IntroductionIn the last few years, architectural practice and education in Australia have been forced to adopt modes of virtual design collaboration between stakeholders that lack physical contact and co-presence. While various building information modeling (BIM) platforms already feature some capacity to support remote collaboration and communication, their objectives are largely limited to construction project management (Alizadehsalehi et al. 2020; Arayici et al. 2012; Prabhakaran et al. 2022) or facility management (Chen et al. 2019; El Ammari and Hammad 2019). Likewise, past research on remote BIM collaboration has largely focused on the use of environments such as virtual reality (VR) (Getuli et al. 2020; Gu and London 2010; Prabhakaran et al. 2022), augmented reality (AR) (Chen et al. 2020; Jiao et al. 2013), and mixed reality (MR) (Alizadehsalehi et al. 2020; El Ammari and Hammad 2019). However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, BIM became a more important approach for this purpose (Wang et al. 2021). In response to the lessons learned at this time, many architectural firms appear to have transitioned to “working from home,” either entirely or partially, regardless of any potential easing of restrictions. This widespread change in professional culture is at least partially predicated on using BIM for remote teamwork and design collaboration. BIM’s capacity to support this change has, however, as assessed by users, not yet been fully established and this is significant from both the perspectives of practitioner architects and academics. BIM-enabled design collaboration requires a significant change in traditional work practices and routines (Merschbrock and Munkvold 2015). Furthermore, although current design collaboration practices might differ from those in conventional face-to-face environments, it is unclear whether architectural practice and education will continue this level of remote working and learning practices partially or wholly. In either case, the underlying knowledge gap, and associated research question addressed in this paper is: “How does BIM really work for design collaboration in distributed environments?”Starting with a practice perspective, since the 1980s, computer-aided design (CAD) has transformed the architectural design process (Gero 1983), and developments in CAD have enabled a range of new digital design strategies (Lee et al. 2020). Today, CAD platforms have been replaced by BIM in the architectural workplace, integrating most of the remaining analogue design, construction, and management processes into digital formats (Daniotti et al. 2020). BIM is typically described as “a modeling technology and associated set of processes to produce, communicate and analyse building models” (Eastman et al. 2011, p. 16). BIM offers a means “for creating and managing information” (Hamil 2021) and also for “generating and leveraging building data” (building SMARTalliance 2015). BIM also provides new opportunities for supporting a “collaborative cultural shift” (Casasayas et al. 2021), allowing sharing of design data in real-time, something that is now a practical necessity in architectural practice and education. Furthermore, ISO 19650 clearly delineates BIM collaborative processes for building information management (ISO 2018). This standard not only justifies the delivery and operational phase of building assets, but also provides a common framework for virtual collaboration, communication, and management (BrisBIM 2020; Leygonie et al. 2022; Singh et al. 2011). The micro or macro levels of ISO 19650 would appear to serve the needs of both professionals and students, to minimize risks and support the collaborative production of information. There have, however, been relatively few studies on this aspect of BIM practice in architecture and even less that consider user attitudes. This knowledge gap is particularly significant in an era of ongoing remote interaction in design practice.A similar gap exists from a research perspective. BIM research largely deals with functional, informational, technical, and organizational issues (Volk et al. 2014). As such, BIM applications for architectural design tend to focus on performance analysis and evaluation (Donato et al. 2018; Utkucu and Sözer 2020). In contrast, BIM collaboration in the construction industry has been a popular research topic, dealing with challenges and opportunities (Khosrowshahi and Arayici 2012; Mignone et al. 2016), complex projects (Kassem et al. 2015; Okakpu et al. 2020), and BIM requirements and corresponding functions (Alreshidi et al. 2018; Patacas et al. 2020). In this context, advancing BIM collaboration in a construction project requires: (1) legal/contractual considerations, (2) training/education on collaboration, (3) enhancing technology, and (4) developing protocols and standards (Mignone et al. 2016). Likewise, key factors enabling BIM collaboration can be BIM contracts, the BIM learning environment, cloud computing infrastructure, change agents, and new roles and responsibilities (Merschbrock and Munkvold 2015). It is, however, BIM’s capacity to provide an integrated collaboration platform that is becoming increasingly significant in collaborative design thinking (Lee et al. 2020). Such a platform is required to support “dynamic and complex design practices” (Verstegen et al. 2019), even though its effectiveness, from both communicative and collaborative perspectives, is still largely unknown.To respond to this dual knowledge gap, affecting practitioners and acknowledged by researchers, this paper analyzes the results of 25 semistructured interviews with architectural professionals and students who have experienced BIM-enabled design collaboration processes. This methodology was specifically chosen as it can develop rich, detailed results around technology use and human experience. Most past BIM research has used case studies in various countries (Barlish and Sullivan 2012; Kassem et al. 2015; Lin 2014; Merschbrock and Munkvold 2015; Mignone et al. 2016; Poirier et al. 2017) and questionnaires in the the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry (Al-Ashmori et al. 2020; Azhar and Brown 2009; Charef et al. 2018; Lee et al. 2015). Many focus-group and/or expert interviews have also been conducted to examine BIM implementation in the construction industry (Baek et al. 2019; Liu et al. 2017; Lu