Alberto Cerdán discusses BIM in Spain


Alberto Cerdán is a Consultant and Professor specialising in Autodesk Revit and BIM. Irish building magazine spoke to him about BIM adoption in Spain, which he says is entering a period of research, experimentation and development.

With a professional background in architectural technology and building engineering, Alberto lectures on Revit and BIM in several postgraduate degrees at Spanish public and private universities. He was the first Autodesk Academic Partner in Spain, also the first teacher assessor who taught on behalf of Autodesk. Alberto chaired the first Spanish BIM User Group and for six years has organised the EUBIM International Conference.

How has BIM been adopted in the Spanish Construction Industry?

I would say the Spaniards are now at the beginning of BIM adoption, we still cannot claim that it has been widely adopted, although I recognise a lot of interest in BIM in all areas of the industry. Only the companies that work outside Spain have felt the need to adopt BIM, and many times it has been based on outsourcing services. In the construction education sector, some private universities have included BIM in their curricula; public universities are gradually moving towards including BIM.

Can you tell us about the Spanish Government’s BIM Strategy and how it was developed?

The National Government created the BIM Task Group in July 2015 to define a national strategy. This BIM Task Group, called es.BIM, is composed of 50 organisations, public entities (several Ministries, the Spanish railway operator, the Spanish airport manager, universities, etc.) and private associations (buildingSMART, Contractors Association, Clients Association, Architects Association, etc).

This Task Group has established 5 Working Groups: Strategy, People, Process, Technology, International. Some documents have been prepared, but not published yet, by these Working Groups such as a BIM glossary, a roles description etc. Moreover, BIM dissemination events are being organised by es.BIM. Currently, more than 400 volunteers form part of the Working Groups because there is no budget to develop these groups.

Who are the BIM Leaders in Spain?

The leader of the BIM Task Group, es.BIM, is Ineco, a private engineering firm, which is coordinating the different tasks. There is also another working group specifically created for Catalonia. The organisation that is working hard to publicise the existence of BIM in Spain is the Spanish Chapter of buildingSMART.

How has the construction industry influenced the Spanish Government in BIM adoption?

Probably the biggest influence has been the Regional Catalonian Government, which one year ago started to require BIM on many projects. Moreover, some big companies which are competing for international tenders have supported the need to adopt BIM. For example some big construction companies like Acciona and Ferrovial, or big engineering companies like Sener, Typsa and Idom.

Can you describe the long-term goals and objectives for BIM in Spain?

We can find the objectives of the BIM Task Group on its website, “Plan of Action” (, among which we would highlight: promoting the implementation of BIM in Spain in both building and infrastructure, defining BIM requirements, setting deadlines, developing national standards, encourage training in methodology, etc.

The Strategy has established the intention of creating a Spanish BIM Mandate: 2018 for buildings and 2019 for infrastructure. Personally, I think the dates are too close to achieve it, even taking advantage of the work done by others, it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel every time, but we will have to adapt the BIM methodology to our values and way of working, as well as to train all the industry professionals, before imposing that mandate.

What countries have influenced Spain’s BIM adoption?

I think it was definitely the announcement of the UK BIM Mandate and everything surrounding this announcement. However, Spain is also taking into account what is being done in other countries, such as Finland, France and Germany. Also what happened in America and the developments in Asia and Australia are being studied.

What were the main drivers and causes of BIM adoption? 

EU Directive 2014/24 on public procurement has been a turning point. Also, the announcement of the Government of Catalonia on the demand for BIM in its construction and infrastructures works. Also, the buildingSMART Spanish Chapter had several meetings with the Spanish Government to explain what was happening in other countries and present a draft of a roadmap. Both actions ended in the creation of the Spanish BIM Task Group.

What is the level of interest in BIM among private sector clients?

It has recently grown exponentially among companies that have a large portfolio of assets, and also manage their maintenance and the construction of new buildings. They are usually banks, commercial franchises, and sports institutions.

What are contractors and consultants views on BIM adoption?

