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State of the art of the digitalisation of the building sector


State of the art of the digitalisation of the building sector

Digital technologies, tools, and European initiatives are aiming to implement the digital transition across the building sector. These can be used at all stages of the value chain, from design and construction to operation and maintenance, and can tackle issues in society and many environmental aspects. Digitalisation in the building and construction sector represents an opportunity to innovate and decarbonise the whole value chain.
Editorial Team

Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of EU energy consumption and 36% of the energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings are therefore the single largest energy consumer in Europe. Heating, cooling and domestic hot water account for 80% of the energy that we, citizens, consume.

At present, about 35% of the EU's buildings are over 50 years old and almost 75% of the building stock is energy inefficient. At the same time, only about 1% of the building stock is renovated each year. Digitalisation in the construction sector can bring significant opportunities for the whole value chain, not only by improving existing practices, but also by integrating disruptive technologies and tools that can lead to new processes, business models, materials, and solutions. 

Standardisation and interoperability are crucial for the digitalisation of the building sector. Various standardisation organisations are working on this topic, such as ISO, and at the European level by CEN. There are also informal standardisation initiatives, such as the ‘building SMART International’ (bSI) initiative and their Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) as a neutral and open specification for the BIM data model, or the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) for GIS standards.  

Standardised and interoperable data for digitalisation

The construction sector, like many others, is governed by numerous standards, regulations, guidelines, and requirements, which are critical to ensure safety, quality, process efficiency, and data capture. However, they can also represent a significant barrier to collaboration and interoperability of new technologies. Given the heterogeneous nature of the players involved in the construction value chain, it is crucial for the effective and successful deployment of digital technologies that the data is standardised and thus interoperable.  

By providing a specific format for a precise data type that can be understood and used by all actors in the value chain, standardised templates and formats would provide a consistent approach for product manufacturers. These templates would enable automation and dependability of digital construction data processes like BIM. This would be an enabler for the wider adoption of digital tools. Data standardisation will also support the delivery of sustainable construction projects by providing information in a homogeneous way, allowing both developers and clients to compare sustainability data more easily (such as energy efficiency and waste generation) from different buildings. 

Smart Buildings offer the most effective way for cost efficiency and utilisation of the building's technology systems. Smart Buildings are expected to contribute to the following:  

  • Occupant comfort: smart buildings learn occupant behaviour and make efforts to improve user comfort.  
  • Energy saving: smart buildings can significantly reduce energy consumption and associated costs. 
  • Time saving by automation of daily routines.  
  • Safety: detection of fire, gas leakage, use of self-diagnosis systems, and alerts improve the level of safety. 
  • Expert systems: embedded in smart buildings, expert knowledge can be stored.  
  • Health: health decisions are of the highest priority in buildings where services such as appropriate temperature, air conditioning and light intensity are provided.  
  • Care: smart buildings can improve the quality of life for older people and the disabled by providing comfortable, safe, and supportive care. 

European policy framework and initiatives  

Digital technologies will promote innovation, efficiency, and sustainability of the construction industry in the near future. In fact, digitalisation of products and services could add more than EUR 110 billion of annual revenue to the European economy over the next five years according to recent studies. The European Commission has lately developed a policy framework to make this prospect a reality, geared towards the digital transformation of the EU economy, including in the construction sector.​ [1]​ 

The Renovation Wave (2020)  is a strategy aiming to encourage building renovation to address climate change, and support the recovery and the green and digital transition. It complements the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive D2010/31/EU and its Amendment D2018/844 and the EU Clean Energy for all Europeans package. Its relevancy relies on the introduction of four important measures:  

  1. It introduces Digital Building Logbooks, to integrate all building-related data (Smart Readiness Indicators, EPCs, etc.), thus assuring that the data collected is compatible to be used throughout the renovation process. 
  2. It supports the investment and uptake of digital technologies with the help of DIHs (Digital Innovation Hubs), TEFs (Testing and Experimentation Facilities) and Horizon Europe.
  3. It supports BIM by promoting it in public procurement by defining a methodology for public authorities to conduct cost-benefit analysis of BIM. 
  4. It is expected to facilitate the development of a unified EU Framework for digital building permits and establish a trusted scheme for certifying energy efficiency meters in buildings that can measure actual energy performance improvements. 

Other cross-cutting initiatives implemented are the EU Circular Economy Action Plan (2020) and Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC), Construction Blueprint, European Skills Agenda, European Pact for Skills, the BUILD UP Skills initiative, the EU Building Stock Observatory, the DUT Partnership or the EU BIM Task Group.

Energy Performance of Buildings Directive: Smart Readiness Indicator (SRI)

The SRI assesses the smart readiness of buildings (or building units) in terms of their ability to perform three key functions: optimisation of energy efficiency and overall performance in use, adaptation of their operation to the needs of the occupants, and adaptation to signals from the grid (for example, energy flexibility). 

Smart readiness technologies in a home

 Figure 2. Smart readiness technologies in a home.

For a given building, all smart-ready services (such as heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, EV charging, etc.) are assessed against the following desired impacts of smart buildings: energy efficiency, maintenance and fault prediction, comfort, convenience, health, well-being and accessibility, information to occupants, and energy flexibility and storage. 

