Why the ISO 19650 Standard Matters for the Middle East AECO Industry

4 minute read

The Museum of the Future in Dubai. The new high-tech city of NEOM in Saudi Arabia. The Burj Khalifa—the world’s tallest skyscraper.

These recent iconic structures in the Middle East are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in a global shift to digital innovation. The region is quickly becoming renowned in the Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Operations (AECO) industry.

They are driving home the point that BIM is both the cornerstone of digital transformation and a catalyst for real change.


A collaborative way of working underpinned by digital technologies, Building Information Modeling (BIM) facilitates design, construction, and operation processes and helps improve decision-making. It is a foundation for a more collaborative and digital-enabled industry. But with new technology comes new ways of working. Processes and procedures help govern how we use this new tool to ensure we get the most from the tech.

This is where ISO 19650—the gold standard in construction information management—comes into play.

What is the ISO 19650 Standard?

The ISO 19650 standard is “an international standard for managing information over the whole life cycle of a built asset using building information modeling (BIM).”

The framework was developed to outline the recommended collaborative processes for effectively managing information for all types of assets in the Built Environment—building, infrastructure, and the systems and components throughout the asset lifecycle.

A fundamental part of this framework is the required use of a Common Data Environment (CDE)—an information management platform that facilitates collaborative information exchange across all project stakeholders across the asset lifecycle. Think of it like a giant digital filing cabinet in the cloud that contains all the information related to the project—from documents and contracts to reports and model information—and can be accessed by all project teams.

Ultimately, the suite of standards set out the best practices for information management within the AECO industry.


Moving to Mandates in the Middle East

What about BIM mandates and modeling skills in the region? Yes, digital technology is on the rise throughout the Middle East—coinciding with its construction boom.

Even so, BIM uptake, mandates, and skills tend to vary across the region.

In 2018, a survey found that architects in the Middle East used BIM on 30% or fewer projects, with the number set to increase.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), BIM was mandated by the Dubai Municipality in 2013 and was updated in 2015, stating BIM should be used on “architectural and mechanical works”:

- Buildings above 20 floors

- Buildings and facilities, and compounds with areas larger than 200,000 square feet

- Buildings and special facilities such as hospitals and universities

- All government projects

- All buildings and projects that are requested from a foreign office

In Abu Dhabi, BIM was mandated by the city authority for all major construction projects from 2019.

There is no such mandate in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). However, this may soon change.

Given the vast construction development required for KSA Vision 2030, many stakeholders, industry leaders, and industry experts call for BIM to be government-mandated—noting its ability to mitigate some of the challenges the industry currently faces.

With the technology’s tremendous benefits, it's not surprising there is a shift toward BIM.

For starters, the Middle East is undergoing such a huge construction boom. BIM holds the promise to eradicate the problems of cost overruns, delays, and underperformance.

One of the main advantages and components of BIM is collaboration. Its emphasis on large-scale projects reflects the BIM technology's ability to streamline complex processes and increase collaboration between various stakeholders.


Look to the Global Leader—the United Kingdom

The UK has been at the forefront of the creation of international standards for decades.

The ISO 19650 framework evolved from a UK standard to an international standard in 2019. The framework was guided by lessons and good practices from implementing the British BS 1192 and PAS 1192 standards within the UK and international construction industries.

Due to this, many organizations and projects throughout the Middle East look to the UK for guidance regarding industry best practices.

For example, The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC)—the developer behind one of the most ambitious regenerative tourism projects globally—achieved the prestigious BIM Project Kitemark from the British Standards Institution (BSI). They were recognized for their digital project delivery and adoption of building information modeling (BIM) aligned to ISO 19650.

The Middle East is not alone in this.

Further afield in Australasia, according to NBS Australia, the Australian and New Zealand Governments look to the UK and their detailed justification for government BIM implementation.

The UK standards are a way for regions to develop skills in line with best-practice methodologies while also consolidating their approach toward BIM and digital engineering. For the Middle East, this could lead to a domino effect across the region.

As the Middle East grows in BIM maturity, ISO 19650 may move from an individual-based or municipality-based mandate to a wider regional decree. This would help create the consistent approach the region is seeking. And those who start implementing these processes now will be at the forefront.


Asite at the Forefront of ISO 19650 Standards

Asite has been at the forefront of advancements within the construction industry worldwide for many years.

As members of the BSI Associate Consulting Programme, the Asite Digital Engineering team is part of a select group assured to consult on the BS EN ISO 19650 series of standards.

One of the Asite Digital Engineering team’s primary focuses is their ISO 19650 consultancy to their clients. They offer implementation and compliance advice, and “health checks” to ensure that projects continually adhere to best practices.

The team is also committed to facilitating the growing adoption of BIM within the construction industry. Helping to transform how we design, build, operate, and integrate our built environment and infrastructure.

ISO 19650 is transforming the global construction industry by providing a framework that facilitates regional and cross-border collaboration through an internationally recognized way of managing asset information throughout the asset lifecycle.

With high-level BIM usage throughout the region not too far away, now is the time to get ahead of the game. It may be time for those in Asia-Pacific to get on board.

To learn more about how Asite can help you start your BIM journey or guide you through your current process to ensure best practice, you can contact our Digital Engineering team here.


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