The Bulgarian construction actors unified around a common goal: digitalisation

The need for digitalisation in the construction sector is being clearly recognised by a growing number of actors in Bulgaria, most importantly – by government bodies and industry associations.

Current digitalisation level

Digitalisation and application of BIM principles are relatively well-established across construction stakeholders working with design. Yet, BIM is still not established as the standard process for collaboration across the industry. Nevertheless, BIM adoption is growing – not least thanks to young professionals fresh out of school who are bringing about a positive change in the application of modern technologies.  Large manufacturers of building materials are also keenly interested in digital data and BIM as a way of securing a market position and staying competitive in the European market. On the other hand, contractors are largely lagging behind when it comes to the application of digital technologies and familiarity with BIM.

Challenges in the digitalisation of the industry

One of the main challenges are the legislative requirements for registration and approval of projects that are still bound to “paper-printing”. Another issue is the low demand for digital services and data, both by public and private investors. In addition, electronic services for the construction sector within the public domain are still lagging behind.  However, good examples that illustrate the shift towards digitising public services are the new public procurement platform and the digitisation of the national cadastre.

Recent digitalisation efforts

In 2019, a “Memorandum for digitalisation of the construction sector in Bulgaria” was signed between the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works and the main construction industry associations.  With this memorandum, the sector presented a common front in its commitment to a   digital reform and demonstrated the need for such to the government bodies.

This led to the establishment of a national working group for the introduction of BIM in the entire life cycle of construction. It serves as an advisory body to the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works and includes different representatives from the sector, such as industry associations, schools, NGOs, and other government institutions. At present, the working group provides input on the strategy development, but the plan is that it will take over additional responsibilities for policy implementation. So far, the working group is the only way for sector representatives to take a stand on the issue.

Stanislav Dermendjiev image

Stanislav dermendjiev, Senior Digital Construction Researcher

Since the beginning of 2020, Bulgaria has an official representative in CEN / TC 442 – the committee in charge of developing BIM standards at the European level. We are proud that this representative is our colleague Stanislav Dermendjiev who works at the Cobuilder office in Bulgaria.

In the autumn of 2020, the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works initiated a project for the development and launch of a digital reform in the Bulgarian construction sector. The project is supported by the Directorate General for Support of Structural Reforms at the European Commission and international consultants. The deadline for the completion of the project is December 2022, and its aim is to deliver a national strategy for achieving BIM Level-2 maturity. This level implies that all participants in the construction project, including the administration, collaborate in a digital environment.

Currently, the strategy is still under development, but it will cover proposals for the necessary changes in legislation, pilot projects, training and IT infrastructure in the state administration, changes in the curricula of universities and vocational schools.

At the beginning of this year, the Bulgarian Construction Chamber, together with the Chamber of Architects and large construction universities formed the Association “Digital Innovation Hub in the construction sector”. The organisation of the hub is not yet clearly defined. However, its objectives are to minimise the adverse factors that might impact SMEs in the digitalisation process by presenting a “one-stop-shop” type of services adapted to the specific needs and challenges of the industry. The sector is unanimous in its recognition of the need for such a centralised source of information and services related to the digitalisation of Bulgarian construction.