Digital Design-Built Policies

UK - Policy Factsheet - Digital Design-Built.jpg
UK - Policy Factsheet - Digital Design-Built.jpg


  • A lack of digital readiness constrains the ability of an infrastructure project to achieve whole-of-life efficiency gains from digital capabilities.
  • The ability for projects to realise the benefits of digital Planning, Design, Build and Operations technology is hampered by a number of infrastructure delivery issues including lack of data standardisation, incompatible systems, a lack of clarity regarding roles and responsibilities related to digital capabilities, and a lack of capability.

Policy key features

  • Digital Design-Built Policies are coherent plans for digital infrastructure delivery which align with recognised industry standards and frameworks. They seek to digitise the asset lifecycle by requiring the use of specific digital technologies in the design and construction process.
  • These policies set out the data standards and formats to be used, and the asset data requirements to be provided by the contractor to the operator during handover and commissioning of the asset.
  • Some jurisdictions have implemented policies that mandate the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) across the entire asset lifecycle for all government-funded infrastructure projects, typically containing the following key features:
    • A requirement that all project and asset information, documentation and data is electronic, and projects use data-rich managed 3D BIM environments.
    • Open data standards must be used to facilitate the sharing of data across the industry.
    • A contractual framework for projects that have been procured with BIM to ensure consistency and encourage open and collaborative working.


  • Digital Planning, Design, Build and Operations technology offer entities involved in infrastructure delivery the opportunity to achieve greater efficiency (e.g. standardisation of design), speed (e.g. produce design documentation quicker) and optimise infrastructure performance (e.g. using 4D Building Information Models to optimise energy usage etc).
  • The benefits of mandating the use of BIM include:
    • At the planning stage it allows designers and owners to collaborate and test designs rapidly using open and universally accepted data standards.
    • In the construction phase it allows the supply chain to effectively share precise information about components, reducing the risk of errors and wastage.
    • In operation, it provides users and owners with real-time information about services and maintenance by providing information on the condition of assets.
  • Wider benefits of adopting the use of BIM include:
    • Improved collaboration, design consistency and speed during the delivery of a project
    • More timely and accurate project and program controls data and reporting
    • Ability to operate and maintain the asset more efficiently and at a lower ongoing cost
    • Advance the digital skills of the construction industry.

Case study - UK Digital Built Britain (United Kingdom)



  • In 2010 The UK construction industry in 2010 indirectly employed over three million people and delivered GBP 107 billion (USD 175 billion) in output to the UK economy, and economy and is expected to play a large role in the UK meeting the its climate change targets.
  • Following the 2008 financial crisis, the UK had limited resources to spend on new infrastructure projects, leading to a need to deliver and operate assets in a more cost-effective manner.
  • UK had a competitive advantage in engineering and architecture activities and wanted to leverage their expertise to ensure assets could be built and operated more efficiently, effectively and sustainably.


  • The UK Government, through the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK developed Digital Built Britain, which is a program that seeks to improve the use of digital technology in the planning, construction, and operation of infrastructure by ‘digitising the entire lifecycle of the UK’s built assets’.
  • To achieve this digitisation objective, Digital Built Britain defined four levels of BIM:
    • Level zero – Projects only use 2D CAD drafting with data exchanged typically by paper or print
    • Level one – Projects use a mix of 2D and 3D CAD drafting using a common data environment for collaboration managed usually by the main contractor and shared among project team members
    • Level two – Projects use intelligent data-rich objects in a managed 3D BIM environment. All parties working on a project can combine their data to collaborate and share information through a common data environment
    • Level three – Projects are fully collaborative using a single shared project view for data integration which all parties can access and modify as permitted by security controls.
  • Digital Built Britain requires the use of BIM in all government-funded construction projects since 2016.
  • Digital Built Britain aims to:
    • Maximise the lifespan of infrastructure and building facilities and networks to make them safely available to provide services for longer
    • Gain insights into how assets can be improved by measuring the in-service performance user behaviours
    • Provide new business models with better information on projects from initial design through to completion and then management
    • Develop strategies that allow the construction supply chain to be better integrated
    • Support engineering and construction services to be delivered more efficiently
    • Identify any required new skills and systems for future construction projects early.


  • 2011 – UK Government Construction Strategy mandated use of Level 2 BIM on all Public Sector projects by 2016
  • 2014 – UK Government Digital Built Britain Strategic Plan outlines strategy to increase the maturity of Level 2 BIM in a manner that supports the future development of Level 3 BIM for adoption in the mid-2020s
  • 2017 – formation of the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB)
  • 2017 – UK National Infrastructure Commission publishes Data for the Public Good, laying out the need for a National Digital Twin
  • 2018 – UK’s National Digital Twin program founded at CDBB
  • 2018 – Gemini Principles[1] published by CDBB, setting out the guiding principles of a national digital twin and the information management framework that enables it. These Principles have since been adopted by many public and private organisations for their information management processes.
  • 2018 – Industrial Strategy Construction Sector Deal[2] published, including information management
  • 2019 – Ongoing ISO 19650 published
  • 2020 – DT Hub[3] launched
  • 2020 – National Digital Twin program (NDTp) included in UK Government’s National Infrastructure and National Data Strategies.


Results / impact

  • Delivery of the BIM program has enabled the UK to secure 20% savings on capex in 2013 against 2009 / 2010 benchmarks[4] and was identified as a significant contributor to savings of GBP804 million (USD1.1 billion) in construction costs in 2013 / 2014[5].
  • Adoption of a Digital Design-Built policy has seen the UK become a world leader in adoption of digital technologies in the built environment, improved industry digital skills, and reduced the cost of delivering and operating infrastructure.
  • Use of BIM in the development of HS2 and Crossrail, as mandated by Digital Built Britain contributed to several efficiency benefits. Specific examples of efficiency benefits realised by these projects include[6]:
    • Faster spatial interface coordination with fewer clashes
    • Faster collaborative approvals
    • Reduced information loss and improved design version control
    • Improved model transfer between designers and contractors
    • The ability to link documentation and 3D models with GIS mapping
    • The ability to link 3D models directly to an asset inventory database.
  • In response to the success of Digital Built Britain, the UK Government established the CDBB in partnership with Cambridge University, which has continued and expanded the program’s original scope. Specifically, the CDBB aims to further the adoption of digital transformation in the built environment through a socio-technical change program, working with industry, policymakers and academia.
  • A further study into the benefit of BIM conducted for the CDBB demonstrated savings of up to 3 % of the whole-of-life cost of a project can be achieved through using BIM[7].
  • The CDBB has created the NDTp, which is envisaged to be an ecosystem of connected digital twins, and the associated Digital Twin (DT) Hub which fosters collaboration between digital twin owners and information management experts. The DT Hub currently has over 2100 members from 1000 organisations and has compiled case studies and resources that support the adoption of better information management.
  • With the publication of the ISO 19650 set of international standards, the industry no longer talks about the DBB defined BIM levels, but rather the life cycle stages of an asset - Design, Build, Operate, Integrate. The UK BIM Framework has been developed to help guide this transition[8].


Last Updated: 16 October 2021