et al. 2018; Patacas et al. 2020). Despite this, only a few studies have used in-depth methods such as these to explore architectural design collaboration (Gu and London 2010; Arayici et al. 2011; Nørkjaer Gade et al. 2019). The findings of these studies highlight the combined challenges in technical, social, and cooperative processes, including communication and collaboration. This so-called socio-technical view of BIM adoption and implementation is central to the present research and its aims, which combine aspects of platform use and performance (the technical) with human attitudes and beliefs (the socio-) (Arayici et al. 2011; El-Diraby et al. 2017). More specifically, the present research proposes the “three Cs” of BIM: communication, coordination, and collaboration. Communication is motivated by the desire for “shared understanding” within a team or between teams, for the management of tasks and resources (Du et al. 2012). As such, design communication is an important BIM capability for improving interactions and information flows. Coordination in BIM integrates heterogeneous information and models into a centralized and robust system that captures correct relationships, aligning people, products, and processes to a common goal. Collaboration entails the shared creation of models and information. This collective creation is based on effective communication and coordination. In this way, these past works provide methodological precedents for sociotechnical research in BIM, which is more effective when conducted at a smaller scale and using detailed studies.The following section explains the research methodology consisting of two sets of semi-structured, open-ended interviews leading to two analytical stages for the interview data. Thereafter, the paper develops a series of subthemes and themes related to BIM practice and education. These are then elaborated via a series of detailed codes (developed from the interview data) and integrated into a qualitative BIM process model for future BIM adoption and implementation. The paper concludes with a discussion about limitations and future research.MethodologySemi-Structured, Open-Ended InterviewsTwo stages of interviews using videoconferencing (e.g., MS Teams or Zoom) were conducted to investigate current Australian practices and challenges surrounding BIM-enabled design processes in architectural practice and education. Interview participants were selected using the four-point sampling approach for interview-based qualitative research (Robinson 2014). First, professionals in architectural firms or postgraduate students who have experience in an architectural design project using BIM. There is no specific exclusion criterion. Second, due to the practicability or reality of online interviews during COVID-19 related isolation, an approximate range of sample size was set up at between 10 to 15 per group (professionals and students). Past BIM interviews have largely employed a convenient sampling method for this qualitive research but focus on diverse construction departments (Gu and London 2010; Liu et al. 2017; Lu et al. 2018; Motawa and Almarshad 2013; Patacas et al. 2020). Likewise, this study used a convenience sampling strategy to achieve a diverse group of interviewees. Finally, the sample sourcing involved both advertising and incentivizing.A recruitment email was sent to potential participants identified in the authors’ institution’s industrial and educational networks in Australia. The participants were asked to complete the consent forms and return them to the interviewer. After collecting these, interviews were conducted with 13 professionals (P1 to P13) from September to December 2020, and 12 masters-level architecture students (S1 to S12) from June to September 2021. While only a few postgraduate students had industrial experience, they should be able to provide important opinions on BIM-enabled design collaboration, particularly educational factors identified in past research (Merschbrock and Munkvold 2015; Mignone et al. 2016). Six professionals were senior architects (Snr. Arch.) or directors (Dir.) who had more than 11 years of architectural experience and more than five years of BIM experience (three directors had more than nine years BIM experience). Five professionals were BIM managers (BIM Mgr.) or specialists (BIM Sp.) and three were junior architects (Jnr. Arch.) with fewer than five years BIM experience. In contrast, 12 masters-level architecture students undertook at least one BIM course that highlighted both individual BIM practice and cloud-based BIM collaboration. Significantly, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, all participants were working from home using BIM (specifically, REVIT as an authoring tool and BIM360 as a collaboration and coordination tool) for remote teamwork. Although this unusual research circumstance has innate limitations, it offered a unique opportunity to consider interviewees with diverse backgrounds who were are all relying on BIM-enabled design collaboration processes.The open-ended interview provided a systematic method for collecting participants’ ideas, information, and opinions (Monroe 2002). Eleven semi-structured questions were developed from past literature (Amarnath et al. 2011; Gu and London 2010; Liu et al. 2017), focusing on: (1) BIM adoption and design process, (2) design and information management, and (3) technical and nontechnical issues (see the Supplementary Material). At the end of their interviews, all participants were given an opportunity to make any additional comments on BIM use in practice and education.Data AnalysisIn accordance with thematic analysis standards (Braun and Clarke 2006), two stages of data analyses were conducted to reveal participants’ perspectives. First, each videorecorded interview (30 to 45 min in length), was transcribed and encoded thematically to synthesize the data. Notably, students talked more extensively about on-line design communication and collaboration in teams, which they had recently been exposed to for the first time. Whereas professionals were already experienced in several of these factors, albeit not to the level that occurred until after COVID-19, and spoke more generally. Collectively, two sets of loosely aligned subthemes in Table 1 were developed from the responses of the two groups of participants and encoding processes.Table 1. Subthemes