In the move to comply with the UK government’s mandate to work to BIM Level 2 by 2016, organisations are likely to encounter challenges in the process. Time and capital need to be invested, and smaller organisations in particular will view the implementation of BIM with trepidation. What’s more, the construction industry as a whole lacks clarity on the issue, and there will be a common perception that BIM is the preserve of the larger organisation rather than the smaller.

The NBS National BIM Report 2014 identified the top five reasons cited by those organisations who haven’t yet made the move; these are outlined below.

1. No client demand

This was cited by 73% of practices employing five staff or fewer. Whilst the Government is in the process of enforcing BIM for publicly-funded work, clients of smaller organisations don’t often make similar demands – and the smaller they are, the less likely this is.

2. Not always relevant to projects worked on

71% of small practices (five or fewer staff) felt that BIM simply isn’t applicable, or appropriate, to the nature of their typical workload. They may feel that there isn’t the level of complexity to warrant BIM, but the fact is that even domestic projects can be complex.

3. Cost

A common observation was the ‘need to get through the downturn’ before looking at BIM. The recession has increased cautiousness, particularly when it comes to financial outlay. And it can’t be denied that the move does involve expenditure on software, training, and time. But the costs need to be weighed against the potential benefits. Those who have adopted BIM tend to report that the experience has been better than they had anticipated.

4. Projects worked on perceived as too small

Contrary to common perception, BIM can work on any size of project from a domestic refurbishment upwards – the biggest inhibitor to its effectiveness is the quality of the survey undertaken, but this is in fact the case regardless of whether a building is drawn in 2D or 3D. Although small contractors are likely to provide resistance to technological changes in working practices initially, the workplace is nevertheless evolving all the while, and the benefits can still be realised during the earlier stages of a project in the meantime.

5. Lack of in-house expertise

62% of practices with five or fewer staff expressed this concern, and 77% of practices with six or more staff. Although organisations – particularly smaller practices – may not currently have the skills in-house, the upturn in the industry is leading to an increase in recruitment, and this is the ideal time to recruit staff with the necessary skills. Savvy employees will have upskilled during the recession, and smaller practices can be more agile in their response to and adoption of BIM by being able to take advantage of lower aggregate training costs.

Conclusion

Despite any reluctance to make the change, organisations can take comfort from the fact that only 4% wished that they hadn’t adopted BIM. More importantly perhaps, 61% of users found that BIM brought cost efficiencies, 52% that it increased the speed of delivery and only 16% didn’t feel that it had increased profitability.

Of organisations that haven’t yet adopted BIM, 59% believe they will be left behind if they don’t do so. With unremitting pressure on architects’ and others’ professional fees, it looks as if BIM may offer a way to getting more work, and making that work more profitable.

The experience of those who have adopted BIM shows us that the process, whilst not easy, is worthwhile. Adopting BIM may be less risky and less cost-effective than not doing so.

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