Clients still not buying into BIM, reveals survey

BIM+/CM survey shows that even public sector organisations are not adopting the technology on contracts.

A high proportion of public sector clients are failing to adopt BIM on their projects, according to Construction Manager’s annual BIM survey. The results showed that only 38% of centrally-funded government clients made BIM a requirement on all of their projects, 12 months after the mandate for public funded projects requiring its adoption came into force.

In the same group one in four said they did not ask for BIM adoption on projects. When it came to public projects not funded centrally, more than six out of 10 clients said they did not require BIM.

The continued ambivalence of clients towards BIM highlighted in the survey of nearly 400 professionals, including 62 clients, is threatening to stall progress. This sentiment was reinforced by a group of experts brought together by Construction Manager for a round table discussion on the impact BIM was making at the operational level, where participants said clients were failing to see the benefits.

One of the attendees, Jill Guthrie, senior BIM Manager for Willmott Dixon Construction, said: “Clients still do not understand what they are asking for or what BIM is. The majority don’t have any idea and basically see BIM as a cost. This is a massive issue for us, especially when we are trying to embed this in a business – how do we then explain to our directors that this is what we need to be doing?”

David Jellings, managing director for UK at BIM Object, agreed: “The industry has stagnated in the past 12 months.”

Francis Ho, a partner at Penningtons Manches, added: “It has in some ways it has been a lost year. The other B-word [Brexit] has robbed a bit of momentum.”

Returning to the survey, almost half (49%) of clients overall said they did not make BIM a requirement on projects, a slightly higher percentage from 2016 where 45% clients said they did not make it a requirement. Again overall, one in five clients said they currently asked for BIM Level 2 on all of their projects, compared with one in four the year before. And in the private sector less surprisingly one in 10 said they demanded Level 2 BIM on 100% of projects, with half not at all.

On the more positive note, the survey results showed BIM was becoming more embedded in industry processes and with it a growing confidence among professionals. A total of 61% said they had at least some confidence or above, and 22% were confident to fully confident. In 2016, 52% of the respondents said they had “some” confidence or above, and of these just 17% were confident to fully confident.

And 39% still said they had little or no confidence, compared with 48% in 2016.

The number of respondents saying the organisation they worked for had not been involved in BIM was still high at 38%, but this had fallen from 49% in the previous year. Those who have been involved in 10 or more BIM projects had risen to 16% from 10% the previous year.

In terms of positive impact there was little change from 2016, with six out of 10 respondents saying BIM saved time and cost in the construction stage, though for clients this was lower at five out of 10.

Main image: Roman Sakhno/

Clients still do not understand what they are asking for or what BIM is. The majority don’t have any idea and basically see BIM as a cost.
– Jill Guthrie, Willmott Dixon

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  1. Number of issues here.

    Government level – (BIM Task Group and hubs have gone quiet) and there isn’t the visible push there was from Central Government. There has been a very lacklustre attempt at BIM by the likes of WAG and other devolved governments.

    The procurement routes mean there is little guidance on how BIM should be applied per contract and/or procurement type. This needs a resolution. All routes and contracts are not the same.

    End user employers don’t specify BIM properly and rarely bother creating or asking for help to create an EIR. They still don’t get the benefits for them.

    Ditto the main contractors when they are employing sub-consultants and sub-contractors. They do get the benefits but are only interested in their own gain, rather than the real benefits to the Employer. This an obvious state of affairs as all companies will only do BIM if it’s in their interests to do so, and that always boils down to money, P&L, cashflow, etc.

    MEP is still behind the curve and Landscape Architecture isn’t on board in any real sense, certainly when it comes to software tools that integrate with architecture and civils. Neither are other consultants to any great degree.

    All the big mouths time wasters have had they say to make themselves feel and look more important than they are, whilst getting paid shed loads. The rest of us have just quietly got on and made BIM work.

    We at Lawray Architects are on the ball as we are able and capable of delivering every new project to at least Level 2 BIM. We are in a great place for BIM Level 3, 4, n. Generally, we deliver to Level 2 in lonely BIM still. We are only as good as the weakest link in the chain after all.

    There now needs to be another big thrust throughout the whole industry as we have reached a stage where we are sitting on our laurels and waiting for the next big thing, it feels.

  2. Reaching clients remains the hardest part of BIM implementation. The UK BIM Alliance is now the focus for Level 2 roll-out but is initially focusing on the supply side. We need just as big a push on the demand side with coaching services available from client advisers. My own experience is that clients can get their heads around the role they play through a series of workshops based on my book, BIM for Construction Clients. Not all of Level 2 is needed by most clients and they can also progress in steps. But it’s important to link how they define their requirements to how they form the team and plan the work.

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