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BIM needs a reboot after stagnation of ‘lost year’

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Construction Manager editor Denise Chevin looks at the results of CM/BIM+’s recent survey, which showed that the expected wave of take-up post mandate didn’t happen.

This time last year, the industry was gearing up for what Construction Manager dubbed “mandate day” – an historic date in the industry's calendar that would usher in a new digital era.

April 2016 was supposed to be the month that publicly funded projects would be obliged to adopt Level 2 BIM across their supply chains and hopefully carry private sector clients along in the slipstream.

No one, of course, was realistically expecting the door to be fully closed to traditional ways of working, but there was, perhaps, a reasonable expectation that after five years to prepare for this procurement change, BIM adoption would pick up pace.

It is apparent, however, from the results of our 2017 BIM survey and accompanying round table discussion, that the reality is a little more disappointing. Some of our participants went as far as describing BIM’s progress in 2016 as something of a “lost year”.

Our participants pointed to the lack of take-up by clients, who either do not understand BIM or remain unconvinced of its merits.

What’s more, even among centrally funded government clients, adoption still seems patchy and, frustratingly for the industry, it’s a state of play that appears to be going completely unchallenged.

But corralling stray project sponsors into adopting BIM is probably the last thing on the Cabinet Office’s mind if all hands are needed on deck to trigger Article 50 and its aftermath. As one of our experts, Francis Ho, pointed out, that other B word has proved something of a distraction.

It’s all a far cry from 2011 when we had a government-backed construction strategy championed by the chief construction adviser setting out a vision for reducing costs of construction projects with BIM at its heart. In contrast, the sector barely merits a mention in Theresa May's industrial strategy today. 

That’s not to say there are no positives to report. The survey points to a sector that is growing in confidence in delivering BIM and the number clocking up more projects with BIM is rising.

The other big change is that consultants and contractors are putting frustrations with clients aside and moving ahead quickly with other off-the-shelf technologies such as tablets and software that link to BIM models to drive onsite efficiencies.

Perhaps this adoption of a more self-contained technology will take over from the cradle-to-grave blueprint set out in the so-called eight pillars of BIM.

But crunching through the survey’s numbers the obvious conclusion is the considerable risk of BIM’s progress stalling. What it urgently needs is a reboot to regain momentum – a major evidence-gathering exercise from the Construction Leadership Council to help prove its merits, even a very public reminder from government that it’s still important. Both might be good places to start.

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