Lowest cost culture blocking BIM Level 2 adoption, says Bew

4 April 2018

CM annual BIM survey shows lukewarm clients are still a barrier to Level 2 uptake, though construction’s confidence in the technology has improved.

A conservative, lowest cost culture remains “a huge hurdle” for the industry to overcome if it is to successfully adopt BIM Level 2, according to digital construction tsar Mark Bew.

The chairman of engineering consultancy PCSG, who was appointed chair of the UK government’s BIM Task Group, made his comments as CM published the results of its annual BIM survey which showed construction uptake of BIM Level 2 remains sluggish.

The research found that only 14% of clients mandate BIM Level 2 on all projects, down from 20% a year ago. However, 44% of construction firms now say they are confident about using the technology compared to just a third in 2017. The proportion saying they had not used Level 2 BIM at all fell slightly from 38% to 34%.

Bew said he still has “many conversations across the industry telling me that embracing this new technology and making this vital transformation is too costly, too difficult, too time-consuming and fails to give the required return on investment”.

He added: “Too many clients across the construction sector drive forward on a lowest cost basis, focused on capex and opex rather than the need to invest in better long-term outcomes.”

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Bew said that “the industry is still very much at the start of its digital transformation” but believes it has “come a long way”.

“We now see an industry not simply designing in 3D but actually embracing a new digital future in which data has value,” he said.

A strategic adviser for the UK’s Centre for Digital Built Britain in Cambridge, Bew urged the industry to “move away from the world of BIM and towards a new and bigger world of data exploitation, information management, feedback and advanced analytics”.

The survey findings and Bew’s remarks chimed with the views of other leading industry BIM figures CM spoke to.

“BIM Level 2 is all about information management and how data is produced to improve the efficiency of both project delivery but more importantly asset operation,” said Edonis Jesus, BIM leader at Lendlease.

“There is work to be done in terms of educating the industry – particularly clients – about the benefits of BIM Level 2, not only during a project delivery phase but especially about its benefits for the operational phase of assets.”

However, some reported increased awareness of BIM from clients. Garry Fannon, head of digital at Willmott Dixon Construction, said: “Knowledge and experience of digital construction from our customers is increasing. If we can get our customers to establish their asset requirements, and digitally enable their FM and estate management teams, adoption will happen a lot more quickly.”

“Key to the adoption of BIM is getting the benefits properly understood and then linking them to an organisation’s business objectives,” said Malcolm Stagg, director of BIM and digital engineering, Skanska UK.

“One of the barriers to adoption is a lack of understanding. Technical and complex language can be off-putting. It’s our job to demystify BIM, speaking in a language where we sell the benefits, answering the ‘what’s in it for me’ question.”


I think the headline misses a subtle, but important detail.

Wanting low costs shouldn't be a problem. BIM should be able to help projects deliver great value and low cost projects. If the focus is on TOTAL, FINAL cost.

The problem I see is that in a desire for "cost certainty" and minimised commercial risk at a work package level, we use commercial approaches that do not help the project achieve this. A project manager who believes that they get the lowest total cost project by letting a lot of separate fixed-price contracts for each work package is actually increasing the overall project cost.

This approach is what makes for our fragmented project teams. And since each contractor understandably looks after their own interests, they are incentivised not to support holistic methods that help the overall project BIM.

Until projects realise that the commercial model is what is holding us back, and that changing it is the most reliable way to reduce total project cost and duration, than great ideas like BIM will remain frustrated and under-performing.

Ian Heptinstall, 5 April 2018

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