developed from interview dataTable 1. Subthemes developed from interview dataProfessionals interviewsStudents interviewsP1. BIM modeling principlesP2. Design information managementE1. Design representationE2. CreativityP3. Design communicationE3. Remote team interaction E4. Verbal communicationE5. Nonverbal communicationE6. ProductivityP4. Design coordinationE7. Remote coordinationP5. Design collaborationE8. Remote collaborationP6. Technical operations of BIME9. Technical operations of remote teamworkP7. Nontechnical operations of BIME10. Nontechnical operations of remote teamworkP8. Design process with/without BIME11. Remote design process with/without BIMP9. BIM practice and educationE12. Online design practice and educationSubthemes covered similar, but not identical concepts across both practice (P1 to P9) and education groups (E1 to E12). Overall, professionals tended to talk about design and information management using BIM, while students developed slightly different subthemes related to remote teamwork using BIM. The last two subthemes of each group (P8 and E11; P9 and E12) were devised from the open responses that interviewees provided when asked about any overall views or additional comments on BIM in practice and education.The second analysis stage identified micro-BIM processes as codes in each theme. Two of the authors undertook this coding process using a consensus-seeking approach. A noun-phrase (e.g., “Use of BIM brief,” “modeling interaction,” “live rendering,” etc.) was used as a code to classify the BIM processes of each theme in detail. Although thematic analysis often starts with the identification of codes that are then used to develop themes, the present study uses a purposive approach, wherein a literature review was used to develop relevant questions, which in turn shaped the subthemes. Thereafter, the coding stage was used to review and produce six refined themes (T1 to T6) in Table 2 by merging subthemes with similar codes. The six themes are: T1, “representation”; T2, “communication”; T3, “coordination”; T4, “collaboration”; T5, “technical operation”; and T6, “nontechnical operation,” and 48 codes of BIM-enabled design collaboration processes. The relationships between codes, subthemes, and themes are detailed in Table 2.Table 2. Codes, aligned subthemes, and themes arising from the interviewsTable 2. Codes, aligned subthemes, and themes arising from the interviewsCodeSubthemeThemeC01. 3D/Virtual modeling, documentation and presentation; C02. Design analysis; C03. Creative, intuitive visualization; C04. Use of LOD (level of development); C05. Simplicity model; C06. Considerable BIM setting-up; C07. Live rendering; C08. Design/information sharing; C09. Real-time, remote modeling interaction; C10. Learning from peerP1. BIM modeling principlesP2. Design information managementE1. Design representationE2. CreativityT1. RepresentationC11. Shared understanding; C12. Connected, multimodal, team interaction; C13. Convenient communication; C14. Eliminating human errors; C15. Quick feedback; C16. Interactive, nonverbal, mobile communicationP3. Design communicationE3. Remote team interactionE4. Verbal communicationE5. Nonverbal communicationE6. ProductivityT2. CommunicationC17. Multidisciplinary model coordination; C18. Clash detection; C19. Team (role, task) Coordination; C20. Schedule plan; C21. Use of BIM brief/BMP; C22. Model federation; C23. VR-based review, demonstration, simulation; C24. Use of leadership strategies; C25. Flexible team environmentsP4. Design coordinationE7. Remote coordinationT3. CoordinationC26. Collective design creation; C27. Remote/ hybrid teamwork; C28. Client’s viewpoint and feedback; C29. Provision of an adaptable platform; C30. Use of complete BIM package; C31. Staying motivated; C32. Timely adjustments; C33. Live collaborationP5. Design collaborationE8. Remote collaborationT4. CollaborationC34. Secure data exchange; C35. Interoperability; C36. Synchronization for teamwork; C37. Complete digitalization; C38. Use of BIM plugins; C39. Software integration; C40. Use of IFC files; C41. Backup of a central model; C42. Fast synchronizationP6. Technical operations of BIME9. Technical operations of remote teamworkT5. Technical operationC43. Linking education with industry; C44. Maintaining a team culture; C45. Staying connected and protected; C46. Implementation of BIM technologies and concepts; C47. Use of a cloud-based BIM platform in design courses; C48. Updated knowledgeP7. Nontechnical operations of BIME10. Nontechnical operations of remote teamworkT5. Nontechnical operationFour subthemes: P1, “BIM modeling principles”; P2, “design information management”; E1, “design representation”; and E2, “creativity,” were categorized into the first theme,T1 “representation.” The subtheme, E2 “creativity,” could potentially be related to both “representation” and “collaboration,” but participants mostly connected creative processes to visual representation, like 3D modeling. The representation process involves not only modeling, such as C01.3D/Virtual modeling, but also documentation and presentation. The C05.Simplicity model and C07.Live rendering, also deals with C08.design and information sharing, referring to “design information management.” Likewise, “E6, Productivity” was linked to the second theme, “communication” because it could be supported by C11.Shared understanding and C14.Eliminating human errors through effective communication. The other subthemes were clearly connected to the corresponding themes presented in Table 2.FindingsT1. RepresentationISO Standard 29481-1 (2016) states that BIM is “a shared digital representation of a built object” that facilitates design, construction, and operational processes throughout its lifecycle. Representation, for the purposes of the present paper, refers to the delineation media used in diagrams, documents, presentations, and models. However, while interviewees talked about 3D, lifecycle, or information modeling, they rarely mentioned technical drawings and specifications in BIM. For example, one participant noted that we “do not put too much information in the model too early” (P4 – Snr. Arch.), a second said, “simplicity is the best sophistication … do not make it too complicated” (P7 – BIM Sp.), and a third, “do not over model” (P2 – Dir.). There was also a view that 3D representation in BIM is “very basic and not proper for