‘BIM has improved profits – quicker than we thought’

BIM has already improved profitability to the business – far quicker than we expected. We are hitting reduced programme targets, meaning that there are no costs of overrunning, which often can’t be recouped on design-and-build projects.– Malcolm Clarke, Baxall

At last month’s BIM4SME awards, Kent-based SME contractor Baxall Construction won the award for Best SME Newcomer. BIM+ spoke to managing director, Malcolm Clarke, to find out why they have adopted BIM and how it has benefited the company.

What was the reason for your company adopting BIM? 

We started working collaboratively in the 1990s, this is our strength, and our business has been built around teamwork. The government’s decision to mandate BIM has certainly driven adoption, however, the overriding reason we have adopted BIM is that there is a major opportunity for us to reduce cost. 

The business case for BIM is very convincing. Costs can be reduced by driving out waste while in the design process. Changes can be identified and resolved in seconds on a computer that could take days and cost thousands to resolve on site. There is also the issue of predictability of cost and programme as well as the client’s satisfaction. 

What benefits has BIM brought to the company?

BIM has already improved profitability to the business – far quicker than we expected. We are hitting reduced programme targets, meaning that there are no costs of overrunning, which often can’t be recouped on design-and-build projects. We are able to hand over sites almost defect free without a legacy of sign-off issues as a result of design issues.

Another benefit is that subcontractors are beginning to reduce their prices as they are beginning to believe that they can be more efficient and won’t be messed around. They are able to be more competitive on our projects as they are exposing themselves to lower levels of risk.

What are the biggest obstacles you have had to overcome?

Clients’ understanding of BIM is the biggest obstacle for us. Often they do not know what BIM is, do not know what they want from it or indeed how they will use the information created and available to them.

Are your clients asking for or even demanding BIM?

So far local authorities are the only clients that have directly asked for BIM. With private clients we always advise that BIM is utilised, telling them that it will cut cost, reduce risk and help them hit their budgets, at the same time giving them better as-built information.

When we do our risk analysis to determine whether we take on a project we ask if the project has been developed in BIM and to what level the 3D Model has been produced. If we have the choice we will turn down traditionally-designed projects.

Are any companies in your supply chain using BIM?

When we decided to take this on we looked to find teams of consultants that wanted to work collaboratively and were interested in taking the BIM journey with us. This means that all of the consultants we use today are using BIM. 

Suppliers and subcontractors are gradually adopting it. We are trying to bring subcontractors into a BIM environment by inviting them to meetings and exposing them to the benefits of BIM. Of course, we want them involved as we need them to have the confidence to drop their prices. At the moment it is a slow burner, but I think that there will be a point when BIM is very quickly adopted by the suppliers and subcontractors, if for no other reason than the business case.

Are you considering becoming BIM certified?

I don’t believe that there should be a separate BIM certification. Everything that involves BIM processes is currently being incorporated into our ISO 9001 Quality Management System, the scope of which is being amended to include BIM, which will them be audited as usual. To have another standard seems unnecessary, but of course if that’s what is needed to demonstrate our particular BIM capability we will do it.

How can the industry encourage other SMEs to adopt BIM?

The emphasis needs to be placed on the business case. SMEs should be using BIM as it’s good for their businesses not just because it’s a client requirement.

SMEs also have an advantage when adopting BIM as cultures can be changed and systems enhanced quicker as a smaller business. There is also a great opportunity to be competitive on the smaller projects where the larger contractors do not feel BIM is worthwhile.

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  1. Malcolm spoke very convincingly about this at the last Union Square user conference. What was particularly noteworthy for me was his confidence that it was already delivering lower construction costs, and that this was the key benefit rather than merely compliance or some as yet unrealissed hypothetical savings.

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