Polls and survey don’t always tell the full story – even on BIM

People are now clearer not only on what BIM is, but what it’s not. The NBS report makes clear that designers see BIM as a process, and not a piece of software.– Adrian Malleson, head of analysis, forecasting and research, NBS

Adrian Malleson, head of analysis, forecasting and research at NBS, on the recent NBS BIM Report 2015 and the challenge measuring BIM adoption.

The latest NBS UK BIM report suggests BIM adoption is down in the UK. This comes on the back of four years of rapid increase in BIM adoption.

In 2010 a mere 13% were using BIM (and 43% were unaware of it). Adoption then rose year-on-year – 31% used BIM in 2011, 39% in 2012, then 54% in 2013.

In 2014 BIM use dipped to 48%. A trend is a trend until it ends. Does this mean that 2013 was the year of peak BIM, that we can now expect year-on-year decline? For a number of reasons this seems unlikely.

The government has mandated collaborative 3D BIM for centrally funded projects, by 2016. A government mandate doesn’t always result in the mandated action, but this year’s BIM report uncovered encouraging signs for success.

A majority feel the government is on “the right track” with BIM. More than 80% of respondents to this year’s survey believe that BIM in some form will be compulsory on public sector projects, and 70% feel that the government will mandate BIM in the way specified in the construction strategy document, namely 3D collaborative BIM, also known as Level 2. For those who want to be involved in publicly funded work, it looks like BIM will be a must.

This chimes with people’s projections about BIM adoption. By 2016 83% see themselves as using BIM, and by 2017, 92 %. This doesn’t look like a stalled adoption curve, but the mid-point at which the late majority are looking to see the real benefits of BIM before taking the plunge.

It’s worth noting that as the years have passed, the industry’s understanding of BIM has become more sophisticated. People are now clearer not only on what BIM is, but what it’s not. The NBS report makes clear that designers see BIM as a process, and not a piece of software: only 11% take BIM to be a synonym for 3D CAD drawings, and only a fifth take it to be “all about software”. There is no “BIM in a box”.

All this leads us to expect that BIM adoption will pick up in the coming years, particularly in 2016 and beyond, as the government mandate becomes the reality for design practices.

That is not to say that universal BIM adoption is inevitable. Cost, lack of expertise and training remain major barriers to BIM adoption. As the economy improves and workloads pick up, around half of those surveyed also cite a lack of time to get up to speed. Almost two-thirds (63%) of participants said that lack of client demand is the main reason for not adopting BIM.

For BIM adoption to become universal the benefits it gives – both for outcomes for the client, and the profitability for those delivering buildings – needs to be demonstrated. The UK government has taken a lead on this, and the industry will be watching the results closely.

In the construction cost benchmark data the UK government provides some transparency; costs and savings are made visible. Early indicators are good, and BIM is playing its part in an overall cost reduction of 19.6% in the last reported year, 2013 /14. With real savings demonstrated, we believe the requirement to use BIM might be routinely shared by large private sector clients too.

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