Failure to adopt BIM could affect consultants' ability to work internationally

February 2014

The first International BIM Survey, carried out by NBS and international partners, has revealed that UK consultants who do not adopt Building Information Modelling (BIM) could struggle to secure overseas work.

This is one of the key findings of the research which brings together data from Finland, New Zealand and Canada, three of the countries pioneering BIM, as well as the UK.

Results from these countries show that BIM is widely seen as the future of project information, suggesting that increasing numbers of international projects will require teams to be using it. Awareness of BIM is broadly similar and almost universal across the countries surveyed, ranging from 87% in Finland to 98% in New Zealand. 

Read the NBS International BIM Report 2013 (.pdf, 0.3Mb) download

The survey, believed to be the first to compare international attitudes to the adoption of BIM, highlights that the understanding of what BIM is continues to be an issue. With no specific definition given, between 60% and 74% of respondents agreed with the statement, “the industry is not clear enough yet on what BIM is”.

The UK is widely recognised as a pioneer in the development of BIM and 39% of respondents in the UK report using it. The figure is even higher elsewhere, 57% in New Zealand and more than 60% in Finland and Canada. According to NBS specialists, the range of adoption rates may in part be because understanding of BIM varies by country. What is clear is that BIM adoption is gaining traction.

As elsewhere, usage in the UK is increasing rapidly with adoption tripling in the three years since the NBS’s separate UK National BIM Survey was launched. Almost all respondents across all countries expect to be using BIM in five years’ time.

Clearly, if BIM is to be the future of international projects, then common standards will need to be adopted.

Clearly, if BIM is to be the future of international projects, then common standards will need to be adopted. Key to this will be the use of Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs), the vendor neutral format which allows models to be worked on independently of specific software. A significant number of respondents did not know whether or not they were using IFC, suggesting that greater communication around this is needed. Amongst those that did know, usage is very varied with only 36% in New Zealand and up to 93% in Finland.

One of the main benefits of BIM is the ability of the model to be used through the life of the building, through the operation and occupation stage, delivering enhanced efficiency and lower costs. Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) data sets are designed to assist in the use of a building information model in managing and maintaining a building, but use is generally very low, at a mere 2% in New Zealand and only 15% in the UK which is leading the way.

As the construction industry becomes increasingly global, we thought it was important to see what other countries are doing with regards to BIM.
If this year’s results are taken as indicative of the international picture, it’s clear that there is still some way to go to reach a universally understood approach to BIM and common standards. Where BIM is being used, the focus is still very much on design and construction, with use as an operational and management tool for buildings lagging behind.
We plan to carry out this survey annually to track international progress and will aim to expand it over time to include more countries.

Adrian Malleson, Head of Research, Analysis & Forecasting, NBS

Related resources

Download an infographic showing key findings from the UK, Finland, Canada and New Zealand (.jpg, 567Kb)