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Contractors slow to adopt BIM

16 Nov 12 The majority of contractors recognise the potential benefits of BIM but are failing to adopt it, a new survey shows.

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) carried out a survey into how UK contractors are gearing up for the technological and organisational challenges of BIM. It got 170 responses from a broad cross-section of the industry.

The NFB BIM readiness survey was carried out with the support of CITB-ConstructionSkills.

The findings suggest that use of BIM tools is still largely confined to larger projects, large contractors and their supply chains.

Nearly three-quarters of SME contractors (companies with less than 250 employees) said that they had never worked on projects using 3D drawings, clash detection or schedule integration tools, or other BIM features. By contrast, only a fifth of large contractors had no experience of using these tools.

However, the survey revealed a widespread recognition across the sector that BIM will be important in the near future and will bring business benefits.

The majority of both large contractors (78%) and SME contractors (57%) said that they believed BIM would bring benefits to their business. Furthermore, just under two-thirds of large contractors and just under half of SME contractors see BIM as being a core competency within their business either now or in the future.

However, the survey found that there remains a major gap between belief in the likely benefits of BIM and a clear understanding of BIM requirements and what these will mean for respondents’ businesses.

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The government construction strategy mandates the use of BIM Level 2 working on all centrally funded projects by 2016, and there is an expectation that the wider public sector will follow suit. However, three quarters of respondents (81% of SME contractors and 42% of large contractors) admitted being either unfamiliar or only vaguely familiar with the ‘Levels of BIM’ which are used to describe tools and techniques at different maturity levels. Only a quarter of large contractors said that they both understood the level of BIM and had actively considered the implications for their projects.

Qualitative responses to the survey suggest that limited information, concern over the level of investment required and uncertainty around demand among local authority client base are the key barriers inhibiting BIM adoption among SME contractors.

The survey also found a marked reluctance to invest in BIM training, particularly among SMEs:

  • Only 10% of SMEs are planning to organise training, compared to 52% of large contractors  
  • 36% of SME contractors and 22% of large contractors say that they are waiting for BIM practices to standardise before deciding on training
  • 27% of SME contractors and 22% of large contractors are relying on free training or seminars

NFB chief executive Julia Evans said: “The government’s mandating of BIM has set the industry a major challenge. This is a progressive challenge which can be met, but it is important for the industry as a whole that SME contractors do not get left behind.

“Following the NFB survey – the first of its kind - we now have a much clearer picture of where the contracting sector stands. The desire to embrace innovation and more efficient working practice is evident, but the lessons of the survey are clear: we need to bridge the gap between this appetite for change and the know-how to make that leap.

“In conjunction with CITB-ConstructionSkills, the NFB is currently piloting an early adoption programme which is producing a more in depth understanding of the barriers to, and benefits of, BIM adoption for SMEs. We will work with partners across the industry to share this knowledge and to develop systems of information, guidance and support appropriate to the sector as whole.”

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