The response of contractors and many technicians here in Spain is curious. When they understand the BIM methodology, many dare to affirm that it will be the way to work outside of Spain, but that due to our idiosyncrasy, it will not triumph in our country.

To understand this there is a need to know that we have been living in a housing bubble for a few years. Where any building was viable and sellable, where opportunity was more valued than quality. They worked in independent silos, passing the risks to other agents, and obtaining the benefits of relations with them, not with the project. Therefore, acting with a lack of transparency, and all this has to be overcome to work collaboratively and transparently to benefit the project.

Has the Spanish Government used BIM on large projects? Can you give examples?

The first large experiment was the City of Justice of Cordoba. In Catalonia, the application for BIM’s use in smaller tenders is becoming common, although in principle as improvements, not within the specifications itself. When a bid for a contract is published in Spain, there are some clauses that must always be met, and there are other optional ones such as contract improvements. BIM is not required as something that always has to be used, it is proposed as an improvement in the contract. This may mean that in the end the tender is awarded to a company that has the highest score in the clauses that must always be met, even if it does not use BIM as a working methodology.

What are the problems for contractors and consultants when adopting BIM?

I would say that the main problem is always the resistance to change, in addition to the fear of the unknown. Any change implies a decrease in productivity, and its recovery is not always assured, so many companies are waiting to see what others do. On the other hand is the lack of reliable information, ignorance of the BIM methodology, distrust of oversized promises.

Are the public and private sector contracts used in Spain suitable for BIM projects?

Both the building management law and the state contracts law, and possibly also the insurance law, should be modified in order to develop the BIM methodology with contracts other than Design-Bid-Build. In addition to this regulatory change, it will be necessary to change our customs and the way in which we usually write our contracts in order to take full advantage of what the BIM methodology can offer. It would be simpler to modify private contracts, but there is fear of the unknown and moving out of the comfort zone and customs.

Have small contracting companies and consultants been eager to adopt BIM?

Small companies are always more dynamic and therefore have more ease and less cost when adopting BIM. There is a lot of interest on their part, but not all are participating equally in this adoption. There are some that see BIM as a business opportunity, as something differentiating from the rest, a competitive advantage, but there are still those, I suppose by a lack of knowledge of BIM, who see it as an added cost, fashion or an unexpected imposition.

How good is BIM education and research in Spain?

At first there was clear resistance on the part of educators to change, but fortunately, more and more are in favour of including BIM within official curricula. Private universities were more agile at the time of change than the public ones, in the latter you have to take into account the time needed to modify a curriculum.

Research on BIM is growing, and beginning to reach maturity, at the same time that the knowledge of BIM is expanding. You just have to see the increase in entries to the EUBIM Conference in the last five years. However, there is still some confusion between training in BIM methodology and training in the use of particular software applications, confusing in some cases the tools with the methodology.

Can you tell us about your work with BIM and the services you offer?

My work with BIM is focused on training, and specialising in universities, with students who are now finishing their studies. Because of my training and the fact that I almost always teach in universities, Autodesk offered me the opportunity to be a pioneer of the Autodesk Academic Partner programme in Spain.

I currently teach courses on these subjects in the ‘Master of Construction Information Management’ at the Technical School of Building Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, and in the ‘Introduction to BIM with Revit’ courses at the University of A Coruña; In the ‘Master of BIM’ at Zigurat, the ‘Postgraduate Expert in Project Management, BIM Methodology’ at the European University, as well as in several professional colleges and institutions. I also provide training in professional organisations for experienced highly-skilled technicians.

How do you see the Spanish Construction Industry being changed by BIM in the next decade?

I think it is very difficult to meet the dates proposed by es.BIM. It is preferable to put some dates close to feel the need for change in the short term, but then these have to be longer than expected.

I have been a great defender of the BIM methodology for years and its adoption is inevitable in the not very long term, but we must recognise that, of the different methods, perhaps the one that best suits Spain is the imposition by regulation. Before this can happen we must make several changes in our regulations and experience it in a particular way, so I imagine that we have entered a period of research, experimentation and development that is very likely to last the whole decade.

This article first appeared in Irish building magazine, you can subscribe by clicking this link. 

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