Why It’s Time for Contractors to Adopt Collaborative BIM


Building Information Modeling (BIM) isn’t a new concept in construction. Many contractors have been using this 3D design method for years now to improve collaboration, often with impressive results for efficiency and ROI. Despite its benefits, however, BIM adoption isn’t as widespread in construction as some might think, according to recent industry findings.

The JBKnowledge 2017 Construction Technology Report, which covers topics such as software adoption and IT investment, reveals some interesting—and perhaps a little troubling—insights about BIM. In the 2016 report, construction companies indicated they were planning to implement Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) teams. The 2017 report found the industry hasn’t made much progress in this regard. While 27 percent of companies reported having a BIM/VDC department, 28 percent said they don’t bid on BIM projects. Meanwhile, a quarter of companies only have one or two employees trained in BIM.

This data indicates the U.S. construction industry isn’t dedicating as much time and energy to BIM adoption as it could be. Ignoring this technology now could be detrimental to businesses in the future, though, and there are some significant reasons why investing in BIM soon will be worthwhile.

BIM Could Soon Be Necessary

The ConTech Report points out that one day soon BIM might not be optional for contractors in the United States. The United Kingdom, for example, has already adopted BIM standards. These standards were put in place to reduce costs and increase value across the industry by bringing everyone involved in a building project together to work from the same page.

If the United States adopts standards like these, contractors who have already invested in BIM will be well-positioned for the future, while those who haven’t will have to play catch up.

Numerous Benefits of BIM

Contractors shouldn’t think of BIM as something to invest in solely because of potential future obligation, though. BIM yields many benefits for contractors that are valuable right now:

  • Improved communication/collaboration—Information about a project can be tracked on a detailed level, with increased visibility, so teams can see who’s working on what when and easily share relevant information.
  • Fewer errors and rework—BIM enables easy review and commenting across project teams, which reduces errors and increases efficiency throughout all stages of a project.
  • Better logistics and staging—The extended team can easily see where materials and equipment will be staged, increasing oversight and efficiency during project execution.
  • Accessible, version-controlled documents—BIM software solutions simplify data management and expand accessibility of documents to the entire team. View, markup, and revision capabilities make changes visible to everyone in one source document to ensure everyone is working with the most recent data at all times.
  • Increased bid accuracy—Model-based estimating allows estimators to identify gaps and potential risks, leading to more accurate bids to win more work.
  • Efficiency in change order management—When change orders occur on projects, contractors can review quantity or material variances to verify change requests.
  • Streamlined handover—BIM improves access to information (such as warranties, serial numbers, and audit histories) after handover.

Because so many of these benefits relate to improved efficiency, BIM tends to have a strong impact on ROI. It also reduces liability by enabling more accurate planning and management.

Not all the news about BIM from this year’s report was problematic. The 2017 ConTech Report did find that of those companies using BIM, their level of confidence in using it well increased. The percent of companies that said they were very confident in their ability to maximize VDC/BIM increased from 7.1 in 2016 to 10.4 in 2017. Companies reported the most common process they were using BIM for was coordination/clash detection, followed by visualization, project planning, prefabrication, and virtual mock-ups.

What’s Holding Contractors Back?

Adopting new technologies and workflows isn’t always easy, and data suggests the reasons contractors haven’t flocked to BIM vary. Many contractors report a lack of qualified people to perform BIM work, or a lack of knowledge about BIM software in general. Other contractors still don’t view BIM/VDC as a high priority or said there were time constraints that prevented adoption.

While these obstacles certainly exist, it’s clear that it’s time for contractors to start taking advantage of BIM, if they haven’t already. BIM benefits go well beyond the design and pre-construction phase, especially when contractors opt for a collaborative approach to BIM. To learn more about collaborative BIM, read our recent whitepaper