Digital Transformation in the Canadian Built Asset Industry

Citation

  • Poirier, E. A., Staub-French, S., Whitell, M., Shahi, A., Dadmehr, N. (2022). Digital Transformation in the Canadian Built Asset Industry. Priorities for BIM Policy, Standardization, and Guidance. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

Executive Summary

As with all economic sectors in Canada, the built asset industry, which is responsible for planning, designing, delivering, maintaining, and operating Canada’s built environment, is undergoing a digital transformation. This is an opportunity for one of Canada’s most important economic sectors to revolutionize the way it operates, allowing it to generate more value for Canadians by addressing current environmental, economic, and social crises. However, enacting this digital transformation and reaping its benefits poses significant challenges. The research conducted for this report developed a framework to identify and prioritize specific knowledge resources to address the challenges and support the Canadian built asset industry in its digital transformation.

The primary objective of this research was to develop a digital transformation framework to structure, articulate, and prioritize the standards, guidelines, and other resources (i.e., knowledge resources) needed to support building information modelling (BIM) adoption and implementation in Canada. Secondary objectives included validating current industry challenges, needs, and trends regarding BIM use in Canada; reviewing existing initiatives, resources, and tools from around the globe; discussing their adaptation or adoption; and where a specific need was uncovered, proposing avenues for development. To achieve these objectives, a three-pronged research methodology was selected. First, 24 domain experts from Canada, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), and Australia were interviewed. Second, a survey was conducted to broaden the pool of respondents pertaining to specific questions regarding standardization and guidance for BIM in Canada. Finally, a broad review of available BIM resources was conducted, which identified over 500 noteworthy resources pertaining to BIM adoption and implementation for review. Data were analyzed through various qualitative and quantitative methods, including inductive coding using computer aided qualitative data analysis software and statistical analysis. This analysis informed the development of the framework and the list of knowledge resources that are presented in this report. Two workshops were also held to discuss and validate the findings.

The findings confirmed the overarching challenges that the Canadian built asset industry faces in initiating and sustaining its digital transformation, specifically around the adoption and implementation of BIM. These challenges lie primarily in three areas:

  1. Lack of consistent demand by clients;
  2. Lack of appropriate skills and competencies; and
  3. Incompatibility of capabilities and workflows across built asset value chains.

These findings highlight the absence of a coherent operational framework for BIM adoption and implementation in Canada, the consequences of which are fragmentation and duplication of efforts and resources, as well as potential for the development of contradictory directions in this area. This could lead to wasted and missed opportunities, which could have significant economic, social, and environmental impacts. Indeed, while BIM use is increasingly delivering tangible benefits to stakeholders across Canada, these benefits are localized and asymmetric (e.g., they typically apply to a single organization or a subset of the supply chain). In essence, the absence of structure or an overarching strategy seriously hinders the progression and full potential of digital transformation in the Canadian built asset industry.

To overcome the challenges and broaden the scale and scope of economic, social, and environmental benefits, a Canadian position regarding policy and standards on BIM adoption and implementation must be developed. Such a position can and should rely on the significant work that has been done around the globe to standardize and develop guidance for government agencies and industry practitioners, namely the ISO 19650 series. Many of these resources could be adopted or adapted within Canada. However, while beneficial, these resources alone will not ensure the successful adoption and implementation of BIM in the Canadian built asset industry. They must be enacted and supported through targeted policy instruments, be they regulatory, economic, or other, and through clear implementation pathways with the objective of structuring and guiding how information is acquired, generated, exchanged, processed, managed, and consumed throughout the lifecycle of a built asset.

The research conducted for this report informed a proposal for a clear Canadian position on BIM adoption and implementation in the Canadian built asset industry through the development of an operational framework. Moreover, through this research, consensus emerged concerning the key role that standards and focused guidance must play in supporting the Canadian built asset industry to move ahead and be successful in its BIM adoption process. The findings discussed in this report identify and prioritize these standards and key resources and articulate them within the broader digital transformation framework, with a focus on the relationship between the different parts of the framework and how they are supported through these defined resources.