I was recently involved in hosting a roundtable event attended by representatives from across the construction industry. The event focused on the impact Building Information Modelling (BIM) has had on the UK construction industry to date. We discussed the processes, technology and collaborative behaviour required to successfully implement BIM more widely, and the challenges faced in meeting the government’s mandate for all public sector centrally procured construction projects to be delivered using BIM by 2016.
Some interesting themes emerged:
Clients are increasingly keen to be seen as being “BIM savvy”. Interestingly, few appear to have a real understanding of what a fully modelled project entails. This lack of knowledge as to how BIM may enhance the development and delivery of a project has caused confusion and resulted in partial adoption or rejection of BIM.
Both at a client and professional level, the industry seems to need educating about BIM:
- What it is.
- How it can be used to enhance a project from conception to completion.
- How it can drive efficiencies at all stages of a project’s life-cycle.
While a lack of understanding at client level has created some reluctance to adopt BIM, some attendees noted that a lack of understanding among industry professionals, particularly costing concerns held by professional consultants, has led to clients being discouraged from implementing BIM on recent projects. The need for education at all levels is clear.
While some SMEs are notably adopting BIM, its uptake among larger corporations and contractors is not as widespread. Perhaps this is a result of the change in processes and need for greater collaborative behaviour at all stages of the development of a project, which is required by BIM, a cultural shift which is not so easily achieved in larger organisations.
Responsibility for, and liability arising from, the supply and input of information into a model was a genuine concern among our roundtable attendees. Some of the principal difficulties preventing the wholesale adoption of BIM in the industry they identified included:
- Responsibility for the impact of design and construction changes.
Insurance cover and BIM protocols, while still very much in the early stages of development, must surely have a driving effect on the future uptake of BIM.
There was little doubt from the roundtable attendees that BIM has the potential to change the industry for the better, from the conception of a project to completion and beyond. If used well and early on, BIM can enable:
- Easier design change.
- An overview of the workability of designs.
- Increased ability to effectively programme the works.
However, this view was qualified by the consensus that, in order for BIM to be successfully implemented, there needs to be a greater emphasis on early planning. Without this, the full benefits of using BIM are not realised.
Clients and industry professionals alike need to develop confidence in the use of BIM, trusting its ability to enhance the delivery of a project. Ultimately, such confidence will stem from experience, but this experience will not be forthcoming unless the industry opens its mind and fully commits to using BIM in future projects. This again links back to the need for education at all levels in the industry, where confidence in BIM will surely emanate from a deeper understanding of the benefits of its use.
Can we realise BIM’s full potential?
The overriding themes from the event were:
- The potential of BIM to revolutionise the construction industry, by providing new processes and technologies to enhance the efficiency and delivery of projects.
- The real concern that this potential is not currently being fully realised, hindered by a lack of understanding at all levels of the supply chain of what BIM is, and what it has the potential to do. The need for education must be addressed sooner rather than later, if the UK construction industry wants to stay ahead of BIM processes and international construction markets.