Emerging recovery is of course welcome, but also introduces new opportunities and challenges for BIM

Adrian Malone

A recent Markit/CIPS survey showed 57% of UK construction firms expect the sector to grow in 2014. This survey is just one of many indications that recovery in construction is gaining momentum. Only in hindsight will we know whether this recovery will be sustained, or how fast and how widespread it will be. Any recovery will not be experienced in a uniform way across our industry or across the country.

Firms participating in the survey will be at different stages of BIM implementation. The extent and maturity to which BIM has already been adopted varies enormously. Generally I believe we all still have a lot to do.

For people like me who are leading BIM implementation within an organisation the emerging recovery is of course welcome, but also introduces new opportunities and challenges.

Three areas where recovery may impact internal BIM programmes are:

  1. Individual and organisational capacity to change. In the short term individual workload is likely to grow more quickly than headcount. This means individuals will be under pressure to deliver projects, and may feel they have less time to learn new skills. Individuals and firms who have already adopted BIM are likely to reap the rewards. Amongst those organisations and individuals who have not yet learnt BIM, some will see that BIM can help meet the demands of an increasing workload - learning BIM will be an imperative. For others increasing workload may present a reason to put BIM off for another day, or temporary respite allowing ‘business as usual’ to remain viable for a little longer
  2. Confidence and capacity to invest. If recovery is sustained some of the intense pressures our industry has experienced since 2008 should begin to ease. Whilst some organisations have continued to invest over recent years, others have lacked either the confidence or resources to do so.
    Recovery will in time bring with it the capacity and confidence to invest. Replacement of computer hardware, IT infrastructure and new software will be one area where BIM will directly benefit. We will also in time see the return of corporate change programmes which will provide an opportunity to embed and align BIM related behavioural and process changes.
  3. Resurgence of private sector projects. A recent report by Experian forecasts that public sector construction will remain strained during 2014/15 but that there will be growth in private sector projects. Housebuilding will be a sizable part of this growth, but sectors such as hotels and leisure, retail, offices and industrial are all expected by Glenigan to see growth.

Private sector clients across all of these sectors are challenging their suppliers to deliver benefits through the use of BIM. While many clients are following the broad principles underpinning Level 2 BIM, they are not bound by it. In practice this means that construction firms must develop an approach to BIM which is sufficiently flexible to meet differing client value propositions for both the private and public sectors, while retaining the benefits of a standardised approach.

Recovery is welcome, the challenges continually evolve.

Adrian Malone is a director at Faithful+Gould with responsibility for BIM, knowledge management and commercial research