BIM is a natural fit for the emerging build-to-rent sector


Build-to-rent is an emerging institutional asset class. To be successful it requires purpose-designed stock, in developments of 200-250 units minimum to support good management and it depends on keeping quality up and operating costs down. That’s why it’s a natural for BIM use.

BIM loves an owner developer, one that keeps and manages its developments long term. While BIM helps all developers cut risk to capital expenditure (capex), it really helps when operating expenditure (opex) is your concern. The difference between success and failure in build-to-rent can be between a 4% net return and 6%. Active management with all facility management information at your fingertips requires an asset information model, built in an IFC-based BIM and handed over properly. Whole life costs can then be optimised and controlled.

BIM loves an owner developer, one that keeps and manages its developments long term

And BIM loves a client with a library of elements. The Ministry of Justice has its model library of court rooms. Build-to-rent developers can have standard cores, risers, bathrooms, kitchens, even unit plans, all speeding up assembly of a design and fitting the use of offsite construction, which BIM also loves. Production based on numerically controlled machines is a perfect fit for BIM. But mass housebuilders can’t make the most of it as they pace their build rate to suit sales flow. Build-to-rent has to build the 200 plus unit project in a sitting, so it can exploit offsite construction for its quality, speed and economies of scale.

The housing crisis in the UK requires all channels to be fully delivering. The built-to-rent movement is gathering force but it needs help to be competitive with market housing in site acquisition. BIM is a great competitive helper; that’s why build-to-rent should love BIM.

Richard Saxon CBE is a client adviser at Consultancy for the Built Environment and author of ‘Growth through BIM’, published by the CIC