complicated buildings” (P1 – Dir.) and that it hinders “creativity” (P8 – Jnr. Arch.).Since the content of the BIM model and its information has gradually increased over time, there is a need to consider the “level of development” (LOD) (BIMForum 2021), from pre-design to maintenance or from LOD100 to LOD500, respectively (Lee et al. 2020). The logic is that the only information needed is that which is necessary to complete the job. For BIM representation, each design phase requires its own LOD. That is, it is critical to recognize and document what needs to be modeled and at what LOD. In addition, one participant emphasized the significance of BIM set-up at the outset of a project:Try to confirm to be very accurate at the beginning to avoid mistakes at the end and figure out everything before trying to set up. Spend a bit more time in the beginning and then make your work easier at the end. (P10 – Jnr. Arch.)A Senior Architect (P13) also highlighted that everything must be done in 3D, even if the project is small, and BIM also needs “live rendering” (P1 – Dir.). As such, professionals emphasize BIM-enabled design analysis such as “light and thermal analysis” (P3 – Snr. Arch. and P4 – Snr. Arch.) and “sustainability and material analysis” (P4 – Snr. Arch.), because it has been an essential process in BIM for a long time (Sanguinetti et al. 2012; Wong and Kuan 2014). Furthermore, professionals observe that clients frequently require BIM models or 3D navigation models in their tender documentations. There was a view that BIM-enabled design presentation or documentation will soon be mandatory in any projects. However, some professionals indicate the complex usability of a BIM tool such as Revit and suggest complementary tools such as Enscape are needed for better design “visualisation and presentation” (P10 – Jnr. Arch.).In contrast, students’ representation comments recorded the challenges of working in remote teams. One student (S3), for example, emphasizes that the use of different digital tools can cause “unnecessary repetitions and wasting time and energy.” It was also acknowledged that remote teamwork may hinder peer-to-peer learning along with sharing ideas and developing creativity. That is, an integrated computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) or computer-supported collaborative design (CSCD) platform is necessary for effective creative design representation. In addition, students were looking for an online design tool that supports ease of use, ease of sharing and analysis, presentation and sketch functions, and real-time modeling interaction. BIM can, however, be linked to more intuitive CAD tools to provide an easier interface or an option to create a “conceptual model in BIM” (S11). Students identified the importance of a visual collaboration tool such as Miro for the purpose of creativity. In essence, BIM does not provide a conventional sketching function, either individually or shared. However, interviewees also noted that tools such as BIM 360 support easy visualization and presentation, real-time and remote interactions, and convenient design sharing.T2. CommunicationWhereas design representation is a process by which design ideas are externalized for sharing, design communication focuses on the exchange of ideas and information among stakeholders across multiple AEC disciplines. Specifically, both a BIM Specialist (P5) and a Director (P2) argued that BIM-enabled design communication can eliminate guesswork and human errors, thereby saving time and supporting productivity. However, “getting quick feedback” (P1 – Dir.) is still an issue. Thus, face-to-face communication is seen as superior for creating “an environment where team members can learn from one another” (P2 – Dir.). Students also emphasized the role of face-to-face teamwork in building solid relationships between peers, and especially in terms of nonverbal communication and interaction. One student clearly indicated:It’s like sometimes, when people work together face-to-face, with some sketching or maybe even with body language, they can have interaction even if they don’t talk and don’t have a verbal communication … but in online, especially when they cannot see each other, it is less possible. (S6)Online sketching tools such as Conceptboard or Miro on a mobile always-connected device, can be a solution to supporting improved team interaction in architectural design. One participant said:I’ve got an iPad, and I would like if whatever I was doing could be connected to that at all times so I can sketch things more easily and send them through or even live sketch, just more easily. (S11)One general comment was that BIM has not yet enabled “enough communication between stakeholders” (P11 – BIM Mgr.). As a communication tool BIM is evolving to become “connected BIM,” which highlights a connected model-based process (Ellis 2019). Future BIM-enabled design communication should address these interactive mobile aspects of communication.T3. CoordinationInterviewees unanimously agreed that BIM tools are useful for design coordination, particularly on large projects. Their comments focused on two significant processes. The first BIM coordination process is enabling efficient collaboration between multidisciplinary models by architects, structural engineers, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineers. One Director (P2) highlights the need for easy and simple tools for BIM coordination. This is so that BIM users can “effectively administer changing design requirements” (P11 – BIM Mgr.). Architects also highlighted the use of a design plan as a road map, tracking progress and supporting better management. BIM brief and BIM management plan (BMP) or BIM execution plan (BEP) developed in the pre-design phase were regarded as the best way to manage and coordinate BIM processes and assign roles and tasks. As such, a professional participant explained:Most clients now have a better management plan that they put in the brief and want you to work … it’s more of a risk allocation document. So, [it defines] who is responsible for what and who manages it … there is a group of people that might manage the clash detection and the federation of the models and making sure everyone’s aligned in the right point in space and that does have its benefits … that’s all specified and defined in that document. (P1 – Dir.)The second significant BIM