How BIM is paving the way for construction innovation in Ireland

min read time
2023-04-12 10:05:14

When Ireland’s National BIM Council published its Road Map to Digital Transition for Ireland’s Construction Industry in 2017, it recognised that BIM was “at the centre of a digital transformation of the construction sector and the built environment across the world”. Since then, BIM has been the catalyst for a range of new technologies and digital practices that are creating a competitive advantage for the Irish architecture, construction and engineering (ACE) firms that embrace them.


It’s a pivotal moment for the sector and BIM-mature organisations are racing ahead in terms of innovation and efficiency. As Dr Barry McCauley, Head of Geospatial Surveying and Digital Construction at Technology University Dublin (TU Dublin) summarises, “Ireland is on a really good trajectory - we’re a small nation who can react well. Today, there are a lot of good courses, events and investments happening, as well as continuing professional development. We’re even getting to the stage where many graduates are applying their learnings and starting new, forward-thinking businesses across the technology, construction and development space”.

Here are some of the exciting technologies that will be disrupting the ACE industry in the coming years and enhancing project delivery for those poised to adopt them:

IFC and Cloud Computing

As BIM Level 2 becomes established as the industry standard in Ireland, full cloud migration is helping both on and offsite workers to access and modify designs from anywhere. Among firms that have embraced BIM, Irish construction professionals are increasingly operating in a fully collaborative data environment and looking towards full-scale cloud adoption. To enhance collaboration and interoperability among these multi-disciplinary teams, efforts are also being made to standardise file sharing, with IFC enabling the vendor-agnostic exchange of BIM projects without data loss or distortion.

Virtual Reality          

BIM rendering software, like AutoDesk 3Ds Max, offers immersive 3D experiences of ACE designs. Using this software, it’s possible to take stakeholders on simulated walkthroughs from the first stages of the design process. These experiences significantly improve engagement and help clients to better visualise construction plans. And when virtual reality headsets and goggles are used onsite, the technology enhances real-time decision-making, and collaboration and even enables augmented training to reduce clashes and improve worker safety.

Machine Learning (ML)

The adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered ML technologies like the AutoDesk 360 IQ BIM platform offers countless possibilities for advanced decision-making and high-speed analysis across Irish construction projects. Applying ML algorithms to BIM data is proving hugely valuable for model classification, lifecycle and usage forecasting and even detecting anomalies like health and safety issues or clashes.

With so much to offer the Irish construction industry, there are already post-graduate courses available on applying analytics and ML in the construction sector. According to Dr Barry McCauley, these courses are specifically designed to “create a new evolution of professions [and] give professionals the skillset in point programming, statistics and analytics in order to excel”.


The Internet of Things (IoT)

Sensors and smart connected devices are increasingly being deployed across Irish sites to facilitate more efficient facilities management. Onsite workers can even have these sensors embedded in their equipment and clothing to monitor safety and provide rapid alerts. Each device transmits data back to the centralised BIM system to break down traditional data silos and enable seamless real-time condition monitoring across areas such as energy usage, air circulation, population density and climate patterns.

Following completion, these technologies can even enable ongoing asset management and monitoring of the project. Ireland is currently in the process of developing guidelines for this handover process, as Dr Barry McCauley explains: “Along with the Build Digital project, we’re currently trying to establish pillars for an BIM information framework. For facilities management, we’ll be looking to define and standardise the handover process and what that should look like.”

Digital Twins

Digital replicas of their physical counterparts, digital twins are a major growth area for the Irish construction sector. A step closer to smart cities and BIM Level 3, when intertwined with the IoT they support long-term functions like facilities management and maintenance. “Once you finish construction, that’s actually your starting point.” Says Dr Barry McCauley. “All your sensors are integrated and working simultaneously alongside the building. This is then a live data environment that can help to make informed business decisions – as you progress or even into the future.”


Advanced robotics are now being deployed across a variety of different construction methods. Only recently, Boston Dynamics’ four-legged cobot, ‘Spot’ was deployed onsite. This compact robot maps its own environment, detects and avoids obstacles and can even inspect a variety of difficult or dangerous-to-access environments like brownfield sites – and it’s set to be a game-changer for the industry.

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3D Printing

Combined with BIM, 3D printing supports prefabrication and modular construction, as well as providing easy access to prototype components that encourage innovation and advance structural design processes. In the long term, this will benefit the sustainability of the sector as it produces far less waste than traditional construction manufacturing creates. Some Irish firms have been quick to embrace 3D printing in construction, and an Irish firm is currently working on the UK’s first 3D-printed homes scheme, which utilises 3D-printed materials like concrete.


Blockchain is a unique cryptographic code that can be embedded into individual components of a project to offer an unbreakable record of the condition, history and origin of construction material. By introducing this secure data into projects, Blockchain will ensure more accurate and transparent information is used across the industry. Blockchain data can even validate whether a project's necessary processes or specifications were met via a ‘digital handshake’. Along with the help of AI, ML and IoT for validation, this will support the delivery of smart contracts that can initiate value transactions once the exact conditions of a construction agreement are met. Helping with both global and national uptake, Ireland has spearheaded notable research into how Blockchain technology can help to overcome the problem of trust between parties collaborating on construction projects.


By taking over manually intensive and repetitive tasks, BIM automation will increase efficiency across the Irish construction sector and reduce potentially costly mistakes. It also allows designers to focus on creative and complex problem solving, while automation carries out tasks like structuring data, naming files, automating design conditions and predicting variables.

According to Dr Malachy Matthews, Senior Lecturer at TU Dublin, “We should be examining how we can use AI [to automate tasks]. We can create Dynamo scripts for Revit, a visual scripture, and this is playing a really important role in the application of the digital model. After developing these scripts, we can then extract information from the model really efficiently. So, if you can imagine a hospital with two thousand fire doors in - there’s a naming system for these and the people working on it could easily get them mixed up. You can instead, develop a script that will name them for you, and if you feed that into the script, it will rearrange the model and name the doors and save about three weeks of work.”


Singapore, the US and Australia are already using BIM to run rule-based checking systems and carry out building regulation compliance checks. Following a study by TUDublin, the Irish construction sector is exploring how a similar automated compliance approach can be adopted in local government and within the Irish Planning and Building Control system. With open-source visual programming software currently available on the international market, uptake of this technology will drive significant time saving and efficiency for Irish construction.

Harnessing BIM Innovation in Ireland

These are just some of the ways that BIM technologies can transform the ACE industries across Ireland and unlock exciting digital ways of working. Education and collaboration will fuel national uptake of BIM, but many Irish business leaders and academics like Dr McCauley, are hopeful that additional support will enable Ireland to sustain its momentum and deliver full-scale transformation: “A BIM mandate from the Irish government is essential for getting more smaller or medium-sized enterprises onboard so that Ireland can reach its full potential and get to the level we want to reach.”

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