UK client enthusiasm for BIM lags behind supply chain, study finds

An in-depth study into UK client attitudes to digital design and construction techniques – known as BIM (an acronym for building information modelling) – suggests that building owners are somewhat cool on the benefits.

The findings, published yesterday in a week in which the UK government’s mandate for BIM use came into effect, may be "ironic", the study’s co-author said, given that building owners are meant to be the main beneficiaries of BIM.

Produced by GCR’s sister publications BIM+ and Construction Manager, the report, called "BIM: What Clients Really Think" (available here), resulted from detailed telephone interviews and a contemporaneous online survey covered around 100 construction clients from central government agencies, local authorities, and the health and education sectors, as well as private developers and key project management firms advising clients on BIM.

Some key findings include:

  • Clients are paying, or being asked to pay a "BIM premium" – additional costs to cover the supply of BIM data;
  • Clients have seen less benefit from BIM in their own budgets or profits;
  • Clients are less likely to perceive benefits in terms of time savings on the project.

However, in operational efficiencies, 49% of clients reported positive signs or good results, higher than the 44% in the overall sample.

Clients are also less optimistic than the rest of the industry that BIM would achieve the various targets set out for it in government strategies, on shrinking programmes’ times, cutting costs and reducing carbon emissions.

CM and BIM+ editor Elaine Knutt, co-author of the report, questioned whether the benefits of BIM are falling more within the construction supply chain than with clients.

"That would be an ironic outcome," she wrote, "given the purposefully client-led nature of the government’s BIM adoption programme."

The report’s findings did, however, lead Knutt to conclude that BIM is changing the culture of the UK industry.

"While the mandate is likely to be implemented with inconsistencies and gaps, and the supply chain response will vary in capability and enthusiasm, it’s clear that the adoption so far has been sufficient to change the industry’s culture, and with enough momentum to bring further progress," she commented.

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