coordination process is the identification of clashes between different designs and models, supporting architects to determine the most efficient way to resolve them. BIM coordination must be used early in the project to both detect clashes and resolve them with less effort and time (P1 and P4). Finding “soft clashes” sometimes can prevent “hard” ones that need more effort to resolve. A soft clash is a term used to refer to the geometric clearance required for installation, replacement, or maintenance, while a hard clash indicates an instance where two modeling components share the same physical space (Causey and Kemp 2017).Interviewees identified that, in addition to a cloud-based BIM coordination tools such as BIM360, BIM Track can be used as a communication platform for BIM coordination and issue management (P7 – BIM Sp.). AR, VR, or extended reality is another coordination solution that works by review, demonstration, and simulation (P11 – BIM Mgr. and P12 – BIM Mgr.). Importantly, interview subjects emphasized that stakeholders and team members should use the same software, especially BIM authoring software, such as Archicad and Revit, and have consistency among users to provide better coordination (P6 – Snr. Arch.). This interoperability issue is further discussed in the fifth theme, T5 technical operation.Remote teamwork, on the other hand, can have both positive and negative coordination effects, depending on the quality of leadership, the compatibility of the team, and their schedule plan (S3). Leadership strategies should be adapted to new situations to facilitate better teamwork coordination, and employees should adjust to their new work environments while remaining aligned with project goals and schedules. Interestingly, some students (S5, S7, S8, S11, and S12) argued that some remote CSCW platforms work better for team coordination because of meeting recording, ease of work distribution, and convenient communication. Other interviewees, however, were concerned about engagement and productivity in distributed environments. One saying, it is difficult to “coordinate team members in different time zones” (S2). Nonetheless, according to interviewees, online collaboration allows them to have a flexible schedule and work with others from any location. Some students also preferred to share digital documents rather than print them, thus saving time and money. This flexibility can improve team operations, but it might lead to misinformation or misinterpretation in remote collaboration. Thus, successful BIM-enabled design coordination should be founded on the clarity of design communication and consider flexible design environments.T4. CollaborationBIM collaboration, understood in terms of the previous themes (representation, communication, and collaboration), ultimately produces in a “big and open” BIM environment (Poljanšek 2017). In addition, BIM can only enhance creativity, productivity, or efficiency if all stakeholders and clients can share ideas and thoughts at any time and from any location. To achieve this, the view was stated that BIM requires better operability to incorporate client’s views and feedback (P11 – BIM Mgr.).Cloud-based BIM, enabling easy communication and efficient coordination, was considered critical to successful design collaboration. It was viewed as helping to identify potential issues for a project lifecycle (P2, S4, and S9). For example, in a cloud-based BIM planning tool, solid circles in each team’s work timeline indicate one or more sets of documents and/or models shared with team members or with other teams (Fig. 1). Their contents can also be shown and explored in the same screen. In this way, cloud-based BIM connects all project stakeholders and provides a coordination space to review clashes throughout the project lifecycle.In general, interviewees indicated that BIM improves design collaboration by “faster sync times and easy remote collaboration” (S2 and S6), “increasing motivation and allowing for timely adjustments” (S4), and “collaboration between different design aspects (S10).” A Senior Architect (P4) further emphasized that cloud-based BIM was an essential tool for handling design collaboration during the pandemic and remote workflow in both architectural practice and education. Despite this, there are still some issues to resolve, such as models that are “too easy to change,” leading to “unnecessary work” (S4), “slow synchronization” (S6), and “access crashes” (S12). Furthermore, a student (S9) stated that current remote teamwork is frustrating and negatively affects performance.While remote teamwork brings flexibility, it is sometimes hard to stay focused or motivated enough. You are not in a stimulating environment where everyone is in the same headspace and is interested and excited.It was also observed that working from home has both advantages and disadvantages. Depending on individual working styles, remote collaboration using BIM may allow for better concentration, live collaboration, and reduced commuting time. However, it may cause misunderstanding or lack of interaction, which has a negative impact on productivity and efficiency. Consequently, for future design collaboration, hybrid collaboration (a mix of remote and in-person) may be the best option.To improve BIM collaboration, professionals advocate for “providing an easy-to-use presentation platform for communicating with clients or other stakeholders who are unfamiliar with BIM” (P5 – BIM Sp.) and “using a complete BIM package by designers to better design collaboration” (P8 – Jnr. Arch.). That is, the three BIM process themes, “representation,” “communication,” and “coordination,” are fundamental for effective collaboration.T5. Technical OperationTechnical operations for a BIM process involve standards for interoperability, registry of data exchange, security or model management (Gu and London 2010), design review, and data security (Singh et al. 2011). In the present study, only two interviewees (P5 – BIM Sp. and S3) mentioned “secure data exchange,” and one student (S9) expressed concerns about access permissions and secure backup of a shared model. In contrast, a Senior Architect (P6) emphasized the benefits of “complete digitalization in the construction projects” and “file management” in BIM. Other interviewees were focused on interoperability and synchronization for teamwork. First, a BIM-enabled design