KM in the building & construction industriesSystems & complexity

Moving from information management to knowledge management in the construction industry

This article is part of an ongoing series looking at knowledge management (KM) in the building and construction industries.

Poor knowledge management is a contributor to low productivity in the construction industry, but as we’ve previously discussed, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is changing this. BIM is now being widely used to effectively manage construction project information. However, while there has been some exploration of the use of BIM for broader knowledge management purposes, for example through SocioBIM, BIM-based knowledge management has so far been rarely studied.

A new conference paper1 aims to help address this situation by conducting a comprehensive literature review to explore a shift from BIM-based information management to BIM-based knowledge management. Studies on BIM-based information management are first reviewed, followed by a review of BIM-based knowledge management literature.

Different to other computer-aided design tools, BIM is an information-integrated tool. In addition to 3D vizualizations, BIM can be used to estimate schedule (4D) and cost (5D), and can also be used by facility managers to evaluate energy consumption and develop better maintenance strategies. Researchers have recognised that BIM should be used in a collaborative way throughout the lifecycle of a project, comprising the planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance, and disposal phases.

For the BIM-based information management literature review, 86 papers were reviewed across 5 categories: 4D, 5D, energy analysis, collaborative information management, and information management in facility management. For the BIM-based knowledge management literature review, 23 journal papers and 30 conference papers were reviewed. Paper publication dates show that from 2011 there has been a dramatic increase in research interest in BIM-based information management and BIM-based knowledge management.

The findings of both reviews are presented below, followed by recommendations for future research and action.

Review findings for BIM-based information management

  • 4D enables proactive identification of structural problems and conflicts among different disciplines and sequencing conflicts of construction activities. It is also used for the visualisation of construction scheduling and site planning.
  • 5D integrates the 3D model with cost information such as quantities, schedules and prices. It has been linked with with cost estimate software containing lifecycle data, enabling quicker and more accurate lifecycle cost analysis.
  • BIM has been widely applied in the area of energy analysis, with most existing studies focusing on how to make sure that information is exchanged effectively between BIM and energy analysis tools.
  • BIM has been widely accepted and used in the design phase, but has the potential to be used at all stages of the project lifecycle.
  • A number of studies have explored how to capture and store the information generated from the design, construction, and operational phases to achieve better facility management.
  • BIM is a central platform that integrates multi-disciplinary teams working on the same project, so there has been a research focus on collaborative work through the use of BIM.
  • Considering facility management early in the design stage contributes to the significant improvement of operation and maintenance during the facility management phase.
  • Interoperability barriers prevent the use of facility management information in the early stages of design decision-making, hindering collaboration, so a few studies have started to explore how to use open and neutral data formats.

Review findings for BIM-based knowledge management

  • BIM-based knowledge management is much more complex than BIM-based information management.
  • Only a small number of recent studies have recognised the potential for BIM tools to be used to improve knowledge management practice.
  • Knowledge management techniques that have been utilised with BIM technologies include ontology, case-based reasoning (CBR), fault tree, knowledge map, and criteria measurement and reporting.
  • Knowledge management applications (RECALL and TalkingPaper) have been integrated with BIM in the design phase, bridging digital document, paper document and speech to facilitate knowledge capture.
  • A system has been designed that can capture the knowledge generated during the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) design coordination meeting.
  • Ontological techniques have been applied in the BIM environment to aid the design coordination process.
  • BIM can potentially be used to enable collaborative knowledge management in the design and construction phase, which in turn will facilitate sustainability and asset management.
  • A BIM-based framework has been proposed to represent the knowledge contained in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), to ease the sustainability assessment for a building design.
  • BIM, augmented reality (AR), and ontology techniques have been combined to help collection and retrieval of defect information and knowledge, with an AR-based inspection system to enable proactive field defect management.
  • A 3D CAD-based knowledge management system has been established to integrate the 3D CAD object with relevant knowledge.
  • A framework has been proposed which links BIM with ontologies of facility management to aid in knowledge management during the facility management phase, with as-built information stored in the BIM model valuable for facility management.
  • A knowledge-based BIM system has been established for the maintenance phase, which helps solve current problems based on previous cases.
  • The visualisation function of BIM has been applied with various types of building knowledge to explore the possible root causes of failures in facility management.
  • Very few studies have so far focused on managing knowledge throughout the project lifecycle by using BIM, but there is potential to integrate BIM with knowledge management to facilitate sustainability and asset
  • management throughout the project lifecycle, and for combining BIM and the supply chain to realise knowledge management throughout the project lifecycle.
  • As BIM can provide a single platform for multi-disciplinary participants to work in a collaborative environment, the design coordination process can be improved by integrating BIM with ontological checking techniques.
  • A BIM-based prototype system has been developed in which a tag function was introduced to live-capture and represent coordination information and knowledge during the BIM-based design coordination process.


In consideration of the findings of the literature review, the authors of the conference paper make the following recommendations:

  • Future research in this area should lay more emphasis on collaborative knowledge management throughout the project lifecycle under a BIM environment, making full use of the central platform provided by BIM. Some knowledge management techniques and tools could be integrated with BIM to facilitate collaborative knowledge management, for example, web-based technologies. Some knowledge strategies could be added to the BIM-based knowledge management system to enhance collaborative knowledge management, such as communities of practice.
  • Future research should focus on how to integrate the knowledge from each phase of the construction project through the use of BIM. Various knowledge management tools would be used by the different project teams, so to assist knowledge transfer, future research could focus on how to connect the knowledge management tools of each project team with BIM, as shown in Figure 1 below.
  • Future research into BIM-based information management should pay more attention to interoperability issues, including solving the interoperability among different BIM tools and the interoperability between BIM tools and other information management systems such as the documentation system and expert system.
  • As an information-intensive 3D objects model, BIM can be used as a visual representation to facilitate knowledge management practices. Visual representations can be used to manipulate epistemic objects that enable different epistemic communities to work in a shared way, so the problem can be solved based on a shared understanding of problems.
  • The level of client understanding of the design can be improved in conversations with the support of artifacts such as drawings and models, and sometimes, the knowledge is embedded in the artifacts themselves.
Proposed BIM-based knowledge management framework
Figure 1. Proposed BIM-based knowledge management framework (Wang and Meng, 2016).

Header image source: Home Builder by Scott Lewis is licenced by CC BY 2.0.


  1. Wang, H and Meng, X (2016) Improving Information/Knowledge Management Through the Use of BIM: A Literature Review. In: P W Chan and C J Neilson (Eds.) Proceedings of the 32nd Annual ARCOM Conference, 5-7 September 2016, Manchester, UK, Association of Researchers in Construction Management, Vol 1, 45-54.
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Also published on Medium.

Bruce Boyes

Bruce Boyes ( is a knowledge management (KM), environmental management, and education professional with over 30 years of experience in Australia and China. His work has received high-level acclaim and been recognised through a number of significant awards. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group at Wageningen University and Research, and holds a Master of Environmental Management with Distinction. He is also the editor, lead writer, and a director of the award-winning RealKM Magazine (, and teaches in the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) Certified High-school Program (CHP).

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