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Digitalisation in the construction sector - EU analysis report, 2021

Updated: Oct 30, 2023


In this blog post, we present some insights on the EU digitalisation published in the European Construction Sector Observatory Analytical report. The report was published in April 2021 and aims to describe the state of play of digitalisation in the EU and identify some of its main drivers and challenges.


In total 115 construction stakeholders from 24 countries participated in the survey related to technologies; 54% are from the private sector, 20% are public sector stakeholders, 9% are construction associations and 7% are academic institutes.

Figure 1: Overview of survey respondents by countries, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector,  April 2021

Figure 1: Overview of survey respondents by countries, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector, April 2021


We are also proud to announce that #BIMDesignHub, our educational centre, specializing in BIM training and implementation, has been listed in the report as a Digital construction platform in the EU-27 for the country of Greece. https://www.bimdesignhub.com/


State of play of digitalisation in the EU construction sector


The market analysis showed that among #dataacquisition technologies, sensors are the technology with the highest level of market maturity followed by the Internet of things and 3D scanning. However, there are significant margins for improvement when it comes to sensors integration in an existing building; 3D scanning is being increasingly used, while IoT is not yet widely adopted, although it is developing rapidly.


The technologies related to #automatingprocesses include the use of robotics, 3D printing and drones to support the automation of specific tasks in the construction sector. These technologies differ significantly in terms of development; drones are being increasingly used, while 3D printing and robots and still at the development phase.


Figure 2: Three categories of digital technologies in construction, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector,  April 2021

Figure 2: Three categories of digital technologies in construction, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector, April 2021


The #digitalinformation and analysis technologies are relative to Building Information Modelling, BIM virtual/augmented reality, artificial intelligence and digital twins. The status of these technologies is deeply connected to the maturity of the data acquisition and automation technologies and therefore their development varies significantly.


#BIM is more utilized in the construction sector and it is still limited to the design phase of large projects. Virtual and augmented reality is in development stages and digital twins are for the moment limited to a few pilot projects; however, the majority of public and private stakeholders agrees on their high potential for the future.


In addition, the report analysis among the different technologies highlight the fact that digital technologies have a high level of interconnection among them and as a result, the maturity and adoption rate of an individual technology is partially linked to the development of other technologies. As such, policymakers should take into consideration the links and dependencies between the different technologies when developing public policies.

Figure 3: Overview of the interactions among digital technologies in the construction sector, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector,  April 2021

Figure 3: Overview of the interactions among digital technologies in the construction sector, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector, April 2021


Figure 4: The use of digital technologies in the construction sector, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector,  April 2021

Figure 4: The use of digital technologies in the construction sector, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector, April 2021


BIM adoption in Europe


The report findings show that there is a moderate level of adoption of BIM in Europe. 29% of construction companies use BIM 3D (including information and graphical non-graphical information), whereas 61% have never used BIM. However, the European BIM market is predicted to grow by 13% in 2023, while at the global level, the BIM market is expected to grow by 18% annually from 2019 to 2027.


Demark and Austria are the countries with the highest adoption, but all countries reported a degree of BIM usage. In France (2017) 38% of companies in the construction sector stated that they are using BIM, whereas in Poland there is a modest level of BIM adoption, at 12%. BIM adoption is also linked to the legislative framework in place. For example, Austria and the Netherlands are the only two member states with an Open BIM standard mandate. Several member states have either a BIM requirement in the public procurement applying to all projects or projects of certain thresholds, the scope of type, e.g. infrastructure.


In Europe, BIM implementation is led by large companies, with SMEs showing limited BIM adoption. The report reveals 3 factors: First, large companies have more resources and financial and human resources to implement BIM. Second, the large companies have more complex projects, where strong coordination is required and the benefits of BIM justify the initial investment required. In addition, some reports pointed out the lack of demand from project promoters, mainly due to the lack of awareness of BIM benefits.


Figure 5: Extend of BIM adoption in EU member states, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector,  April 2021

Figure 5: Extend of BIM adoption in EU member states, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector, April 2021



Member states' digitalisation policies and initiatives


The digitalization levels vary across the EU 27 countries. The analysis shows that there 2 categories in terms of policy approaches:


Horizontal digitalisation strategies; cover a wide range of sectors technologies and areas and do not include the construction sector (Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia), or include the construction sector (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Chech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Sweden). Most of the horizontal strategies approach the sector from one of these angles: the E-government and electronic public services and the resource and energy efficiency for environmental impact.


Vertical digital strategies for the construction sector; target specifically the digital construction sector, covering the full pr part of the value chain and specific technologies such as BM or all digital technologies (Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg). Vertical digital strategies relate to BIM in public procurement, digital building logbooks for permits, policies to foster sustainability in the sector and others. Examples are the Roadmap for Digital Design and Construction in Germany and the Smart Building Environment in Sweden.


 Figure 6: Map of BIM requirements in public procurement across the EU-27, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector,  April 2021

Figure 6: Map of BIM requirements in public procurement across the EU-27, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector, April 2021



Figure 7: Digitalization of building permits systems across the EU-27, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector,  April 2021

Figure 7: Digitalization of building permits systems across the EU-27, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector, April 2021


Drivers and challenges of digitalisation in the construction sector


Drivers: Policy/market


The report reveals that both policy and market drivers play a key role in the digitalisation of the construction sector. The main market drivers are companies' needs to improve productivity and cut costs and market demand in the uptake of digital technologies which push construction tech companies to innovate.


Among the EU policies that support the uptake of digital technologies within the EU is the Renovation Wave that aims to at least double renovation rates across the EU in the next ten years; the Directive on the Energy Performance on Building that promotes smart technologies; and the European Green Deal that dedicates a specific attention to the circularity of the construction sector and others.


Figure 8: Importance of drivers to take-up of digital technologies across EU, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector,  April 2021

Figure 8: Importance of drivers to take-up of digital technologies across EU, Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector, April 2021


Challenges: Hardware-software cost/lack of skilled workforce/lack of understanding


The analysis shows that the three main factors hindering the digitalisation of the EU construction sector are the cost of equipment and software, the lack of a skilled workforce and the lack of awareness and understanding of digital technologies. In the 2 figures below we can see the relevance of challenges per each technology, based on the results from the ESCO survey.


The 2 most significant challenges in drone technologies are the unclear legal framework and the lack of awareness and understanding. In regard to BIM, the most frequently reported challenges are the lack of skilled human resources, the lack of standards, the unclear legal framework and the cost of equipment and software. For both the use of VR /AR and AI the top challenges are considered the lack of skilled human resources and the lack of awareness and understanding.


The use of sensors and IoT technologies is also limited by the lack of awareness and understanding, while the use of 3D scanning is affected by the cost and lack of awareness. Both robotics and 3d printing are affected by the cost, the lack of technological readiness and the lack of skilled human resources.


Figure 9: Relevance of challenges per each technology (EU weighted average), Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector,  April 2021

Figure 9: Relevance of challenges per each technology (EU weighted average), Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector,  April 2021

Figure 9: Relevance of challenges per each technology (EU weighted average), Source: EU report Digitalisation in the construction sector, April 2021



More information about the finding and results of the report you can find at this link: https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/45547?locale=en


Author: Panagiotidou Nicoleta, BIM specialist, Director at BIM Design Hub


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