Faster BIM adoption among smaller architect practices

New research has shown that almost four out of five architectural practices (79%) moved to adopt BIM working between 2011, the year of the government’s mandate announcement, and 2016, the year the mandate came into effect.

Large practices responded more steadily than smaller practices to the need to prepare for BIM adoption, but the smaller practices achieved full adoption more quickly.

The research was carried out by associate professor Dr Mohamad Kassem of Northumbria University and Ahmed Louay, a PhD candidate at Sheffield University School of Architecture. 

They surveyed a sample of 500 organisations listed as providers of BIM services with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and 178 participated in the study.

The report’s authors note that other factors separate from the mandate will have played a part in driving BIM’s adoption.

“Other factors that influence BIM diffusion [speed of adoption] are associated with the market environment (ie external environment), the organisation characteristics (ie internal environment) and the innovation/BIM characteristics.”

The 10 most influential factors they identified were: communication behaviour of organisations; top management support; organisation size; organisational culture; organisational readiness; relative advantage of the innovation; observability of the innovation benefits; compatibility of the innovation; and other forms of “isomorphic pressures”, for example, mimicking successful practices; and conforming to beliefs, norms, or conventions.

Commenting on the smaller firms’ rapidity of BIM adoption, the authors say: “The large-sized organisations developed their ‘awareness’ and ‘intention’ quicker than the micro and small-sized organisations. However, despite this advantage at the awareness and intention stage, the adoption rates of the large-sized sample did not reach 100% earlier than that of the micro-sized organisations.

“Indeed the micro-sized organisations surpass the large-sized organisations and achieve full rates of adoption one year earlier… This indicates that micro-sized organisations traverse the three stages quicker than the other organisations sizes. This trend can be justified by:

  • The high agility that characterise micro-sized organisations when responding to change compared to large-sized organisations.
  • Higher vulnerability of micro-sized organisations to mimetic and coercive forces compared to large sized organisations.”

Smaller practices which only adopted BIM post-2016 may not have been fully prepared for the transition, suggest the authors.

“Post-2016, our correlation analysis for micro-sized organisations exhibited a negative correlation between the mandate and organisations’ readiness. This suggests micro organisations have made the decision to adopt BIM to respond to the mandate rather than as a result of achieved readiness.”

The authors note that large organisations “are more adept to standardisation and need only some minor adaptations (incremental change) of their workflows to comply, while SMEs need to make a more radical change from non-standardised to standardised workflows”.

Very few firms adopted BIM in 2011, the year of the mandate announcement. “This can be justified by the uncertainty around the country’s BIM vision and strategy at that early stage in the policy development and implementation. They are evidence in management studies from diverse disciplines that uncertainty can lead to a delay in investment and adoption decisions.”

Dr Kassem commented: “We are now trying to understand how the top drivers and factors affecting adoption decisions interact with each other to form causal relationship networks. These insights could inform the planning of tailored policy actions that improve BIM diffusion rates.”

If you have experience in the BIM adoption process within architectural organisations (eg as an internal or external change agent), they are seeking your input through this survey (completion time less than 15 minutes).

Image: Wutthichai Luemuang/

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  1. It’s one thing to know you want to get into BIM it is quite another to produce high quality models with good meta data.

  2. You are right Steve but this is not part of our research scope/objectives.

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