BIM: 20% technique, 80% human


BIM: 20% technique, 80% human

A conference at the Institute for Ecoresponsible Design of Buildings (ICEB), on 23 January at the Maison de l’Architecture in the 10th arrondissement of Paris provided me with an opportunity to review a subject previously discussed in one of my Posts last year: BIM or Building Information Modelling, a global integrated process that is decisive for the evolution of our construction professions

Bound to happen!

“BIM: 20% of technique, 80% of human”: the name of the conference was sufficiently explicit to arouse my curiosity! And so was its subject, as it was geared to “the vision of the architect, especially in terms of design and on-site work, combined with the vision of the ACA (Assistant to the Contracting Authority) , upstream of programming and downstream of operation and maintenance.”

From the outset, the tone was set by the first speaker, Patrick Delaporte-Arnal (1) who, at the opening of the conference, declared that “BIM is bound to happen!” He subsequently explained that BIM is much more than just digital modelling, as it involves a new way of working between stakeholders in decision making, design, completion and maintenance. This approach is really akin to a collaborative process as it is focused on a framework that is the same for everybody.

Deployment is still heterogeneous

The overview he went on to deliver enabled me to understand that things had really changed in five years, since the first time I heard of this new concept. It was at the Equerre d’argent awards ceremony in 2012, where I met Itaï, the director of Polantis, who had just launched his portal!

However, BIM is far from being fully developed in Europe. England is by far the most advanced in this regard: local authorities there have been publishing 100% BIM calls for tender for their own buildings since 2015.

France got off to a rather late start. The 1st of January 2017 was supposed to be the date when the State would launch the same initiative, but the decree was postponed by a year. Which is a pity because we can see that BIM is in fact gradually taking off, and rather quickly with French professionals, perhaps to give a little more time to artisan companies, most of which are not yet fully up to speed on BIM…

The most commonly used formats are emerging (Revit – ArchiCad). Engineering firms and architects are equipping themselves. But not as fast as contractors, who realise the financial advantage of this method of managing buildings and work sites, which puts everyone in agreement on one single complete model.

Architect Olivier Celnik (2) , the second speaker - who practices BIM at his firm Z- Studio and teaches it in the Masters degree programme at the prestigious Ponts et Chaussée science, engineering and technology school– gave a very operational and highly positive overview of his experience. He also recognised that there is still a large degree of reticence regarding the use of new tools, as some people consider that BIM has the potential to generate creative regression and difficulty managing complex forms.

In this regard, the doubts and worries expressed by some participants in the debate came from professional profiles over the age of 50, whose intellectual references may date from the 1970s or 1980s! So BIM also highlights a form of generational fracture.

Olivier Celnik very rightly, and in friendly terms, drew a parallel with the CAD revolution that took place thirty years ago. The switch from pencil to mouse generated exactly the same worries! Above all, it highlighted the high level of enthusiasm among private project owners, who quickly saw in this new way of working the means to take back control of the project, and consequently of the costs. He made his audience smile when he described what general contractors will no longer be able to do, in particular in terms of their approximate evaluation of surfaces and quantities……… Which is good news!

From pioneering logic to an operational approach

Despite generational and financial drawbacks, BIM is on the right track to be integrated by all construction professions. We are seeing a form of convergence that is in fact quite fast and increasingly comprehensive use of the tools and approach for an increasingly large number of projects. There is proof all over Europe that it works!

In just three years, BIM evolved from a pioneering logic, visible mainly in specialised trade shows (e.g. BIM World) to an experimental logic and is now quasi-operational. For the last 3 years, competitions and architecture prizes have been awarding prizes to 100% BIM projects throughout Europe.


And what about us?

At VMZINC, apart from the textures and colours of our products, which have been on line for 2 years now on the Polantis portal, the BIM approach is becoming a reality. At the start of 2017, five complete facade systems (including overlapping panels, composite panels and the Mozaïk system) will be downloadable from this portal and on our websites. It should be noted that our systems will be presented featuring complete treatment of the wall, ranging from the zinc cladding to the supporting wall or structure. All of this makes up a package to be integrated in one block, with non-zinc components defined as generic in their dimensions and performance.

I repeat: BIM is bound to happen, spread the word!



(1) Patrick Delaporte-Arnal:

  • Associate and co-director of Softloft management, elaboration and coordination of real estate operations
  • Member of GT BIM intersyndical of Fédération CINOV
  • Teaches BIM Programming at the Ponts et Chaussées school
  • Teaches at ESAN, the Architecture School of Normandy

(2) Olivier Celnik:

  • Associate architect at Z. STUDIO, architecture firm
  • Teaches HMONP (the authorisation to exercise architecture in one’s own name) and BIM at the architecture schools of Versailles and Paris Val-de-Seine
  • Co-director of the BIM Masters degree, Ecole des Ponts ParisTech – ESTP
  • Co-author of a book entitled “BIM et Maquette Numérique” (BIM and Digital Modelling, published by Eyrolles CSTB 2014 and 2015


Roger Baltus
Engineer - Architect
VMZINC Communication Director

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