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Farmer review: BIM is the key to modernising construction

24 October 2016 | By Tom Ravenscroft

The importance of BIM “cannot be overestimated” in the battle to modernise the construction industry, says the Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model, an independent review commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Britain’s construction industry faces “inexorable decline” unless radical steps are taken to address its longstanding problems, according to the report, led by Mark Farmer, chief executive of Cast, a real estate and construction consultancy.

The report highlights construction’s lack of innovation and collaboration as well as its non-existent research and development (R&D) culture. It points to BIM as being key to the solving many of the industry’s problems stating: “The industry’s route map to collaboration and high efficiency new delivery models can only be underpinned by BIM and the importance of its adoption cannot be overestimated.”

However, Farmer’s report also notes that there is a reality gap connected to BIM, which is not yet impacting large parts of the industry: “Despite BIM being a critical change agent for the industry completely intertwined with the move to manufacturing-led approaches discussed above, there appears to also be a large-scale reality gap related to the industry’s BIM adoption strategy.

“The government’s own measures to lead this agenda as a client of the industry have not reached significant parts of the design and construction world, which unfortunately includes the majority of house builders and private developers.”

It goes on to say: “Investment in and adoption of BIM is being stymied, with some notable exceptions, by all of the issues highlighted already around lack of willingness to invest, collaborate and the inability to see the bigger picture business case.”

Farmer makes 10 recommendations which include:

  • Using the residential development sector as a pilot programme to drive forward the large-scale use of pre-manufactured construction, for example, through offsite built or modular housing.
  • A wholesale reform of the current Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and its related levy system, including a new mandate to properly fund and drive forward both appropriate skills development and innovation to suit a modern progressive industry.
  • Government to use its education, fiscal, housing and planning policy measures to initiate change and create the right conditions that will support the construction sector’s modernisation.

Summarising his findings, Farmer said: “The construction industry is in dire need of change. What is clear to me following the nine months spent conducting this review is that carrying on as we are is simply not an option. With digital technology advancements pushing ahead in almost every other industry and with the construction labour pool coming under serious pressure, the time has come for action. The construction industry doesn’t have the impetus needed for this change, it requires external action to initiate change.

“Unless we find some way of promoting innovation in construction and making the work less labour intensive and more attractive to new entrants, there’s a very real danger of the construction sector going into an inexorable decline over the next few years. I hope this review generates some debate in the sector and all involved can consider their role in safeguarding the industry’s long-term health.”

Unless we find some way of promoting innovation in construction and making the work less labour intensive and more attractive to new entrants, there’s a very real danger of the construction sector going into an inexorable decline over the next few years. – Farmer review