In the building sector, the Smart Readiness Indicator (SRI) proposed in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is expected to trigger investments in digitalisation. In a scenario where the SRI is mandatory, linked to the energy performance indicator, a high uptake rate of smart ready technologies and services is expected with total cumulated investment of EUR 58 billion by 2030 and EUR 181 billion by 2050, considering 80% of the buildings having increased by at least one level of smartness by then.​ [2]​ 

Funded projects Horizon Europe – 2021/2022



Demonstration 8 renovation innovative packages to TRL7

Renovation actions, including deep renovations

Inclusive people-centric social engagement strategy with a resident and owner perspective

Overcome main barriers that slow down current EU renovation ratios

Economic, technical, social, regulatory and data security/protection aspects and barriers and propose practical recommendations

Multi-functionality through active/passive elements integration, prefabrication and off-site construction of components

Respect of buildings aesthetics, architectural and historic value


Holistic building performance assessment framework and toolbox for different building variations

Energy service companies

Building performance will be continuously monitored and analysed over its complete life cycle

Support sustainable design, construction and efficient renovation and investment decision-making

Building owners and tenants

Sensor measurements that are adapted to various types of uses and building life cycle phases for new or existing buildings being refurbished


Remove barriers for municipalities through scalable solutions for regulations, open standards, and interoperability


Digital building permits

Innovative tool kit supporting the digitalisation of building permit issuing and automated compliance checks

Regulations, open standards


3D city and building models


Analyse real-time building data from various building systems

Building's performance

AI, machine learning, blockchain/distributed ledger technologies, IoT

synthetic data generation techniques


Novel digital building frameworks, transforming current data storage options into novel digital and more efficient ones

Construction industry

Big Data

Improved ease of use and access to data and reduce emissions and costs.


Reflect the whole lifecycle with a capacity for unlimited data access, input and output, and data export

Energy efficient and sustainable buildings market

Digital Building Logbooks

Optimise use of resources and waste, performance prediction, visual analytics, and energy management.

Target groups: homeowners, municipalities, building professionals and architects.

Key societal challenges: renovation and advice, community-driven decarbonisation pathway, complex industrial transaction objectives

BIM, IoT, digital twins and blockchain


Optimising energy performance assessment and certification schemes

Building complexes for energy certification at neighbourhood level

Certificate supplied by digitised tools and assessment information for the building shell and building systems

Building energy performance information can be integrated into digital databases

In line with digital logbooks and building renovation passports


Deliver innovative services for the building and urban stakeholders and support informed decision making towards energy-efficient buildings and climate resilient cities

Identification of environmental hotspots in local city ecosystems and raise probability for natural disasters

Terrestrial data from buildings (IoT platforms, BIM solutions), aerial imaging from drones with thermal cameras, location annotated data from satellite services (i.e. EGNSS and Copernicus)

Alerts and recommendations for action to local governments and regions (such as the support of policies for building renovation in specific vulnerable areas).

Generation of high fidelity multi-modal digital twins at building scale

Decision support services for energy demand prediction, urban heat and urban flood analysis at city scale


Digital environment for management of permits and compliance in building and construction

Permit authorities

Standardised Permit Ontology: shared language for permits

Provide flexibility, ease-of-use and efficiency to the permit validation and approval system in construction project environments

 Third party developers

Digitising permit process tool based on object management group (OMG) standards

Creation of building permit rules, to establish a base for an automated compliance checker

Real estate

Digital Permit service offered through an openAPI


BUILDing knowledge book in the blockCHAIN distributed ledger. Trustworthy building life-cycle knowledge graph for sustainability and energy efficiency

Public administrations

Digital Building Logbook, BIM, HBIM

Provide a marketplace to share offers, quality certificates and credentials: log and trace every information, activity, and change, and use the knowledge to improve sustainability

Real estate

Accessible and publicly available APIs

Decentralized Knowledge Graph (DKG) - open source blockchain solution to trace all activities related to the overall life-cycle of buildings


Machine learning tools, digital twinning, and decision-making support


Integrated platform for building and renovation sector to provide one-stop-shop to better coordinate and manage Energy Performance Contracting


Digital tools: IoT, BIM, user's opinions, comfort levels, energy savings

Explore the best financing and collaboration schemes to set up energy services


Investment mechanisms (grants, loans…) to increase the number and impact of energy efficiency projects in the city/region

Enhance current Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) for Demand Side Mechanism (DSM) services

Public institutions, energy communities



Digital Building Logbooks: Digitalisation of the building lifecycle

A building permit is the final authorisation, granted by public authorities, that gives permission to start the construction phase of a building project. It is possible to distinguish between three main stages of the technical development of building permit systems: 

  1. The paper-based building permit system, completely not digitalised.
  2. Partially digitalised BPS (PDF type of documents, allowing users to download forms and upload documents, or even providing for interoperable data, which allows for the exploitation of data and generally for a more sophisticated approach).
  3. Complete digitalisation characterised by fully digital processes with machine readable documents allowing for the exploitation of data. This final evolution relates to the compatibility with BIM, allowing to have a fully automated process with 3D models.

