BIM update: Where are we now?

Construction industry
BIM update: Where are we now?

In our previous discussion about BIM (Building Information Modeling), we highlighted many of the challenges hindering widespread adoption. Back in 2016, the UK mandated that BIM ‘Level 2’ was required for all government contracts and, more recently, all public sector projects worth over £5 million must use BIM by 2025. 

Fast forward to 2023, there have been significant strides in the levels of adoption and industry attitudes. BIM Level 2 was also superseded by the UK BIM Framework, which was based on the emerging ISO 19650 series of standards and the remaining BS/PAS 1192. 

So where are we now? Let’s take a look:

What is BIM?

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a process for creating and managing information on construction projects, across the entire project lifecycle. Essentially, it’s a way of harnessing digital technology to form a collaborative response across the different facets of a construction project, although in practice, it looks different depending on who you ask.

BIM is about creating a shared knowledge resource that makes it easier to facilitate communication. It is used worldwide, but the UK in particular has attached BIM as a requirement for government contracts and soon, large-scale public sector projects.

Attitudes and adoption of BIM today

When we last reported on BIM, we had some data from the 2017 National BIM Report. It showed that 62% of practices were aware of and using BIM, 35% were just aware, and 3% were neither aware of nor using it.

This time, we have the latest National BIM Report to look to for data on BIM progress. We can see that 73% of practices were aware of and using BIM, 26% were aware but not using it, and 1% were neither aware nor using it. While growth has continued in the use of BIM practices, overall it has slowed right down. There aren’t any major differences between 2018 and 2020.

Overall, the survey found that BIM adoption is relatively deeply embedded in the construction industry now and is becoming a big part of how they work. Almost a quarter of those using BIM said they do so on all projects, with almost half doing so for the majority of projects. 

Despite the initial challenges of adopting BIM, the majority of those who use it currently report that it has made them more productive and over half of those yet to adopt BIM also agree.

One thing that adopters and non-adopters all strongly agree with is that BIM requires big changes in their businesses. It means workflows, practices and procedures must be changed to meet BIM. It also means significant investment into training in new software and BIM standards, as well as the investment into the software itself.

Challenges to BIM adoption

Construction businesses adopting BIM have to find the time to do so alongside their day-to-day activities. They need to feel sufficiently motivated to go through with the changes, with the promise of gaining more work as motivation. The top four barriers to adoption are:

  1. No client demand
  2. Lack of in-house expertise
  3. Lack of training
  4. Cost

Cost of adoption is a major hurdle, especially for smaller companies. There’s often a perception that some projects are simply too small for BIM or that the overall commitment of expertise, training and cost is too much for smaller businesses. The report found a number of comments from people in smaller companies along the lines of “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?” There was also a link between confidence in their ability to use BIM and adoption. 

I think the cost of BIM and the need for full collaboration is one of the main issues. Small firms cannot justify the expense, training, computers etc. and clients generally are not requesting it.

Time to upskill?

As found in the National BIM Report, training is one of the major barriers to BIM adoption. It can be challenging to train while continuing normal business activities, and not to mention, we’re currently just coming out of an “abnormal” time. 

The coronavirus pandemic has seen many in the construction industry waiting it out in isolation at home throughout 2020 and beyond, and the impact of this has been huge. A recent article written by The Construction Index states that there are nearly 6,000 construction companies in ‘critical financial distress’ and close to collapse in the UK alone in 2023.

Theoretically, now might be the perfect time to invest in digital skills in order to position construction companies for success in the post-pandemic environment, but many companies are simply unable to do so.

Final thoughts

As of 2023, BIM adoption and understanding has grown since we last reported on it, with major changes being made including the introduction of the UK BIM Framework ISO 19650 standard, which creates a universal definition for companies in different countries, or those who operate across borders.

Overall, BIM adoption is more prominent in larger practices, although most smaller companies still have a goal to adopt it despite the challenges of costs and training involved. A major factor is in showing the benefits that companies that adopt BIM can expect to gain.