BIM adoption in the UK – history and impact

The UK is widely perceived to be a global leader in the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology. In 2019, almost 70% of all construction industry professionals were using BIM on projects, and most of the rest were well aware of its existence. What is the story behind this technology’s uptake in the UK?

An image of London for an article on BIM in the UK

The story of BIM adoption in the UK

The UK’s position as a global BIM leader started with the government’s 2011 construction strategy. Historically, the UK’s construction sector had struggled with productivity and efficiency, so the government was keen to improve how the sector worked. The strategy for achieving this involved:

  • Setting a target of BIM Level 2 usage in all government projects

In 2011, the new policy mandated that BIM Level 2 had to be used on all projects as a minimum by 2016. BIM Level 2 means the design and storage of 3D models in a common environment where all stakeholders can see them. This step led to an overall increase in BIM adoption in both the public and private sector.

  • Upgrading from BIM Level 2 to BIM Level 3

In March 2016, the government announced that they now expected the industry to upgrade from BIM Level 2 to BIM Level 3 by 2020 (use of a single online model that includes scheduling, cost and project management information). By 2017 some 62% of professionals were using a BIM system. Since then, the UK has continued to see rising BIM usage.

Learn more: What are the benefits of BIM?

How has BIM impacted UK construction?

“The successful delivery of the UK Government Construction Strategy (GCS) Level 2 BIM programme now sees the UK take on a global leadership role and represents an internationally unparalleled achievement on the journey towards the digitisation of our built environment” – National BIM Report, 2017

So, how has BIM changed the UK construction industry? Findings from various studies indicate a significant positive impact:

  • Reduced waste

BIM helps architects, designers and contractors to reduce waste. A BIM model helps define exactly how much material you require to build an asset. This means that stakeholders do not purchase more material than required and therefore reduce waste. This has related benefits too – from saving money to reducing the environmental impact of construction.

  • Improves collaboration

BIM has helped improve collaboration in UK construction – with nearly half of construction professionals saying that it has changed their working relationships for the better. BIM improves collaboration by allowing all stakeholders to view the same model at the same time, meaning they can discuss projects, iron out any confusion and avoid misunderstandings.

  • Enhanced productivity

Using a BIM model has helped to improve productivity on building projects in several ways. It can help firms forecast better, assign tasks to workers more efficiently and therefore makes jobs more predictable. Designers can also use smart BIM software which checks the model for clashes and errors – and this means that less time is wasted on site resolving these sorts of problems.

  • Boosted digital technology adoption

The UK’s BIM strategy meant that any firm wishing to bid for government contracts was obliged to use BIM tools. This has driven digital adoption in an industry which had traditionally been a laggard in this area. More UK construction companies are using digital tools than ever, and this has sparked adoption of other construction tech too.

  • Saved time

BIM models have also saved time on maintenance and operation on completed assets. Stakeholders can view a BIM model and explore design data. Therefore they can manage sites better and save up to 15% on maintenance time.

Learn more: Why is it important to become BIM ready?

Still a long way to go

While BIM in the UK has seen wide adoption and real success, there are still improvements to be made – one industry insider scored the government’s strategy 7 out of 10. Some of the main challenges for BIM in the UK include:

  • Improving uptake in the private sector (only government contracts require BIM accreditation).
  • Encouraging smaller firms to use BIM. At present large, established firms dominate BIM usage.
  • Overcoming the ROI issue – BIM involves a significant upfront investment in terms of technology but also skills and training. Some firms have backed away from using BIM due to this initial commitment.

 

Despite these challenges, the outlook remains good for BIM. It is now seen less as a revolutionary tool, and more like ‘business as usual’. By becoming more deeply entwined with UK construction, the benefits of BIM will gradually spread throughout the sector.

Digital ready construction

The UK government’s construction strategy has had a profound impact on the use of digital technology in the industry. More firms than ever are using BIM tools to communicate and collaborate and seeing the benefits. As the industry becomes more digital, there are opportunities for further innovation by using tools that extend the impact of BIM.

Take PlanRadar. The mobile app allows everyone working on a project to view BIM models on a smartphone or tablet and improve how they work:

  • For site managers, it provides the final piece of the puzzle for BIM, by letting them assign tasks to employees, directing them to exactly what needs to be done on the BIM model.
  • Project managers, can see in fine-grained detail which tasks have been completed and how the project is moving forward.
  • For maintenance and operations teams, it brings all the original BIM designs into a single space where they can locate problems and assign tasks.

 

To see how PlanRadar puts BIM models in the hands of everyone on your projects, visit our BIM product page.

The UK’s approach to BIM has placed it as a global leader in this technology. And, by encouraging the sector to go digital, it has kick-started even more exciting innovations too.