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Two-thirds of practices are now using BIM

Words:
Adrian Malleson

By next year 90% of architects expect to be using building information modelling, according to the latest National BIM survey from the NBS. But some criticise the way the UK BIM mandate is being implemented

It’s seven years since the NBS began assessing the views of the design community in its National BIM report. In that time, BIM has moved from a specialism of a few to mainstream practice.

This is the first report following the introduction of the UK BIM mandate, and this year saw the biggest rise in BIM adoption for several years. It shows that the design community tends to see BIM bringing clear benefits. It is the future of design information.

The report also identifies challenges to come, particularly better client education and a more rigorous enforcement of the BIM mandate.

Architects are the largest single group of respondents to the survey. There were more than 1,000 respondents, of whom nearly a third were architects.

BIM adoption within the architectural community

BIM is well embedded in architectural practice, with over two-thirds telling us they have adopted BIM (compared with 62% overall).

Of course, adopting BIM does not necessarily mean using it for every project, but one in five of those who have adopted BIM do so. Fifty-two per cent use BIM on more than 75% of their projects. Seventy per cent use it on a majority of projects. Architects are not adopting BIM in an experimental way; it is transforming how practices routinely carry out the business of design and delivery.

The graph below shows all architects’ current and projected use of BIM. Sixty-seven per cent are currently using BIM on some projects, with 13% using it on all projects, and 33% on a majority.

By next year, 90% of architects expect to be using BIM. Within five years, 96% expect to be using it on at least some projects, and half expect to be using it on all projects. Of course, intentions are not always realised, but the direction of travel is clear. In the coming years more practices will use BIM, and they will use it for more and more projects.

We also asked which levels of BIM people saw themselves as having reached. Over a quarter told us that they had reached level 1. Sixty-eight per cent said they had reached level 2 – this is the mandated level. Five percent tell us that they are at BIM level 3. What constitutes level 3 is still a work in progress, so perhaps those describing themselves as being at level 3 are those pushing collaborative BIM to its fullest current potential. Overall, architects described themselves as being at slightly lower levels than all respondents. Perhaps this reflects the architectural community’s understanding of the rigorous requirements of the levels. 

There is a growing level of BIM skill and knowledge among the architectural community. Most architects assess them as confident in their skills and knowledge in BIM, with 20% describing themselves as very confident and 34% as quite confident. Less than a quarter describe themselves as not confident.

BIM and the Government mandate

The UK’s BIM mandate is strategic; it derives from the Government’s construction strategy. Within the strategy are four ambitious targets: lower cost, more rapid delivery, fewer greenhouse emissions and a better trade balance for construction products. The graph below shows the architecture community’s assessment of BIM’s ability to help meet those targets. 

BIM will not stand in the way of meeting these targets, but it is only for cost reduction and more rapid delivery that a majority see it helping. Indeed, overall, architects are slightly less positive about BIM’s ability to help us meet these strategic aims than the wider respondent base.

Forty-seven per cent say the Government is on the right track with BIM, and only 19% do not.

There are areas for real concern though. Forty-three percent tell is that the Government is not enforcing the BIM mandate, 38% are unclear on what they have to do to meet it, and only 21% say the Government is delivering on it. With this as a backdrop, perhaps we can understand why only 23% believe the UK is the world leader in BIM.

What to make of this? Through the years we have been running the survey we have seen the design community come to routinely adopt BIM, and the level of sophistication of BIM understanding and application to grow commensurately. We might reasonably expect government departments to need a little time to embrace BIM fully and become the sophisticated BIM clients we need.

The mandate is just for centrally procured projects. Many of respondents’ comments mentioned that local government is behind, still at the start of the BIM journey. As the benefits of BIM become evident through central government projects, we might expect local government to increasingly request, or require, BIM on their projects.

Overall, for architects 2016 was a year in which BIM adoption increased, in which it was used on more projects, and in which its use has become deeper, as more practices move up the levels of BIM. These trends look set to continue.

While the architectural community has been somewhat critical of the implementation of the BIM mandate, these are early days. Given the leading role UK architecture has played in BIM, perhaps government departments will take a little time to catch up. With the clear government commitment to BIM, the cost savings and the faster delivery of buildings, there is good reason to think they will.


Adrian Malleson is head of research at NBS

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