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PhD Defence Sander Siebelink | Maturities in Building Information Modelling - A multi-level perspective

Maturities in Building Information Modelling - A multi-level perspective

Due to the COVID-19 crisis the PhD defence Sander Siebelink will take place (partly) online.

The PhD defence can be followed by a live stream.

Sander Siebelink is a PhD student in the research group Construction Management and Engineering (CME). His supervisors are prof.dr.ir. A.M. Adriaanse and dr. J.T. Voordijk from the Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET).

Although the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has driven digitalization in the construction industry for more than a decade, not all organizations are equally mature in its use. Given the fragmented and multidisciplinary nature of the construction industry, these variations in maturity lead to challenges in inter-organizational collaboration. As a result, expected benefits from BIM use are not always realized in practice. This thesis disentangles and explains variations in BIM maturity and their effects on the implementation and use of BIM on the sector, organization, and project levels of analysis. The gathered insights shine a light on the various stages of implementation, and the associated barriers, and highlights the impacts of variations on inter-organizational projects.

First, the thesis presents the development of a BIM maturity model that is applicable to different subsectors and incorporates both organizational and technological aspects of BIM. In doing so, it builds on the strengths of existing BIM maturity models, maturity models related to capability maturity and to supply chain maturity. The developed BIM maturity model was validated through a sectoral analysis of leading firms in terms of BIM use within the Dutch construction industry. Experiences from the implementation of the model and feedback from respondents were used to evaluate the appropriateness of the developed BIM maturity model. Based on this, the study identified aspects where the BIM maturity model needed to be improved prior to its further application in this thesis.

Second, the thesis presents a case study of nine organizational units within a large construction firm to gain a deeper understanding of barriers to BIM implementation and use. The study extends the existing body of knowledge by mapping barriers on to various organizational levels (from top management, through middle management, down to the operational project level) and by linking barriers to different degrees of BIM maturity. First, the findings revealed the dominance of barriers related to people’s motivation, competence, and time capacity across all levels of the organization. Second, the cluster of barriers on the middle-management level indicated that this level is key when attempting to reduce barriers. Furthermore, it was only cases with a low level of BIM maturity that struggled with a lack of top management support, showing this support’s importance in achieving BIM maturity growth. High BIM maturity situations were more prone to externally oriented barriers in attempting to further leverage the benefits of BIM. Insights from this study provide actionable knowledge on where to focus BIM implementation measures.

Third, after investigating the sector level and organization level, the thesis focuses on project level. Indeed, it is on the level of projects that variations in BIM maturity on different levels of analysis come together. In addressing the project level of analysis, this thesis provides insights into variations in organizational BIM maturity in relation to project-level maturity. Here, previous research had focused on methods to assess BIM maturity on the organization level or on the project level but failed to address how these two levels relate. The results of our multiple-case study indicated that project maturity is not simply the result of averaging the maturity of project partners. Rather, project managers used different strategies to influence project maturity: (1) they tune ambitions to the maturity level of the least mature partners, (2) they strategically limit the involvement of some partners to prevent their potential deteriorating effect on the project maturity, or (3) they support maturity development through structure and dedicated education. The latter enables the project organization to achieve a project maturity well above their individual organization’s levels.

In addition to analyzing maturity variations in subsectors, organizations, and projects, the thesis adopts a novel perspective to inter-organizational BIM use: the lens of Team Mental Models, an organized, shared understanding of the task at hand. Getting all the project partners on the same page regarding BIM use is perceived as challenging due to the typically fragmented nature of construction. In this yet unexplored context, a multiple case study was conducted to first reveal variations in the shared understanding of BIM use in projects. The study revealed that most of the variations could be explained by parties that operate more distantly from the core of the project team having less involvement with, and therefore less knowledge of, the BIM use and ambitions. Second, the study explored the positive relationship, widely assumed in the literature, between four Team Mental Model variables and four project outcome variables. A significant correlation was found between the consensus on BIM use and the project’s maturity. Moreover, the study identified factors that influenced the relationship between Team Mental Models and project outcomes.

Concluding, the thesis contributes to the literature on BIM, but also elaborates on the more general theory related to the construction industry’s fragmentation, its consequences, and ways of overcoming related obstacles. Gained insights can serve as a guide in promoting the further professionalization of inter-organizational BIM use and can be extended regarding future BIM uses and other upcoming digitization developments in the industry.