UK industry unprepared for digital modelling techniques as government deadline rolls by

A UK government order for public sector projects to be delivered using advanced digital modelling to cut waste and errors came into force this week, but a survey reveals a low level of preparedness among the industry, with only 5% of respondents saying they are up to speed with the techniques.

To modernise the industry and help cut 20% off the cost of public construction projects, the UK government mandated in May 2011 that by 2016 all centrally procured government projects would have to use building information modelling, or BIM, to the intermediate stage of level 2.

BIM is a suite of techniques involving software and information sharing protocols that bases the project on a digital, 3D model of the structure, a model populated with all data necessary for its construction.

By keeping a central repository of information BIM can detect clashes and streamline the traditional construction process that is infamous for error, waste and overruns in time and cost, proponents of the technique say.

Monday 4 April was "Mandate Day", the deadline for the requirement to start using BIM, but a survey by GCR’s sister publication, Construction Manager, has found patchy client uptake and weak understanding of BIM’s fundamental standards.

The survey of 557 industry professionals also revealed that overall levels of confidence on BIM adoption are relatively low, with 27% scoring themselves as "very unsure" about working at Level 2 BIM, just 14% rating themselves as having "some confidence" and only 5% claiming to be "fully confident".

And of the 82 clients in the public and private sector who responded to the survey, the largest group at 36% (17) also rated themselves as "very unsure", although two claimed to be "fully confident".

Only 23% of clients said they planned to ask for Level 2 BIM as a contractual requirement on 100% of projects – and that included 14 of the 20 clients who represented central government departments.

The key findings of the survey can be explored here.

In addition, an in-depth analysis on UK industry attitudes to BIM, based on detailed interviews with a range of clients across government and the private sector, will be available in a free-to-download report tomorrow, 7 April. For more information click here.

Photograph: A sample of a digital model created using BIM techniques (DPR Construction/

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  1. No surprise here. Virtually everyone with experience in this area… and not out to simply market a product… predicted the U.K. BIM efforts would fail.

    The focus of the U.K. BIM effort, like in the U.S., was upon 3D visualization and technology, versus LEAN collaborative best management practices.

    The ONLY way to achieve significant productivity and quality gains in the renovation, repair, and maintenance of the built environment is through growing awareness, education, and consistent deployment of robust collaborative LEAN construction delivery methods such as Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, Job Order Contracting – JOC, and similar approaches.

    The U.S. BIM effort is stagnated… as will be the case in the U.K.

  2. I think it is a question of what are the users of BIM getting out of it. The government are after making a 20% reduction but users are not making 20% more profit in fact they are making a loss in a unproved system. To get more users to get into BIM the government needs to create a desire, a government directive dose not necessarily do that.
    Good government is about creating desires not about giving instructions.

  3. One thing the article does not really address is why not? I’d say there are a number of factors:
    1. The general adversarial approach within the construction industry (therefore the collaborative working element is less likely to be seen as the benefit it is)
    2. An attachment towards traditional ways of working (I saw this recently with Graham Clarkson’s report to InnovateUK about the tendency to revert to the familiar printed drawings)
    3. Over enthusiasm for technical whizz bang visuals rather than what really matters (ie Data and sharing)
    4. Absolutely dire marketing, including digital. Have you seen ? Comment

  4. David C, I concur. However, I would also add that one of the biggest barriers to wholesale BIM adoption is the unfortunate consequences of BIM evangelists getting carried away by the theoreticals (oddly not as painful as it sounds). It’s all very well and good to have architects and Quantity Surveyors waxing lyrical about concurrency et al on Twitter but such zeal has served to alienate a great many contractors and sub-contractors who often feel there’s an elitist agenda at play. This is really where government marketing should have sought to readdress the imbalance. However, they’ve been far too busy preaching to the converted. There’s not any need to bleat onto people about the philosophy of BIM. For the most part, people only want to save time and money. I’d have been a whole lot happier if the Task Group had taken the time to explain the fiscal benefits of buying-in services, for example, rather than flapping around schmoozing the Twitterati while failing to even have their own website ready for the mandate deadline. Still, £15m assigned to level 3. Another benchmark not to meet on time or with any aplomb!

  5. As I once mentioned on a Linkedin discussion; BIM has grown arms and legs; as Peter mentioned above; “the users are more focused on 3D visualization and technology, versus LEAN collaborative best management practices”.
    The basic principles of BIM are a good idea but the implementation has become too unwieldy, with too much administration and regulation.

  6. The whole BIM (3d design aspect) system isnt clever enough in high detail to replace the bespoke nature of many of the trades designing into buildings without significant investment (which hasnt happened) and a hell of a lot more time to prepare designs in the 3d environment. CAD is still far better at this in 2d for many subcontract trades. The 3d model is great to give the client a visual of what a building will look like, provide walkthrough,s etc. and can be used to integrate all the O&M data into a finished model, it is even useful for time planning projects, but as far as being useful in the physical design of the building in sufficient detail to assist construction, it comes up far to short of the bar to be useful. The time taken to model things in sufficient detail to make it work would take too long and be too expensive to meet the requirements of most budgets or programmes. Hopefully it wont be rolled out further than public sector projects, but whilst there it will just add cost and be one more red herring instigated by a government who insists in wasting tax payers money.

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