RAVA3Pro and Solibri Collaborate Toward a Digital Building Permitting Process in Finland

Digital permit

Finland’s building permit process is set to revolutionize with the new construction act, making it BIM model-based. This transition is made possible by the model specifications and inspection rules of the RAVA3Pro project, with Solibri as the lead executor.

While design in the construction sector has been digitalized and BIM, Building Information Modeling, is gaining ground, building permitting has remained a document-based manual process. Some countries have started digitalizing the workflows but mostly rely on 2D drawings in PDF or DWG formats and human compliance checking.

Finland and Estonia are among the first countries where designers can submit IFC, the open BIM format models for automated model checking. Finland pioneered BIM use for building permits already in 2018, and the RAVA3Pro project made the practice nationwide in 2024. Solibri has been the leading partner in all Finnish BIM permitting development projects and continues to provide the technology and knowledge for automated compliance checking.

RAVA3Pro, led by the City of Helsinki and funded by the Ministry of Finance, involved 23 municipalities. It aimed to further develop the municipalities’ electronic permit process for building control and automate the checking of models.

Significant benefits for the entire industry

Using BIM models instead of 2D plans offers many advantages for the building permit process. One of the biggest is the automatic checking of plans, freeing time for permit authorities from manual work to more value-adding tasks. RAVA3Pro also provided designers with tools to check their plans before applying for a building permit.

The significance of RAVA3Pro is not limited to the building permit phase. A model-based building permit promotes the comprehensive adoption of modeling in Finland’s property and construction sector.

Building information models are becoming the framework for digital twins, to which all design, procurement, construction, and property maintenance information is attached. Thus, modeling really generates value by automating information management throughout the life cycle.

Pia Nitz, Solibri, presenting at WDBE 2023 in Helsinki (photo: Aarni Heiskanen)

RAVA3Pro was not Solibri‘s first foray into model-based building permits.

Pia Nitz, Senior BIM Specialist, began working on this in 2017 in a model-based building permit trial project in the City of Järvenpää, continuing in the RAVA and RAVA2 projects. The result was, among other things, the automatic checking of information on the so-called RH form for data for national registries. Nitz emphasizes that converting legal text into rules for automatic inspection was not an easy task.

“We decided on the use cases we would check with the expert group,” Nitz explains. “We went through the current building act and selected accessibility, user safety, and some issues related to acoustic and thermal requirements as the main points for examination.”

In Finland, the type of building affects the requirements. For example, home and office hygiene premises have different regulations. This increases the number of inspection rules, eventually totaling about three hundred.

Solibri BIM model check

Universal rules for all software developers

Nitz notes that not all permit-related inspections can be automated yet. Legal text is not always unambiguous, and, for example, fire regulations are multi-level. Thus, automation does not yet replace expert review in the most complex cases.

Nitz emphasizes that these new checking rules are universal, meaning all software developers can utilize them. Users of Solibri Office have already had access to them.

Solibri offers users more advanced inspection methods beyond simple rules. According to Nitz, the specifications produced by RAVA3Pro do not fully utilize these finer capabilities of Solibri, but they are sufficiently comprehensive for the needs of the building permit phase.

Standards’ limits encountered

For information in models to be automatically checked by software, the model’s data must be standardized and machine-readable. Although there are several standards for BIM, there have not been precise enough specifications for standardizing content. Therefore, RAVA3Pro had to define these itself.

The transfer of models to building control in Finland and many European countries has chosen the IFC file format. It is application and version-independent, akin to the PDF file format for models, as Nitz describes.

Solibri produced the necessary specifications for IFC4 as Property Sets. Nitz mentions that IFC4 still requires additional specifications, which the project team has reported to buildingSMART International.

Although in Finland, a building permit is granted based on architectural plans, the project also developed specifications for inspecting HVAC and structural model data structures. All model specifications rely on national nomenclatures.

Solibri BIM model check

Solibri’s expertise provides a solid foundation

Anna-Riitta Kallinen, the RAVA3Pro project manager, sees the project’s results as essential for implementing the new building act. For the first time, nationally agreed inspection rules are available to everyone.

Kallinen reports that Solibri was selected as an expert through a competitive tendering process based on qualitative criteria. The company’s strengths include decades of experience and reliability. Solibri holds a strong position in Finland, and its software has become the standard toolset for BIM quality management.

“Pia Nitz from Solibri is a top expert in her field,” Kallinen states. “She understands BIM and is a legislative expert.”

Kallinen notes that RAVA3Pro has also raised a lot of international interest, especially in the EU. Solibri is involved in the ACCORD Horizon Europe project, which aims for model-based buildingpermitting process framework at the EU level. RAVA3Pro’s experiences and results are good benchmarks for the project.

Enthusiastic reception

Matti Jaatinen, Solibri’s Country Manager in Finland, is in constant contact with the company’s Finnish customers. He says he has never seen such enthusiasm as now, with the publication of the rule based model checking Nevertheless, modeling still raises concerns among some clients.

“Not everyone has seen the value of modeling so far, but I believe that in the future, all clients and owners will want models by default,” Jaatinen states.

According to Jaatinen, BIM modeling serves the entire lifecycle of a building, from the permit phase to demolition. He considers the implementation of circular economy principles important, where modeling is nearly indispensable. It is indicative that some companies have even created a model of a building to be demolished.

The new construction law requires a climate report for the building and construction site, covering all stages, from raw material procurement to waste management. Building Information Modeling also helps in this task. Jaatinen mentions that Solibri Office now enables the calculation of a building’s carbon emissions from the model.

What’s next?

Kallinen and Nitz acknowledge that work must continue to automate the building permit process fully. Including city plan and zoning would be necessary. However, RAVA3Pro is already a significant leap forward, and its results can be immediately implemented.

Solibri Office users can download the inspection rules from the cloud service and check their models’ compliance at any stage of the design process. Solibri Inside allows the same in Archicad, Allplan, and Vectorworks software, and similar functionality is being planned for Autodesk Revit.

Solibri will offer rule sets as a micro service for online portals, like the Lupapiste service. Designers can upload their IFC models to the online service and receive a report of detected deviations without using other software.

This article for Solibri by Aarni Heiskanen was initially published at solibri.com. The BIM images are courtesy of Solibri.

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