Cultural Change through BIM: Driving Lean Transformation in Education (Mechanical Project)

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This paper presents a case study of how the adoption of BIM-based practices in the AECO industry is being reflected by cultural change in higher education in Ireland.The  silo-entality that has dominated the AECO sector for more than a century has, despite numerous reorganisations, been replicated in the structures of educational institutions, including in  Dublin Institute of Technology since the inception of its founding colleges in the late 1800s.

Most AECO programmes must include content that is external to the programme’s specific discipline. Through the School structures of the Institute, delivery of such content is known  as “service teaching” and is regarded by so me as being of lesser importance than core, discipline-specific content.

When new content needs to be fitted into a programme, such as BIM technologies, or when financial constraints reduce contact hours, ‘serviced’ content is often easier to remove or reduce than discipline -specific content because it typically  affects non-School staff.

Such reductions lead to reduced exposure of students to complimentary skill-sets held by other  professionals in the AECO sector and increased  separation of disciplines. Without deliberate  instigation of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary project work, students are sometimes educated in isolation from the other disciplines with whom they will work during their professional  lives.

In extreme cases, graduates sometimes have their first interactions with other professionals when they attend their first site meetings or design team meetings on real-world projects.

BIM processes require collaboration at all levels in AECO and it is imperative that current and future students are educated within a structure that equips them with the necessary technical, business, and inter-personal skills. The establishment of the School of Multidisciplinary Technologies (SMDT) at the College of Engineering and Built  Environment (CEBE) at DITand the adoption of a college BIM Strategy are essential  steps towards   facilitating this new dimension of collaborative education.

The School currently manages a suite of postgraduate and CPD, modules and programmes related to BIM and, although some staff in the School teach BIM-related content on these programmes, the majority of teaching on SMDT programmes is provided by lecturers  from  the disciplines of Architectural Technology, Building  Services Engineering, civil engineering, Construction Management, Electrical Services Engineering,  Geomatics Engineering, Quantity Surveying, and Structural Engineering.

SMDT is also investing in physical infrastructure, e.g. a Big BIM Room and laptop lab, to support existing activities but also to create the environment in which collaborative working between  disciplines,  structured  initially around BIM practices but moving towards addressing Lean Construction, Sustainability, and N-ZEB agendas, becomes the norm for students as they progress towards graduation and entry into the professions.


The College of Engineering & Built Environment (CEBE) was set up in 2013 as one of four colleges in the Dublin Institute of Technology. Almost all of the divisions in the new College were previously based in either the Faculty of Engineering or the Faculty of the Built Environment. An important concept during the reorganisation of the institute was to reduce the duplication caused by isolated education of students and segregated operation of researchers within specific disciplines,  through the adoption of cross-cutting themes.


The  discipline-specific schools, as currently defined in the College of Engineering. Built Environment, serve the market reasonable well within their specific domains. However, in relation to change on programmes, when new content needs to be fitted into a programme or when contact hours need to be manipulated for educational or administrative reasons, ‘serviced’ content is often easier to remove or reduce than discipline-specific content because it typically affects non-School staff.


As with the RIBA’s Digital Plan of Works for BIM, the initial stage of cultural change  began with the adoption of a strategic direction as set out in the College of Engineering and Built Environment BIM Strategy document. The strategy related   to undergraduate and postgraduate provision, as well as staff and space resourcing.

CEBE BIM Strategy for Undergraduate Programmes.

CEBE BIM Strategy for Undergraduate Programmes.


As is frequently mentioned, the 2 016 mandate in the UK does not specify BIM. Rather it states that: “Government as a client can derive significant improvements in cost, value and carbon performance through the  use  of open sharable asset information”. This principle can equally be applied to the cultural change required in education to facilitate BIM.

The Link Between Cost Effective  Construction & Built Environment Operations, Lean Techniques and Bim

The Link Between Cost Effective Construction & Built Environment Operations, Lean Techniques and BIM.


The work of changing the culture of silo-based education has only begun. As the market changes, so too must the educational environment, particularly vocationally-focussed education such as offered at DIT.

The transformation of the DIT from an Institute of  Technology into a Technological University following  merger with the Institutes of Technology in Tallaght and Blanchardstown offers a  unique opportunity for cultural change that is not often available to an institution of the scale of the DIT.

An agreed founding principle for the structure of the Technological University is that Schools will be based around disciplines. Targets may be set for numbers of students and income generation targets per school.

The future of the School of Multidisciplinary Technologies in that  context is uncertain but an arrangement such as currently in place for the  Graduate Research School, where students are registered jointly between the GRS and the discipline-specific school, may be necessary to enable CEBE, and DIT, to delive the high-quality, collaborative education that is required by our graduates and by industry.

Source: Dublin Institute of Technology
Authors: Malachy Mathews | Kevin Furlong | Ciara Ahern | Una Beagon

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