Building Information Modeling

An Expert's View about Building Products and Construction in Japan

Posted on: 31 Oct 2011

Building in a more sustainable manner has attracted considerable attention in Japan as environmental awareness has increased both within the business community and the general public. Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, a technology which assists firms with building in a more environmentally-friendly manner, was introduced to Japan a few years ago and has become more widely used among general construction companies, design firms and their subcontractors. The Japanese construction industry has started to utilize BIM as an effective tool for creating three-dimensional presentations as well as improve overall workflow processes. BIM can also be used to support the construction process in areas such as initial design and environmental impact simulation. According to a recent survey by Nikkei BP Consulting (Nikkei), 33 percent of construction companies in Japan have now adopted BIM. Among these companies, nearly 90 percent had implemented BIM by 2009. Industry considers 2009 as the year BIM really started to be utilized in Japan and it has the potential to be deployed to many Japanese firms in the future. Recognizing the merits of BIM technology, the Japanese Government announced its adoption on a trial basis for a government building project in March 2010. Nikkei expects that the number of Japanese companies implementing BIM will continue to grow. 

Market Demand 
The Yano Research Institute estimates that total sales for CAD/CAM/CAE (Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing/Computer-Aided Engineering) systems in Japan will total $3.58 billion in 2010, a 5.9% increase over 2009; estimated sales for civil engineering and construction CAD in 2010 will total $350 million, a 3.8% increase over 2009 (Table 1). Within this $350 million total, construction CAD sales are estimated to total $81 million (Table 2). Construction projects by both the Japanese public and private sectors have been decreasing in terms of investment levels and the number of people employed. The construction industry is lagging behind in adopting IT solutions when compared to other industries, but BIM may become increasingly attractive as it enables industry to control costs and reduce delivery times. 

The BIM concept was introduced to Japan just a few years ago with the year 2009 marking the first year of significant BIM usage in Japan. Large construction firms have begun using BIM in recent years as an effective tool to impress their customers through the use of BIM’s ability to create three-dimensional presentations. There is great interest among Japanese companies to learn more about BIM to take full advantage of its ability to save costs, shorten work schedules, and help address environmental issues. 

Nikkei BP Consulting surveyed working-level employees of Japanese design offices, construction companies and other related companies in 2010 regarding their level of BIM awareness and adoption rates. According to the survey, the recognition rate for BIM increased from 30.2% percent in 2007 to 76.4% in 2010 (Table 3). Among the 76.4% of respondents who were aware of BIM in 2010, 49.5% responded that they actually know what BIM means while 26.9% responded that they know it only by name (Table 4). The main reason why users adopted BIM in 2008 was to make impressive presentations while in 2010 it was adopted more often to improve workflow and efficiency in the workplace. While awareness of BIM is increasing among Japanese construction companies, only 7% of building owners requested that their construction companies use BIM technology in 2010. In Japan, ordering entities or building owners usually rely on general construction companies to provide a complete construction plan, including cost calculations and materials procurement plans, etc. Industry sources mention that ordering parties can also take advantage of utilizing BIM more often in their building construction plans.

As the Japanese government is encouraging industry to reduce emissions, Japanese firms have become more environmentally conscious and are therefore looking for “green” technology solutions. As such, technologies such as BIM that can be used to analyze environmental impacts and cost efficiency are being sought. It is notable that the Japanese Ministry of Land Infrastructure, and Transportation (MLIT) on March 31, 2010, indicated it would adopt BIM on a trial basis for a government building project. Local industry welcomed this announcement and expects BIM to grow in popularity in the future. One of MLIT’s hopes is that BIM data can be used for facilities management of government buildings.

Best Prospects 
Constructing environmentally friendly “green” buildings has attracted considerable attention in Japan as environmental awareness increases among both the business community and general public. In addition to BIM, green building certification has become increasingly recognized in Japan during recent years. The local rating scheme known as Comprehensive Assessment System for Built Environment Efficiency or CASBEE is well known as a tool for rating the environmental performance of buildings in Japan. Japanese industry is aware that U.S. green building technology is advanced and the U.S. certification system known as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design or LEED is also well known in Japan; however, the number of LEED-certified buildings in Japan is still small. BIM can be a possible solution to support the implementation of green certification schemes such as Casbee and LEED as Japanese society in general becomes more conscious of such building certifications. How broadly BIM becomes adopted by the Japanese construction industry will be a key to success for US companies, whose BIM technology is highly evaluated in Japan. MLIT announced on March 31, 2010, that it would implement BIM on a trial basis for selected construction projects. MLIT plans to examine the merits of implementing BIM in areas such as design visualization and information integration. Related to the promotion of BIM technology, the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI) Japan organized an event called “Build Live Kobe” in September 2011 to raise local awareness of BIM and promote BIM solutions. At this event, Japanese construction companies and design offices competed virtually to complete a construction design within 48 hours using BIM. A similar event was also held as “Build Live Tokyo” twice in the past. This year 16 teams of construction companies, design firms and universities participated in the event and awards were presented at the ArchiFuture 2011 event held in Tokyo during October 2011. As they become more environmentally conscious, Japanese companies are also seeking ways to contribute to a more environmentally friendly society. In addition to its role in helping to develop a more environmentally friendly society, BIM is considered to be a critical tool to conduct environmental planning and analyze energy utilization and building sustainability. Also, as smart cities and smart communities are the focus of increasing discussion within various industries and government entities, BIM could provide useful solutions in this area as well. 

Another good prospect in Japan related to BIM is three-dimensional scanning technology. As compatibility with three-dimensional CAD software has grown, interest in three-dimensional measurement technology has also recently been increasing. Demand for three-dimensional CAD will increase as the three-dimensional scanning technology is deployed. Scanned data is integrated into three-dimensional CAD applications which are used for facilities management, mapping, and civil engineering. Promising applications for three-dimensional scanning technology would include facilities management, mobile mapping systems, civil engineering, industrial plant imaging, and security.

Read the full market research report

Posted: 31 October 2011

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