders in cutting-edge technology driving efficient, low-waste, low-carbon, on-time and on-budget construction.

The economic and social benefits of BIM mandates are significant: lower cost and time of delivery on projects, better management of assets, improved scheduling and estimation, more environmentally sustainable construction, the creation of greener buildings, and reduced overall impact of construction projects on communities. This should be a no-brainer for all public builds.

Enhanced Collaboration Across Disciplines

Perhaps most importantly, using BIM, all stakeholders on a project can collaborate and share a single data model and work from a single shared dataset. Stakeholders in different disciplines can avoid confusion. All parties agree that they’ll work together from the single source of data. Problems can be identified and resolved in the design stage. And because BIM encourages collaboration during the construction phase, it can encourage a shared facility management of the “built” project. The BIM can become a resource for the facility manager, allowing for more precise maintenance and a more precise approach to adaptive reuse of the building across the lifecycle of a project. This continuity extends from construction to operation, which reduces the lifecycle costs of public infrastructure, and allows for the planning and maintenance needed to extend the life of public infrastructure.

Driving Innovation and Sustainability

Public agencies can drive sustainability and innovation. BIM can be a powerful tool in that mission. BIM allows the technical team to make more informed decisions about the energy profile and performance of the building — for instance, how to design the building to maximize the use of natural light, saving energy and installation costs. BIM will help reduce waste and standardize the type of materials that will be used in the building process, therefore making it more efficient. If public institutions want to reduce their carbon footprint, BIM is one of the main mechanisms to achieve this.

Regulatory Compliance and Safety

Safety requirements mean that when public space is being built, rules must be followed. While requirements help to guide the building process, BIM can automate code-checking at the design phase, not only reducing the time it takes to be granted permission to build but also ensuring that safety is never overlooked. BIM also takes safety into account at the construction level by allowing for the simulation of processes, thereby identifying potential accidents before they occurred and reducing their costs.

Impact on Construction Industry Standards

A BIM mandate would serve as a catalyst for industry-wide uptake of higher standards of quality. If the improved project outcomes that result from BIM adoption were universally regarded as a new benchmark, private contractors would be motivated and inspired to achieve new standards of quality, sustainability and safety. Consistent BIM use on public projects can educate the market on the benefits of this technology. Increased uptake of BIM on public projects would drive increased use in the private sector.

Addressing Labor Shortages Through BIM and Information Management Software

The construction industry is currently experiencing severe skill shortages, compounded by the increased complexity of work and the requirement to deliver better, faster. BIM and leading-edge information management software are crucial enablers of this agility – and will help to reduce labor shortages as a barrier to quality and efficiencies in the built environment.

The lack of labor can be corrected by almost 50% in the planning and execution stages through BIM. The detailed information of the digital as-built models can help to build a complex building without any issues between the architects, engineers, clients and finally the laborers. BIM helps to reduce the construction time by rectifying the root cause of delays and rework in all projects. With BIM, the labor required for construction on sites would be less, when the workers can do three times as much work in half the time, thanks to the precision planning and mitigation of rework through catching issues in advance in the planning phase.

In addition, BIM provides support for the construction of prefabricated and modular buildings, where components are manufactured off-site in a controlled factory environment and then brought to the site and assembled. This can increase the speed of construction and reduce the number of onsite workers, both of which help to alleviate the labor shortage. Since the models are BIMs, the prefabricated modules will be manufactured to fit together accurately and will need little or no adjustment onsite.

Challenges and Opportunities of Enforcing BIM Mandates

Implementing mandates of any sort presents challenges as well as opportunities. The capital outlay required for technology and training and other aspects of a major transition might result initially in pushback. But these challenges will also present opportunities for businesses and the industry as a whole to become more competitive.

There are technological, financial, cultural and educational challenges of implementing and enforcing BIM mandates. And there are proven strategies to overcome them:

Technological challenge

The adoption of BIM requires a technological shift, including the procurement of new software, which can seem like a barrier for many firms, especially smaller ones.


  • Cloud-based technology: Cloud-based BIM and BIM coordination solutions can reduce the need for expensive hardware and provide scalability.
  • Vendor partnerships: Partnering with software vendors can provide access to training and support, making the transition smoother.
  • Public incentives: The importance and value of BIM mandates justify the use of government grants, subsidies, or tax incentives that support technological innovation.

Cultural challenge

Resistance to change is a significant barrier, as professionals are often skeptical of adopting new processes and tools in place of familiar workflows.


  • Change management: Implement a structured change management process that includes clear communication, stakeholder engagement, and addressing concerns directly.
  • Success stories: Share case studies and success stories of BIM implementation to illustrate its practical benefits and ease concerns.

Educational challenge

There is often a lack of BIM expertise and knowledge within the workforce, which can hinder effective implementation.


  • Tailored training programs: Develop comprehensive training programs that are role-specific and focus on practical application.
  • Continuous learning: Foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement, ensuring that the workforce stays updated with the latest BIM practices.

Interoperability challenge

BIM requires different systems and software to work together seamlessly, which can be difficult to achieve.


  • Collaborative platforms: Collaborative platforms, that support BIM integration and allow for real-time communication and data-sharing, regardless of what native BIM authoring tools the firms choose.

Standardizing Information Management Alongside BIM Mandates

It is important to think broadly about project and information management beyond BIM. Broadly applied standards for information management, paired with BIM, can enhance project outcomes through further improvements to efficiency, accuracy, and collaboration.

Information management is associated with project communications, documents, changes, and other key data. Look for software that combines Information Management beyond BIM and BIM coordination to ensure stakeholders have transparent access to the information they need, when they need it – whether in the model itself or email, action item tracking and assignment, RFIs, submittals, change orders, and the many other information exchanges that take place amongst the myriad of disciplines and stakeholders involved in construction projects.

Making Information Management Standards Mandatory, Beyond BIM.

To reap the full benefits of BIM mandates, we recommend similar policies regarding construction information management. Together, these processes represent the future of successful construction projects. Information management platforms that enable BIM coordination, and greatly improve the efficacy of project delivery by connecting and managing project information effectively right across the board.

Together, these innovations are driving the construction industry in the right direction — toward openness, accountability, and, ultimately, success. Joint BIM and Information Management mandates for public construction would enhance and elevate the delivery of projects and transform the way companies throughout the industry do business, while also representing the best possible stewardship of shared resources.

About the Author

Carl Veillette is chief product officer for Newforma, a leading provider of information management and collaboration software for the architecture, engineering, construction, and owner industry.


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