Challenges in applying design research studies to assess benefits of BIM in infrastructure projects- Reflections from Finnish case studies

Alexander Gerbov, Vishal Singh, Maila Herva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose- This paper presents a reflective assessment on a research project aimed at applying design research methodologies to understand the benefits of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in infrastructure design projects, a context where design research has not been applied adequately.
Design/methodology/approach- The findings reported in this paper are based on a reflective diary and reporting by the researchers on the challenges and barriers they faced in a research project that involved four case studies. The data in the case studies were collected from project documentation, questionnaire surveys, interviews and workshops. Sentiment analysis was conducted to assess research participants’ perceptions.
Findings- Several challenges faced during the research study forced changes to the research process as well as adjustments to the research objectives. From the original objective of quantitatively measuring the benefits of BIM in the design process, the objective was shifted to measuring qualitatively how the designers’ perceived the benefits. There was evident lack of shared understanding between the researchers and industry partners about the scope of design research and design in infrastructure projects.
Research limitations/implications - The findings are based on studies in one country, and the reflective assessment could have researchers’ bias in terms of their interpretation and experience.
Practical implications - The presented findings and the lessons learnt from the research will be useful for others planning to conduct similar studies, because they are likely to encounter similar problems. The recommendations will benefit both the industry as well as the academia in bridging the gap between design theory and practice.
Originality- This paper primarily focusses on the challenges and barriers to conducting empirical research, especially from the viewpoints of a young researcher aiming to adopt design research methodology in infrastructure design projects. While the reported challenges may be widespread in similar research projects, they have not been the focus of research themselves, and are often side-lined. The primary contribution of this research is to identify and bring the key barriers and challenges to the forefront.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-20
Number of pages19
JournalEngineering, Construction and Architectural Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • BIM
  • design management
  • case study
  • Methodology
  • design research


Dive into the research topics of 'Challenges in applying design research studies to assess benefits of BIM in infrastructure projects- Reflections from Finnish case studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this