BIM is being embraced by the social media generation and it is a disguse for a complete revolution in construction


No one who has anything to do with the construction industry can have failed to notice the increased interest in Building Information Modelling (BIM) over the past few years. Since Paul Morrell made his announcement that the government would be mandating BIM on all projects by 2016, we have been on a BIM rollercoaster.

BIM has turned the industry upside down and has changed the dynamics in so many areas. BIM is not just the clever software that helps the architect look at his designs in 3D. It impacts on every part of the industry, from clients through to designers and building operators.

We all know construction has traditionally been one of least technological industries for many years. We have continued to use tried and tested methods main contractors know and are comfortable with. Much of this is driven by the placement of risk, which is largely driven by procurement routes. That is a whole article in its own right so I won’t go there just now.

While BIM is bringing new software and techniques to the industry, by default it is also bringing other changes as well.

The uptake in the use and understanding of BIM has been accelerated through the sharing of knowledge on Twitter and blog

It wasn’t too many years ago that I would go on a construction site and find no IT at all. BIM has been embraced by a new generation who have joined the industry. This generation of 20 and 30 somethings have grown up with IT and embrace social media.

The uptake in the use and understanding of BIM has been accelerated through the sharing of knowledge on Twitter and blogs. The UKBIMcrew is a Twitter community that has been instrumental in pushing new thinking and sharing knowledge openly.

This generation is the future of our industry. We can now share information quickly and openly across social networks. The new generation are far from scared of technology – they positively embrace it.

In less than 10 years the construction industry has gone from being an industry which has been scared of technology and new ideas to one which is positively looking to innovate. In the short term there will be tension. Technology is no substitute for experience and it is this experience which the new generation lack. There is no shortcut to experience and it can only be gathered through time.

Due to the recession we have lost lots of experience and knowledge as people have taken up new roles in new industries or retired completely.

This will have an effect in the short term, but it also provides an opportunity for new generations to progress quickly and drive change. The young techies need to understand that experience is of huge value and the experienced hands need to believe there are new ways of thinking about construction in a changing world. If we can bring both sides together the UK construction industry has the opportunity to reach its potential.

Technology and the internet will go much further than just the use of BIM to design and operate assets. Social media is not to be underestimated and will impact upon the whole building lifecycle. A community is already established online and it is growing by the day.

As mentioned above this community is keen to share knowledge and experience in a way previous generations are not familiar with. Information relating to products is no longer obtained from the physical libraries of the past.

Specifiers, contractors and clients now get their information from the internet via a search. This means search engine optimisation is critical. Not only can a product be found online but its cost can easily be found and compared.

In the future it is likely product performance and reliability will be highlighted in a very similar way to trip advisor. Customers and users will be able to provide real time feedback on the performance of their favourite air handling unit or door closer!

E-commerce will also become commonplace allowing buying to be carried out online with deliveries going direct to the construction site from manufacturer. Only a few years ago online shopping was the exception not the rule, but Amazon is now one of the biggest retailers in the world. An Amazon for construction is not unrealistic.

So while many may be tired of BIM as a concept, be aware that BIM is a disguise for a complete revolution in construction. BIM is driving change and forcing the industry to adapt and change to new technologies. This change is being pushed by a new generation of construction professionals who are passionate about their industry and making it better.

We have never experienced a more challenging period, but at the same time I believe our industry has never been better placed to lead the global market in construction.

Richard Charlton is chief executive of _space group