process needs enough plugins to cover industry needs, because designers use “different software to have good modeling, high-quality rendering, and animations” (P11 – BIM Mgr.). It also requires further refinement in terms of “integration with other software” (P11 – BIM Mgr.) and “complete exporting to an industry foundation classes (IFC) file format” (P10 – Jnr. Arch.). Second, interviewees showed a level of agreement about synchronization for teamwork: “eliminating crashes during the syncing process” (P10 – Jnr. Arch.) and “servers to access families, materials, details in a cloud-based BIM platform where everyone is connected to” (P12 – BIM Mgr.). A reliable, high-speed internet connection for fast synchronization was also requested by two-thirds of interviewees to sync, open, coordinate, exchange, and download BIM models stored on a cloud system. As such, a recent blockchain-based BIM system can further support for this efficient and secure data exchange (Das et al. 2021; Nawari and Ravindran 2019).T6. Nontechnical OperationNontechnical operations for a BIM process typically include those associated with training and culture, sociotechnical aspects of organizations (Alankarage et al. 2021), or BIM implementation (Khosrowshahi and Arayici 2012). In this theme, interviewees emphasized BIM education and team cultures, while also reiterating the importance of architectural design thinking processes prior to BIM use. Architectural design is also always engaged with the search for creativity. Because of interdisciplinary collaboration, BIM design collaboration processes in architectural practice and education can be extremely complicated. Along with these general perceptions of nontechnical BIM operations, it is acknowledged that there is an expectation gap between professional needs and educational preparation in BIM. Two specific factors were identified.First, many interviewees expressed the view that different strategies are needed to strengthen the connection between education and industry for the practical use of BIM. For example, architectural education should broaden student knowledge by incorporating BIM into various courses to introduce its functions and capabilities (P5 – BIM Sp. and P8 – Jnr. Arch.). It should also encourage students to have an awareness of the latest technologies and trends (P11 – BIM Mgr.). Professionals further requested appropriate curriculum content to respond to “technological advancements” and “the challenges of innovative practice” (P3 – Snr. Arch.) as well as “sustainability requirements,” “climate change,” and “environmental concerns” (P4 – Snr. Arch.). Students also highlighted the education gap in BIM between education and industry, reiterating that a cloud-based BIM platform such as BIM 360 is useful for design courses. They suggest “providing more updated educational knowledge to be consistent with industry demands” (S3). BIM is unquestionably the industry’s future, and it must be “covered more extensively by universities from the early years” (P9 – Jnr. Arch.).Second, maintaining a positive team or company culture is critical to remaining productive and efficient during a pandemic, especially when architects are working remotely. Thus, interviewees suggest that architects should maintain regular virtual contact with their colleagues to maintain the team or studio culture, to feel connected and protected when working online. They also indicated that there are cultural differences when it comes to using BIM tools and other software. For example, a BIM Manager (P11) noted that there is a lack of understanding about the implementation of BIM technologies and concepts and the capability of BIM was not fully considered by most of architectural firms.Summary of ImplicationsOverall, interviewees agreed that BIM potentially supports the entire lifecycle of a building, including design, construction, and operation and maintenance (O&M), although traditional design processes are still required at the early stages of the entire process. However, some conventional design thinking processes, such as sketching, may be difficult to incorporate into the current BIM process. Nonetheless, some interviewees preferred to start their design from a rough model in BIM. Significantly, during the pandemic, both professionals and students used a variety of remote teamwork tools, including project management, design collaboration, design communication, coordination, modeling, performance management, documentation, and design analysis.Importantly, there is no single platform that can do everything. The “BIM ecosystem” (Gu et al. 2015) consists of hundreds of hardware and software solutions and functionalities that must work together to support on-line collaboration. For example, in addition to design authoring tools, the BIM ecosystem must include data capturing hardware and software (e.g., terrestrial laser scanning or LiDAR – light detection and ranging), conceptual modeling tools (e.g., Rhino and Grasshopper), clash detection tools (Navisworks and Solibri), and environmental analysis tools, such as Tally. Thus, interoperability in BIM software is vitally important for exchanging data with different programs, and an integrated BIM is needed to bridge across the entire project, from conceptual design to facilities management in the BIM ecosystem. Beyond a project-based process, the construction ecosystem is also expected to become more standardized, consolidated, and integrated in the next “new normal” (Ribeirinho et al. 2020). Furthermore, a cloud-based BIM platform incorporates many design collaboration processes that evolve with new plug-ins. In summary, an integrated, BIM cloud ecosystem is crucial for supporting interactive and collective BIM processes in a sector that is increasingly working remotely.Integrated BIM Process Model for Architectural Practice and EducationBased on interviewees’ collective understandings of design collaboration processes in the previous sections, this paper proposes a new integrated BIM process model in Fig. 2. Each of the BIM process themes in Fig. 2 consist of multiple codes that indicate significant design collaboration processes as well as future needs in the BIM cloud-based ecosystem. Furthermore, while all themes have common BIM processes, there are practice-specific (top-third of the model) and education-specific (lower-third) dimensions. For example, the representation theme has three common BIM processes: C01. 