Building Information Modelling (BIM) has had an enormous impact on the construction industry over the past decade. However, while BIM software is widely used at large firms, a 2019 National BIM Survey showed that almost a third of construction companies do not use the technology yet. And this is especially the case at small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) where take-up is still relatively low.
Adopting new digital technology takes time and serious investment, and so many smaller firms are reluctant to begin using it. However, as BIM becomes more deeply ingrained in UK construction, it is increasingly hard to ignore.
Fortunately, there are ways that SME’s can start to become ‘BIM-ready’ without an enormous upfront investment.
Why is it important to become ‘BIM-ready’?
There are several factors that are pushing UK construction industry firms to begin adopting BIM software. These include:
- Clear benefits of the technology: BIM software provides multiple benefits which make it attractive. For example, the National BIM Survey mentioned above showed that 48% of firms who use BIM software said it had increased their profitability and workflow.
- Network effect: The more firms that use BIM, the more valuable the technology becomes. As BIM gets ever more widespread, firms that are not BIM-ready will be left behind. If the architect, main contractor and client are using BIM software, any sub-contractors should plan to be BIM-ready too. If you are not, you risk losing out on work.
- Essential for government contracts: Using BIM has been mandatory for any firm which wishes to work on government contracts since 2011. With the current government urging British firms to “build, build, build”, being BIM-ready will allow your firm to access a pipeline of projects.
BIM adoption in UK building-construction technology market has been mandatory since May 2011 and it has been upgraded 3 times again in 2016, 2017 and 2019 respectively to implement a higher level of BIM. If it is not a choice anymore, then you must know how to get the maximum benefits from building information modelling software.
Learn more: Read about the benefits of BIM
12 factors that slow BIM software adoption in 2020
Considering all these benefits, why are many firms still not using BIM software? According to the National BIM survey 2019, firms cite the following factors:
- No client demands.
- Lack of in-house expertise.
- Lack of training.
- The projects we work on are too small.
- BIM is not relevant to the projects we work on.
- No established contractual framework for working with BIM.
- Lack of standardized tools and protocols.
- Lack of collaboration.
- Differences in expertise among collaborating parties in a project.
- Operating System specific software.
- Don’t see the benefit.
While these objections are understandable, consider the case of Blockbuster. The video rental firm was, in the 1990s, the king of home movie rental. However, they failed to see the importance of digital streaming. Within a couple of decades had seen their business completely swallowed by online rivals like Netflix.
BIM software represents a comparable digitisation of the construction industry. And so, firms which wish to survive must learn from the case of Blockbuster: going digital is no longer an option.
How to start using BIM software in 2020
The good news is that being BIM-ready does not necessarily require you to invest huge sums of money in new technology and skills. Depending on where you sit in the construction process, it may require little more than arming your teams with apps to use on their smartphones.
To understand how to get started with BIM software, it’s useful to gain a picture of how BIM is used in projects as a whole:
- BIM projects normally start with the architecture phase when architects and other technical experts create the design. In this phase, BIM helps in making better design decisions and gives you an insight into the project lifecycle by using Revit.
- The next step is civil and structural design. Here, BIM connects the workflow and improves predictability by using civil 3D.
- Next is the MEP (mechanical, electrical plumbing) and plant design phase where you can guarantee efficient collaboration by using AutoCAD Plant 3D and Revit.
- Last but not least is the construction phase when you can start digitizing the whole construction site and merge between all the previous stages to ensure the most accurate as-built ratio.
What BIM maturity level does your firm need?
- If you work in one of the first 3 steps outlined above, you will need a high level of BIM knowledge and expertise. It will be essential to hire BIM designers and arm your teams with BIM knowledge through training.
- On the other hand, if you provide construction services, MEP installation, skilled crafts or building management, your BIM skill levels do not need to be anywhere near as high. Instead, you simply need to use tools which allow you to view a BIM model and interact with it. In this case, the threshold to being BIM-ready is relatively low.
To be able to view BIM models, you will need to choose a program which can read IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) file formats. This is an open standard data model where all this information can merge in one place. This file format is developed and managed by the international organisation buildingSMART and is the primary data exchange format used in BIM projects in the construction industry. Your partners in the first 3 stages of the project can provide you with IFC files which your preferred app will display.
Being BIM-ready is easier than you might think
If your firm wishes to become BIM-ready, it may be easier than you think. In many cases, all you need is a tool which allows your employees to view IFC files and interact with the BIM models. And this is where tools like PlanRadar help.
PlanRadar provides an easy-to-use interface where your team members can view and interact with BIM models while on-site. Using a laptop, iOS (Apple), Android or Windows smartphone/tablet, they can use GPS and a navigator to locate pins and tickets inside the 3D BIM model. It is then possible to record information about the construction project directly on the BIM model for others to see. PlanRadar also allows you to assign these tickets to the responsible worker and check the task has been completed right on the model itself.
BIM software is increasingly becoming the norm in UK construction, and it is widely used by major firms. And with tools like PlanRadar, barriers to entry are lower ever – even for smaller firms.