A digital building logbook is a common repository for all relevant building data, such as administrative documents and/or data for maintenance and bureaucratic purposes, as well as to assess the buildings’ energy performance. Currently, building-related data, such as data of technical and construction information, building characteristics, energy-efficiency performance information and market transactions data, are limited and often inaccurate. 

The lack of such data and a common repository to store and display them altogether generates additional costs and inefficiencies, stifles innovation, increases risk and undermines the confidence of investors. Digital Building Logbooks aim to increase transparency and trust among owners, tenants, financial institutions, construction sector stakeholders and public administrations and reduce information disparities. The organised and shared data would not only reduce uncertainty, but also time and costs needed to track down missing information.

Building Information Models (BIM)

BIM is a digital form of construction and asset operation. It brings together technology, process improvement, and digital information to radically improve client and project outcomes. It is also a strategic enabler for improving decision making for both buildings and public infrastructure assets across the whole lifecycle. It applies to new build projects, but BIM crucially supports renovation, refurbishment, and maintenance of the built environment, which have the largest share of energy consumption of the sector. 

There are different ‘dimensions’ of BIM, depending on the type of information included, from BIM 3D (contains the three-dimensional data (height, length, and depth) of the structure) through BIM 4D (time data (duration, scheduling, etc.)), BIM 5D (costs), BIM 6D (sustainability data), to BIM 7D (facility management information). [3]

BIM can bring numerous benefits and advantages to the construction sector and to all stakeholders involved in the construction lifecycle, particularly for architects, project promoters and facility managers, as it serves as the central software platform to integrate design, modelling, planning, and collaboration, thereby providing a digital representation of a building's characteristics throughout its lifecycle. Indeed, measurable benefits could be brought to the construction and post-occupancy management of assets (buildings and infrastructure) through the increased use of the BIM methodologies. However, despite its applicability during the entire construction process, BIM is currently mainly used in design and construction phases, with lower adoption rates in the operation and maintenance phases. [1]

Digital twins

A Digital Twin is the real-time digital representation of the physical building or infrastructure. Usually, data is gathered by on-site sensors that continuously monitor changes in the building and in the environment and updates the BIM model with the most recent data and measurements.

The benefits of using Digital Twins in the construction sector are multiple, mainly focused on the construction and maintenance phases, and primarily related to the kind of information fed into the Digital Twin model. With Digital Twins, companies can avoid over-allocation and proactively predict resource needs on construction sites, thus avoiding the need to move resources over long distances and improving time management. In fact, both during the construction and the maintenance phases, Digital Twins can provide automatic resource allocation monitoring and waste tracking, allowing for a predictive and more efficient approach to resource management. Buildings and entire neighbourhoods can be kept regularly monitored to promptly identify the need for interventions. [1] 

Building Management Systems (BMS)

Operation and maintenance stages represent 50–70% of the total annual facility operating costs, and building management requires integrating and analysing different types of data. IoT and smart connection have great potential in optimising FM activities, including inventory and document management, building security, logistics and materials tracking, tracking of building component life cycle, and building energy controls of data and information generated by various stakeholders. [3]

A smart building energy management system (SBEMS) is the application of the internet of things (IoT) that helps to optimise the energy consumption of smart building through the implementation of robustly designed control strategies. There are different types of SBEMS technologies to optimise building energy consumption automatically and continuously, and to maintain indoor comfort to a satisfactory level. [4]


Digital information and analysis are crucial for connecting all innovative technologies in the construction  sector, and processing the available data leading to significant improvements and transformations. In fact, the added value of having real-time information, precise measurements, and historical stock databases will be increasingly important and essential for the sustainability and competitiveness of the building sector. 

Several reports show that the EU construction sector is making progress in its uptake of digital technologies. Whether it is data collection, process automation or digital information and analytics, digital technologies are deeply intertwined and increasingly present in the construction sector. They are used at all stages of the value chain, from design and construction to operation and maintenance. However, their level of adoption also varies according to: 

  • Their size and investment capacity
  • Their market maturity and technological readiness
  • The perceived benefits (and for which actor)
  • The market and policy/regulatory constraints and opportunities

Digital technologies can help the sector build better, and tackle several issues, including labour shortages, labour productivity, waste and greenhouse gas emissions, health, and social challenges. For this to happen, further citizen engagement is needed. 


[1]     Organization, European Construction Sector, «DIgitalisation of the construction sector,» 2021.
[2]     B. Alpagut, X. Zhang, A. Gabaldon y P. Hernandez, «Digitalization in Urban Energy Systems. Outlook 2025, 2030 and 2040,» European Commission - CINEA, 2022.
[3]     A. Mannino, M. C. Dejaco y F. R. Cecconi, «Building Information Modelling and Internet of Things integration for Facility Management,» Applied Sciences, vol. 11, nº 3062, 2021. 
[4]     M. Saidu Aliero, M. Asif, I. Ghani y M. Fermi Pasha, «Systematic Review Analysis on Smart Building: Challenges and Opportunities,» Sustainability, vol. 14, p. 3009, 2022.