3D/virtual modeling, documentation, and presentation, C02. design analysis, and C03. creative, intuitive visualization. In addition, practitioners raised the importance of C04. use of LOD, C05. Simplicity of the model, C06. BIM setup, and C07. live rendering. In contrast, students called for the significance of C08. design sharing, C09. real-time, remote modeling interaction, and C10. learning from peers’ models. This example also reflects the other themes, where practice-specific processes were more practical, and education-specific processes tended to be more conceptual. This new model can be used as an evaluation framework for indicators of BIM practice, where each theme and process can be sequentially examined from T1 to T6. In contrast, an architectural firm or team can also apply a particular theme(s) recursively to improve such BIM processes, satisfying adjacent themes’ operations.Although this new integrated BIM process model can be used for the general purposes of BIM adoption and implementation for architectural practice or education, separately, all the processes identified in this research are needed for the BIM cloud ecosystem to be effective for supporting remote work. Thus, this BIM process model also serves as a conceptual framework to provide fundamental principles of BIM collaboration, communication, and managing different types of building information, specifically in remote teamwork. In this way, the model also supports the ISO 19650’s collaborative production of information standards in architectural practice and education. Compared with previous BIM frameworks (Alankarage et al. 2021; Gu and London 2010; Lee et al. 2020; Succar 2009), this model emphasizes a sociotechnical view of BIM-enabled design collaboration in architecture. It can also be usefully examined via a sequential process application from representation (to the left) to nontechnical operation (to the right), acknowledging that each theme is closely related to the others.While BIM practice has already matured and is being standardized in many countries, it has continued to introduce innovative design collaboration processes, such as “BIM and GIS” (Bansal 2021), “extended reality” (Alizadehsalehi et al. 2020), “nD BIM” (GhaffarianHoseini et al. 2017), and Digital Twins (Tao et al. 2018), in the AEC industry. It is also critical to providing relevant and timely knowledge about both technology and collaboration to a variety of team members so that they can seamlessly adapt to the changing work environment (Lee et al. 2020). Thus, the integrated model of BIM-enabled design collaboration processes in Fig. 2 should be useful for both practice and education to effectively incorporate a variety of BIM applications into a single platform.DiscussionSociotechnical View of BIM ProcessesTo examine interactive and collective operations in BIM, this paper has presented a sociotechnical view of BIM-enabled design collaboration. Lee et al. (2020) identify multiple new ontologies and technologies required of BIM to support “collaborative design thinking” and improve heterogeneous design representations and communications in a building project lifecycle. Five collaborative components are identified—communication, social network, public engagement, data management, and information exchange—for an advanced, integrated BIM system (Lee et al. 2020). In addition, a “big and open” BIM should store all project and operational information in a way which is streamed for mobile devices and enables direct communication between the model and functional systems that are used by stakeholders as well as the public (Poljanšek 2017). Thus, as identified through the interviews in this paper, successful BIM adoption and implementation should consider the three Cs of BIM: communication, coordination, and collaboration, as well as cloud computing (Amarnath et al. 2011), highlighting new real-time remote interaction and mobile communication in design practice. Compared with past research on remote BIM collaboration, largely dealing with AR, VR, or MR (Alizadehsalehi et al. 2020; Chen et al. 2019; El Ammari and Hammad 2019), participants in this study were working from home and used videoconferencing tools for remote communication and BIM360 for design collaboration and coordination. In this context, the paper contributes to the new body of knowledge and examines the current global issue of remote BIM collaboration, which has been never fully addressed in the field of architectural design practice and education. The combination of both professionals’ and students’ views cross-verified the six themes and suggested the mixed perspective and opinions of BIM collaboration, uncovering dynamic and complex design collaboration practices in architecture. The discussion on the identified similar and/or different processes also offers a high level of originality to the paper.The sociotechnical perspective to design collaboration reflects the growing view of BIM as an ecosystem (Lee et al. 2020) where products, processes, and people interactively co-evolve (Gu et al. 2015). As such, the collaborative nature of a BIM project is impacted by technology, people, and process (Liu et al. 2017). Furthermore, a digital ecosystem consists of heterogeneous digital processes in a “digital ecology” (Markus and Loebbecke 2013) and a “sharing economy” (Richter et al. 2017). It is also based on a connected, ubiquitous network where digital actors (customers, partners, and providers) and their activities evolve (Elia et al. 2020). Thus, the BIM cloud ecosystem addressed in this paper, and which interview subjects discussed, can be regarded as the advanced interactive and collective BIM platform.While the findings of this paper do reflect those of some past research, there are some practical limitations to the method used. The use of one-on-one videoconferencing for the interviews does restrict communication to verbal and visual cues. Educational perspectives are also limited to students’ perceptions, although a few of the professionals had teaching experience in a tertiary education setting. Focus-group interviews could be used to extend the approach taken in this paper. Nonetheless, the sociotechnical perspective enables the identification of timely and important issues facing architectural practice and education using BIM. Furthermore, some interviewees