A “yes” vote for new EU procurement rules should help embed BIM into UK public projects and open up opportunities for UK tech-savvy firms abroad, industry leaders claim.
The European Parliament voted on Tuesday to support a package of reforms to the EU Public Procurement Directive, which includes clauses designed to encourage all European countries to recommend the use of electronic tools, including BIM, on public works contracts.
Reforms included in the Directive cover all aspects of procurement and must be implemented into national law within two years of their publication in the OJEU. The UK Cabinet Office has said it hopes the directive will be adopted into UK law as quickly as possible.
The UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Norway already require the use of BIM on publicly-funded building projects by 2016. But this vote means that all 28 member states now have the green light to encourage, specify or mandate similar measures for publicly-funded construction and building projects by 2016. It’s hoped the EU-wide use of BIM on public works will reduce costs, project overruns and to modernise the procurement process.
The move potentially opens-up new export opportunities for UK design and construction businesses with expertise in using BIM, said architect David Miller, whose practice works with the Construction Industry Council as its BIM champion for London: “Many British firms are already some way along with the BIM adoption process, so the move to encourage BIM use across Europe represents an opportunity and potentially opens up more of a market for UK firms.”
This is especially good news for SMEs, he adds: “As a small firm, we’ve found that by being early adopters of BIM in the UK it opened up a greater market for us and allowed us to punch above our weight. In the same way, the changes to EU procurement practice should help smaller organisations penetrate markets abroad they would otherwise have found difficult to penetrate.”
Europe is hoping BIM adoption will mean building and infrastructure projects are set up and completed faster, more economically and sustainably. This should have cost savings for taxpayers: according to a 2012 report by the European Commission, public entities that have already implemented e-procurement solutions report savings of between 5% and 20% of their procurement expenditure.
Other measures in the Directive include a requirement that contracting authorities consider social aspects amongst other criteria when determining which bid is the most economically advantageous. Price is no longer allowed to be the central determining factor.
In addition, public authorities can think longer-term by taking life-cycle costs into account, and encourage the breaking down of large contracts into lots so that smaller businesses can bid for them.
“Small businesses will now find it much easier to bid for public contracts across the EU,” commented MEP Malcolm Harbour CBE, who chaired the EU Internal Market and Consumer Protectiuon Committee responsible that drew up the reforms. “Previously they have been shut out of the process by red tape, turnover requirements and contracts too large to manage. Now, contracts can be broken down to make them more accessible to smaller businesses, and the processes will make it much easier.”
He added: “Small businesses have found accessing finance a major problem in recent years. For an innovative business being able to approach a bank manager with a development contract from a public authority is an effective way to leverage more private funding to grow businesses. In the long run, these reforms will bring a substantial boost to small businesses.”
Public bodies will also be able to limit competition for specific contracts to mutuals and social enterprises where those organisations satisfy certain conditions. New mandatory grounds for excluding suppliers from competitions for contracts where there is evidence they have fallen foul of social and labour laws will also be set in place.
Across the EU, construction generates almost 10% of the region's GDP and provides 20 million jobs, mainly in small and micro businesses.