The Dark Ages of BIM may be over, but many firms are still behind the times when it comes to implementing the technology
Four years ago, if you had mentioned building information modelling to someone working in the construction industry, there was a good chance you would have been met with a blank response.
Back in 2010, according to a wide-ranging survey by consultant NBS, almost half of the sector - 43% - was unaware of BIM’s existence, and only 13% of companies had actually used it themselves.
Whether or not you remember this as the Dark Ages or a state of blissful ignorance will depend on your perspective, but one thing is certain: BIM is now impossible to ignore. NBS’ most recent research, initial findings of which are exclusively revealed in Building this week, shows that 95% of those in the sector are now aware of BIM. Those who are not aware of it may find that they’re not going to be in the industry for very much longer.
When it comes to actually adopting the practice, however, the picture is more mixed. NBS reports that around half of the sector has used BIM on at least one project, but, at the same time, more than half of those who are aware that different levels of BIM exist have yet to reach the stage of BIM maturity they will need to work on publicly funded work from 2016.
Put simply, there is still a sizeable proportion of the sector which is talking about BIM but has done little, or nothing, to implement it. This is not hard to understand.
The technology and training for staff has an upfront cost which smaller firms in particular may have put on the backburner with the financial pressure of recession. BIM can, initially at least, add cost to fees, which, with price still a major factor in deciding bids, can be a powerful deterrent.
With the proportion of clients and tier one companies using BIM growing exponentially, it is likely that those firms which turn a blind eye now will be those that are not able to adapt fast enough
And private sector clients, which are providing the bulk of the industry’s work in an era of government austerity, are, save for a handful of leading developers, not making BIM a requirement for project teams.
This week’s special issue of Building highlights some of the experiences of those currently using BIM. But why should more firms join them? One argument is the trajectory of take-up. Although only half of the sector has used BIM, this is a fourfold increase on four years ago.
This combined with the collaborative nature of the practice means that those firms that do not develop BIM capability risk being excluded from project teams.
This may not happen in the immediate future: as we explore in this week’s special issue many of those using BIM are not doing so at a level which would require fully collaborative working, and the level required by the government by 2016 also stops short of this.
But with BIM already becoming more widespread, it would seem naive to think that this will not happen in time. And, as Peter Hansford makes clear, the government is already working on the next level.
Another compelling argument is the short-term hit to delivery times caused by adopting any new practice - BIM included.
At the moment, with the industry recovering from a low base, many companies can still carve out space in their workloads to get to grips with new methods of working.
But the market is steadily warming up. And as workloads grow, the pressure on staff time will only increase.
So with the proportion of clients and tier one companies using BIM growing exponentially, it is likely that those firms which turn a blind eye now will be those that are not able to adapt fast enough further down the line.
Sarah Richardson, editor