BIMwood BIM-based planning processes in timber construction

The Digital Switzerland Action Plan 2018 requires the mandatory introduction of building information modelling (BIM) from 2021 for buildings of the Swiss Confederation and companies affiliated with it. As a methodical shift towards a new understanding of planning, BIM challenges existing procedures but can also provide solutions to urgent construction issues.


  • Lead school School of Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering
  • Institute Institute for Digital Economy in the Construction and Wood Industries
  • Research unit Digital Manufacturing
  • Funding organisation Innosuisse
  • Duration (planned) 01.03.2020 - 01.02.2022
  • Project management Thomas Rohner
  • Head of project Thomas Rohner
  • Partner schaerholzbau ag
    GKS Architekten Generalplaner AG
    Pirmin Jung Schweiz AG
    Design to Production GmbH
    Wirkungsgrad Ingenieure AG
    Hochschule Luzern – Technik &Architektur Kompetenzzentrum Typologie & Planung in Architektur (CCTP)
    Berner Fachhochschule – Architektur, Holz und Bau Institut für digitale Bau- und Holzwirtschaft (IdBH)


Prefabricated timber construction has tremendous potential – not least by making a contribution to the Federal Council’s ambitious 2050 climate goals. The timber construction industry is ready for the migration to BIM. However, the implementation itself is always a challenge for all those involved: the workflow is interrupted by interfaces, disruptions in the process chain and redundant planning processes. In particular, there is a lack of strategic coherence in the early planning stages with regard to the prefabrication methods of large-sized elements used in timber construction. The key issues are:

  • How can production and assembly be adequately taken into account in the early design stages of timber construction?
  • What decisions must be taken and at what stage to ensure the effective management of prefabricated timber construction projects in relation to costs and sustainability?

Course of action

The BIMwood project addresses these issues and is developing new planning approaches for prefabricated timber construction as part of an interdisciplinary team in collaboration with industry partners. A planning principle that was successfully applied in product design in the 1980s to take account of production and joining factors in the early planning stages is still not widely used or known about in timber construction: Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA).

DFMA is an ideal methodological approach to enable vital knowledge from later phases to be incorporated into earlier phases. Existing ‘push planning’ is replaced by ‘pull planning’ from a prefabrication perspective.

The BIMwood project team derives a restructuring of the process structure from the DFMA planning principles and describes a use case for low-cost timber housing, which it validates in a proof-of-concept, confirming the qualitative and quantitative process performance.


The BIMwood project team brings together the key players for the implementation of sustainable, cost-effective housing. In the intensive research and development process, the validity of existing routines were questioned and new ones were negotiated, tested and deliberated on. The BIMwood project team found that the success of digitally based integrative planning depends on a collaborative structuring of the planning process where everyone shares responsibility. With goal-oriented ‘pull planning’, formal phases were replaced by a user-oriented process structure that follows relevant milestones. The pace was set by the rationales of prefabricated timber construction.

It is currently not possible to fully implement the solutions outlined by the project team. The required technical solutions and agreements, among other things, are lacking.  Many other challenges in BIM-based planning in timber construction are still waiting for solutions.  

Besides Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH) and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU), several business partners were involved in the project: schaerholzbau ag, Pirmin Jung Schweiz AG, GKS Architekten Generalplaner AG, Design to Production GmbH and Wirkungsgrad Ingenieure AG. It was funded by Innosuisse.

Symbolbild BIM Wood

Research partners

  • Hochschule Luzern – Technik &Architektur
  • Kompetenzzentrum Typologie & Planung in Architektur (CCTP), Projektleitung
  • Berner Fachhochschule – Architektur, Holz und Bau
  • Institut für digitale Bau- und Holzwirtschaft (IdBH)

The BIMwood project is co-funded by Innosuisse.