expressed the view that the pandemic and its consequences could have a long-term impact on design representation, verbal or nonverbal communication, teamwork coordination, team operations and interactions, and even creativity. Thus, the integrated BIM process model in this paper should be further examined and elaborated by additional sociotechnical approaches.Lifecycle Information Management in AEC IndustryThis paper has identified and described processes in architectural practice and education in Australia. The interviewees have a range of views on BIM adoption and implementation arising from their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The integrated model in Fig. 2 encapsulates the most common responses and classifies them to create a framework for considering BIM-enabled design collaboration processes in architecture. However, perceptions and expectations about BIM differ across the AEC disciplines (Gu and London 2010; Shirowzhan et al. 2020). For example, in the design disciplines, BIM tends to be regarded as an extension of CAD, while in other disciplines, it is perceived as an information management system or an intelligent document management system (DMS) (Singh et al. 2011). However, since the scope of this paper is limited to architectural design collaboration using BIM, these other perspectives are beyond the scope of the present research.As past research affirms, the interviewees understood BIM as an integrated information platform for an entire project lifecycle (Lee et al. 2020). Even if architectural BIM (as a CSCW or CSCD platform) integrates CAD and DMS tools into a single digital data repository, it should enable “lifecycle information management” in the AEC industry. This integrated BIM process has become a standard combining a variety of collaborative types of contractual relations, while maintaining the integrity and transparency of information (Poljanšek 2017). It also deals with an integrated interoperable data set, which enables a single collaborative, online model with multidimensional modeling functions, such as sequencing or scheduling (4D), cost estimation (5D), sustainability (6D), and facility management (7D) (Charef et al. 2018). Although some interviewees described the information lifecycle of a building, the most common responses to questions covered BIM processes at the “conceptual design” and “design development” stages. Thus, to better support lifecycle information management, the integrated model of BIM-enabled design collaboration processes in Fig. 2 should be further elaborated through the inclusion of multidisciplinary interview data developed throughout the project lifecycle.Importantly, BIM can be defined as either an object-based product (building information model) or a collection of processes (building information modeling) (NATSPEC 2011). The latter definition of BIM reflects the responses of interviewees in this paper, but it should be extended to “building information management” that is defined as “the organisation and control of the business process by utilising the information in the digital prototype to effect the sharing of information over the entire lifecycle of an asset” (building SMARTalliance 2015, p. 3). This paper does describe some management processes in “communication,” “coordination,” and “nontechnical operation,” but the organizational and business processes are not fully addressed herein. For example, BIM-based performance monitoring for “smart building management” (Edirisinghe and Woo 2021) or “evidence-based practice” (Criado-Perez et al. 2020) could be a significant evolution of BIM processes in the AEC industry. This management dimension of an integrated BIM will be the subject of future research.ConclusionThe research question addressed in this paper asked how, in a practical sense and for people working largely in isolation, does BIM support design collaboration processes? In this paper this question is answered through the analysis and proposition of a new model. Through the two stages of thematic analyses, this paper has not only identified recent BIM practices and challenges, but also confirmed six themes in architectural BIM processes, all of which collectively contribute to developing important knowledge of BIM-enabled design collaboration processes, specifically in remote teamwork. The six themes: “representation,” “communication,” “coordination,” “collaboration,” “technical operation,” and “nontechnical operation,” should be useful to evaluate BIM adoption and implementation in architectural practice and education. Admittedly the themes have similarities to those developed in previous studies, but the corresponding BIM processes identified in the thematic analysis offer both new practical and tangible insights for future BIM-enabled architectural practices.Compared with results of previous research, this paper highlights a particular sociotechnical view of BIM communication and collaboration, which facilitates a shared knowledge between various stakeholders and ultimately produces better project information and outcomes. Acknowledging the limitations of the small sample, the in-depth, qualitative analysis in this paper identifies critical interactive and collective BIM processes that are fully incorporated into the integrated BIM process model for architectural practice and education in Australia. In response to the current challenges and opportunities of the rapid digital transformation, the findings of this paper provide empirical insights into BIM processes in architectural practice and education. As discussed in the previous section, future research should broaden the sociotechnical view of this paper to include complicated organizational dynamics and heterogeneous interactions. Furthermore, along with multidimensional modeling stages, lifecycle information management would be an immediate research direction for remote BIM-enabled design collaboration in architectural practice and education. Finally, this paper contributes to improving BIM adoption and implementation in the new digital era.References Alankarage, S., N. Chileshe, R. Rameezdeen, D. J. Edwards, and A. Samaraweera. 2021. “Exploring BIM-triggered organisational and professional culture change: A systematic literature review.” Constr. Innovation https://doi.org/10.1108/CI-04-2021-0084. Al-Ashmori, Y. Y., I. 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