Half Full Or Half Empty?


A Response to the whitepaper BIM: What Clients Really Think.

When you watch re-runs of Dad’s Army do you believe Private Frazer when he informs the platoon that “we’re doomed” or do you laugh?

From my perspective, the UK Construction Industry is doing very well in moving towards BIM Level 2. Just look how far, and how fast, we have come since 2011. We now have an industry that understands that BIM is not (just) 3D modelling, not just about design and construction, but structured data – and that that data can bring huge efficiencies to the whole life costs of an asset. We have a reasonable portion of the industry now starting to deliver data and models. (Viewpoints For Projects CDE data usage figures are going through the roof!)

we have (in just five years!) a complete set of standards and guidance and I’m seeing more and more adoption of the standards as I visit Viewpoint’s users. We also have a growing number of certified training courses and academic education requirements are being addressed through the BIM Academic Forum. We have (at least in Government) increasingly knowledgeable Client bodies (for example the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Crown Prosecution Services recently produced a great OIR, AIR, PLQ, EIR, IDP and BEP pro-forma suite of documents in line with the BIM Level 2 procurement process). We also know that Government have allocated £15 million for the development of BIM Level 3.

Yet, last week I sat on a round table discussion at the BRE’s BIM Prospects conference in London. The doom and gloom from the table and from the floor was palpable. In an industry employing a workforce of 2.1 million people, the change required to achieve BIM Level 2 is a challenge. We still have huge numbers of the supply chain to train up, there is not enough certified training, COBie skills are low, people are struggling with standards and some standards are not fully aligned. Perhaps most importantly, people were saying that clients don’t know how to commission BIM and are a block to BIM adoption.

In response to the industry concerns about Clients, Viewpoint recently funded a CIOB and BIM+ white paper “BIM: What Clients Really think”. You can download this here or email [email protected]

It’s quite a dense read, but full of fascinating facts, figures and opinion much negative and much positive. I read it and was pleasantly surprised, however, I fear that that some will look at the figures and that well established British character trait will again rear its head with cries of “we’re doomed!”

So why am I filled with optimism?

The white paper is a survey of all client types, not just Government. BIM is only mandated for the eight major Government commissioning departments, not for the private sector. The strategy was always this would “Pull” the market and that a private sector “Push” would follow.

Although those delivering government procured projects are more obviously and immediately affected by the mandate, the survey results indicate to me that the astute players within private client groups have realised that as the wider industry adopts these new technologies, they too will benefit from reduced cost and risk. Private sector clients who retain responsibility for their assets (such as Tfl see page 5 of the paper) are actively redefining their deliverables to include asset information. This information can only be produced efficiently by generating most of the data from a Building Information Model.

Of course, not all construction clients have long-term interests in their assets; developer clients commission many projects. Ultimately, all the developer clients need worry about is selling or letting a new development. Why should a developer client bother asking for BIM deliverables? My expectation was therefore that the survey results would reflect low levels of adoption and understanding currently. Whist there was a bit of this, it was less marked than I expected.

Finding that more than 50% of the clients have already been involved in projects with BIM Level 2 deliverables is a huge surprise (remember Level 2 includes the production of digital structured asset data). (Page 7).

More than half of the clients believe that from 2016 (page 9) they will see better margins and productivity.

There is an understanding from the clients that they, like the rest of us, need education and training with 74% saying that BIM experienced clients are needed to make the benefits materialise. 58% believe that BIM’s effectiveness at the design stage is already proven. Even more surprisingly, a majority of clients think that the benefits of BIM at the operational phase are already materialising. 65% of clients believe that BIM will be a catalyst for more and better collaboration. 53% think better margins and productivity will be achieved through BIM (page 11).

Given the huge amount of work that Viewpoint is putting into COBie, the fact that the mandate has only just come into force and that many respondents will be developers with little interest in whole life asset date, the biggest surprise is COBie (page 13) with 20% of clients already having it embedded in the capital delivery phase. This is good news indeed. Some of the negative comments actually reveal an understanding that a client needs to define what parts of their asset are maintainable and require COBie data. Viewpoint For Projects COBie planner is able to assist clients to achieve a more lean definition of the data they require.

Even page 17, which looks for hard evidence of BIM’s benefits has some positive responses even though as David Walters of Argent observes “It’s very difficult to measure….and tricky to report on”.

Given where we are in BIM implementation I think those are remarkable results.

The industry depends upon its clients. Though the whitepaper illustrates that (as with the rest of BIM Level 2 adoption) we still have a long way to go, when I raise my glass to our clients, I can emphatically say it’s half full not half empty.

For more information about how Viewpoint can help you achieve Level 2 BIM visit www.viewpoint.com.