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BIM use is not meeting government targets and many barriers
to digital adoption in construction remain, our extensive industry survey
finds. By Denise Chevin.
The fifth annual Construction Manager BIM survey, in
conjunction with BIM+, shows a mixed picture of a sector still not wholly at
ease with digital technology. The adoption of BIM shows little sign of
accelerating, but the use of technologies that enable remote working, such as
VR, teleconferencing and drones, is on the rise.
In this year’s survey of almost 300 construction
professionals, over half of respondents say they hardly ever make use of BIM on
their projects, with the results highlighting a lack of digital skills holding
uptake back. One in five, however, are using it regularly. And there is a
strong indication that the impact of coronavirus and working patterns would
drive uptake going forward, though this would mean finding more money for
investment – currently another key barrier.
Digital technologies have not been embraced at pace across the
sector according to 45% of respondents, with only 3% saying construction is
‘going digital’ rapidly (scoring five on a scale of 1-5). Nearly four in 10
estimate the pace of digital uptake as moderate, scoring it 3.
Architects have been the most enthusiastic in finding BIM
beneficial: nearly 60% say they have found it very helpful/helpful on projects
in which they were involved with the design.
Across the sector, BIM is acknowledged as moderately useful
for construction methodology, programming and cost control. In the FM sector,
which has historically been slower to adopt BIM than construction, as many as
nearly one-third (31%) have found BIM to be useful or very useful on projects.
Supplying digital asset data at the completion of a project
is commonly understood to be one of the main benefits of BIM but here again the
trend follows findings in previous years: over half of respondents have not or
have rarely been asked to supply digital asset data. Just over a quarter,
however, have often or very often been asked to do so.
The main organisational barriers to BIM’s adoption, or
further adoption, were identified as the lack of digital skills (64%); limited
funds to invest in new technology (56%); uninterested clients (52%); not enough
evidence of benefits (45%); the boardroom out of touch with technology (41%);
and confusing messages from technology vendors (33%).
More than six in 10 respondents (62%) said organisations
would invest more in BIM and digital technology if there was more evidence of
benefits – showing why there is an urgent need to develop new evaluation tools.
This point was made elsewhere recently in a report commissioned from
Northumbria University by the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) in
partnership with the UK BIM Alliance, which highlighted a lack of effective
tools for assessing BIM maturity, or for evaluating its benefits.
Factors that survey respondents say would add impetus to
BIM/digital-isation were: strict enforcement of BIM requirements on public
tenders (52%); the Hackitt reforms mandating handover of digital asset
information – the so-called golden thread (32%); and the effect of coronavirus
on working patterns (30%).
With those points in mind, the role of BIM in government
reforms following the Hackitt Review could prove very influential. However, a
document released in April costing changes alongside the government’s plans to
respond to Hackitt seemed to suggest that BIM requirements had been downgraded
for new, refurbished and existing buildings.
Results show slow uptake of ISO 19650.
Perhaps surprisingly, just over half of respondents have not
adopted a BIM standard, with the rest of the respondents on board with one.
That aside, the results show there has been a transition
from the British PAS 1192 suite to the international ISO 19650 suite,
which was introduced last year: fewer
than 10% of the respondents say they are still using PAS 1192; 26% have
transitioned from the old to the new; and 11% say they are using ISO 19650.
The results mirror research carried out recently by John
Ford, technical development lead for Galliford Try, and set out in BIM+ in late
April this year.
Ford found that only “a tiny fraction of our projects are
truly following the process defined in the PAS/ISO under whichever framework
banner you want to use”.
Despite the government mandate of four years ago that by
2020 all centrally funded projects adhere to the information management
processes defined in a UK-centric, whole-life approach to built assets in PAS
1192-2/3, and reiterated in IS0 19650 – or BIM Level 2 – the full set of steps
that must be taken to deliver building and client benefits is not happening.
Ford said: “We are certainly not at business as usual when
it comes to delivering projects to the process… defined within the old PAS/BIM
L2 framework and the new ISO 19650/UK BIM framework, because we still have
a great majority of projects that don’t get clear employer information
“Those that do obtain a clear EIR often don’t go on to use
all the information provided to them as requested, especially the information
requirements for FM purposes.”
Tablets and smartphones seen as providing most value for
operations on site.
Questioned about the most useful technologies they use, 68%
of respondents named tablets and smartphones for their value in their
operations. This 15% rise from the previous year’s survey demonstrates how
mainstream such devices have become.
Closely following tablets and smartphone as the most useful
technology was video conferencing, which was nominated by 66% of respondents –
undoubtedly a reflection of the current circumstances.
Design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA), which last year’s survey showed to be on the rise, has made very little progress across the sector in the past 12 months. Just under half of respondents (47%) said the technology was being used on projects they were involved in, compared to the previous year’s figure of 46%.
Drone usage increased year on year, with over half of
respondents (53%) reporting it as a moderate benefit on site. But just 9% said
drones were providing really positive onsite value.
Indicating that virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR)
has started to come of age, 38% said it is of high benefit in onsite
Artificial intelligence is also making advances, with just under a third of respondents saying it is proving useful (18%) or very useful (11%), and 27% saying it’s being used to a moderate extent.
The 291 professionals who responded to our survey conducted between the middle of April and early May were drawn from across the UK construction sector, as follows:
- 14% public sector client
- 11% private sector client
- 25% main contractor
- 14% project manager/QS
- 14% consulting engineer
- 10% architect
- 8% specialist contractor
- 3% housebuilder.
Organisations they work for ranged in size from fewer than 20 employees (27%) to over 1,000 employees (29%).