Countdown to BIM

With less than a year to go before all government projects demand BIM collaboration, where have architects got to?

Just over 50% of architects have used BIM on at least one project in the last year. This is the encouraging and perhaps predictable finding of the fifth annual NBS National BIM Survey.

This year’s survey takes a look a BIM adoption and attitudes right across the UK construction sector. Architects make up over a half of the respondents, so the data allows us to get a detailed understanding of their views. Consultants’ take up of the technology is a bellwether for the rest of the construction industry which will often come onto the project later in the process. This year we find that the rest of the industry is just behind at 46%.

Rates of awareness and experience of BIM among architects.
Rates of awareness and experience of BIM among architects.

BIM is now a normal way of going about the design process. It is much less a niche, or cutting edge, methodology, as it was five years ago. That said, in previous years we have seen significant year on year growth in adoption, with overall adoption rising from 13% in 2010, to over 50% in 2013, but this year not. The number of those telling us they have used BIM has remained broadly the same. What should we make of this? Well, it may just be a predictable new technologies adoption curve, with the innovators, early adopters and early majority now using BIM, and the late majority waiting in the wings to see how useful (and profitable) BIM proves to be.

Expectations about future BIM adoption suggest this is a slowdown, not the end, of BIM adoption. Almost an additional third of architects expect to adopt BIM in 2016, and 92% expect to be using it by 2018.

Projections of awareness of BIM.
Projections of awareness of BIM.

This anticipated rate of adoption ties in with government requirements as set out in Construction 2025. This year, 2015, is the last that those who to wish work on central government funded projects have a choice about BIM. By 2016, as a part of the wider construction strategy, the UK government will require ‘fully collaborative 3D BIM’ on centrally procured projects. Those who want to take on this type of work, will need to get take it on with BIM.

So in the latest survey we wanted to take a look at how the architectural community views the government’s BIM requirement, and how it fits within the wider construction strategy.

We found that most architects (81%) think the government will go through with its BIM requirement, and that this will take the form of collaborative 3D BIM (70%). Two thirds are willing to say the government is on the right track with BIM; many of those who have yet to adopt it feel that the government is right to require it. We also asked if people agree with the claim that the UK is ‘the world leader in BIM’ – the government’s stated ambition: 54% agree that it is. 

Arcitects' expectations of BIM.
Arcitects' expectations of BIM.
BIM's perceived contribution to industry issues.
BIM's perceived contribution to industry issues.

So, in general, the UK architectural community is supportive of the government’s approach to BIM. This is not, of course, universal, with a small number of architects predicting that BIM will fall short of expectation, in one way or another. But overall, the government’s policy is supported.

Of course, BIM primarily has a place in government strategy because it is there to help meet the broader targets the government has set. These are: a one-third reduction in capital and whole life costs, a 50% faster construction process, a 50% reduction in greenhouse gasses and a 50% improved trade balance for UK construction products. These are ambitious. We wanted to get a sense of whether architects felt that an adoption of BIM would help us reach them. For all these targets, at least, BIM was not felt to hinder their achievement (though nearly 10% did feel that BIM would hinder the speedy delivery of ‘assets’). For cost reduction, 56% felt BIM would help. On delivery time, 45% felt BIM would improve matters, while the same number felt it would make no difference. Fewer thought BIM would help when it comes to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (only a third, 35%) or a reduction in the trade gap of construction products (a fifth, 21%).

So the findings this year suggest that BIM adoption is reaching maturity and that there is broad support for the government’s strategy, which, in turn, will help the broader construction strategy. There is much else the survey uncovered, and you can read the full findings at theNBS.com.


Adrian Malleson is head of research at NBS