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BIM adoption in China: 3 projects implemented with BIM

China is becoming one of the countries with the most widespread levels of adoption of Building Information Modelling: 3 projects implemented in China using the BIM methodology.

In recent years, BIM adoption has taken off across China’s AEC industry. Since 2016 Chinese designers and companies have integrated a high level of BIM adoption in a context of rapid building growth and industry modernization.

In fact, a signal of China’s significant commitment to BIM is given by the percentage of organization that are now involving BIM in most of their projects and represented by 89% of architects and 108% of contractors. A level of growth that clearly demonstrates the added value attributed to this tool.

The Chinese central government has shown particular interest in Building Information Modelling, above all for the efficiency it can return in terms of higher efficiency and cost control. By carefully following the overseas examples, such as United Kingdom, United States and other nations, it has emerged as a major force promoting and adopting BIM in China. The BIM methodology is not yet mandatory, but using it is being strongly encouraged.

China is a vast nation divided into large provinces. The construction industry and standards remain fragmented and distributed on a local basis. Despite that, BIM in China has been received with great enthusiasm.

The general trend towards its adoption is on a larger scale and at a much faster pace than has been experienced by other active markets so far, such as the United Kingdom.

The 3 projects that feature in this article are amongst the first examples of BIM application in China and, for this reason, they can be considered pioneering and influential factors for a wider adoption and diffusion of this innovative technology.



Shanghai Tower, Shanghai

The first projects in our list that has been implemented with BIM technology in China is the 128-storey Shanghai tower. Built on a former golf course site, the structure with its 632-meter height is the tallest building in China (and the second tallest in the world) and represents the jewel in the crown of the financial center in Shanghai.

BIM adoption in China: 3 projects implemented with BIM

Shanghai Tower

To withstand wind forces, the tower was designed with an asymmetrical shape and a profile with rounded corners. After the wind tunnel test, the shape was improved, leading to a 24% reduction in the structural wind load compared to a rectangular building of comparable height.

Its configuration required over 20,000 panels for curtain walls, with around 7,000 different shapes. The façade allows the passage of natural light, while it acts as an “insulating covering” to save energy. The double-layered insulating glass façade was designed to reduce the need for indoor air conditioning. US architectural practice Gensler led the design team and worked in a BIM environment from the beginning.

US architectural practice Gensler led the design team and worked in a BIM environment from the beginning.

BIM adoption in China: 3 projects implemented with BIM

Detail of the Shanghai Tower’s top

The BIM implementation process on the project was supervised by a team of just three people who monitored the impact on the overall project compliance and delivery times. The increased control has helped to reduce construction times to only 73 months (just a bit more than 6 years!) for the 576,000 m² surface, about 30% faster than similar structures.

Integrated work and optimized collaboration have also been cited as key benefits of the BIM process.

San Francisco-based Gensler, head of a team of structural and service designers worldwide, shared their information models in a common data environment  (CDE – Common Data Environment), allowing all stakeholders to communicate within the virtual context of the project.

From a graphical perspective, the twisting of the outer skin of the tower would have been almost impossible to convey with traditional 2D techniques and the team had greatly benefited from the possibility of visualizing and understanding the project and the surrounding environment in three-dimensional form.

Phoenix Media Center, Beijing

The second project in our list is the new Phoenix Television headquarters (65,000 m²) in Beijing.

BIM adoption in China: 3 projects implemented with BIM

Phoenix Media Center, Beijing

This is a unique structure: the non-linear form of the building, developed by the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design (BIAD), required an advanced approach from the project team with detailed 3D modelling.

The building consists of two towers, wrapped in glass and steel plates. The architects were inspired by the twisted form of a “Möbius strip”. The outer skin, made up of an “elongated” steel net and 3,800 glass panels of different sizes, contains driveways and stairways that connect offices and studios.

A great advantage was the possibility of sharing and integrating non-graphical information in a common data environment (CDE), to reduce the problems related to the project, saving time and increasing quality compared to more traditional methods.

The result is a structure that impacts the Beijing skyline with a powerful digital model that allows planning and analysis of the structure management. Building safety, energy consumption and maintenance activities are all based on data from the delivered digital model.

Shanghai Disneyland Resort, Shanghai

The third project is the Disney resort built in the Shanghai park by the Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) team.

BIM adoption in China: 3 projects implemented with BIM

Shanghai Disneyland Resort

The arched canopy that dominates the composition of the space offers shelter to both the sinuous roller coasters and the guests below, sheltering from rain and sunlight. Mechanical systems are used minimally to cool and heat outdoor spaces, maximizing instead the use of natural ventilation.

Over 70% of the buildings have been developed in a BIM environment, with efficiencies achieved by carrying out numerous projects simultaneously. The advantage of collaboration has allowed project teams to access the same resources and support, collaborate and share knowledge within an “ecosystem” of BIM-enabled projects.

An additional advantage of using BIM in a project of this magnitude was to help integrating the WDI with over 140 different disciplines involved in the project, including many local design companies and contractors.