The road to BIM: making it work for small companies
Industrial units, Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Contractor: Nu Construction
Software: Synchro Professional, Autodesk Revit
Next step: Winning first BIM project
How does an organisation with just 19 staff justify the time, effort and expense required to implement BIM? That’s the question Nu Construction business development manager Gemma Lennon set out to answer. “Our projects are quite small, up to £4m. We certainly haven’t had any projects where clients have requested that we implement BIM, but we know it will eventually affect us in some way,” she says.
Following discussions with senior management, Lennon put together a business case for BIM. “Training is obviously a requirement, but our staff resource is of huge value to us and it’s important that it’s always available — our commercial director does all the costing of tenders, together with one other estimator. For us to take time out for something like this, there has to be gold at the end of the rainbow.”
She also worked with Karl Redmond of Leeds Metropolitan University’s Sustainability Institute on a BIM survey sent to almost 1,000 SMEs in the Yorkshire & Humber region. Lennon then presented the survey’s findings — warts and all — to David Philp and Mark Bew of the government’s BIM Task Group, and is now involved with the BIM4SMEs subgroup, which aims to raise BIM awareness among SMEs.
The Autodesk Revit drop 2 model was exported into Synchro
Lennon is clear about what would make BIM attractive for a business such as hers: “We’re looking for a return on investment quite instantly, and for it to improve our efficiency and make our job easier. If we are able to provide better quality information and a better quality product to clients and cut the costs for them, that would give us an opportunity to win tenders. With the market as difficult as it is, anything we could do would be of huge benefit.”
The best way to see if BIM can do this is on a live project — and one may be around the corner. Nu Construction is on the tender list for a £1m, 12-unit industrial facility in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, designed by Shipley-based Riverside Architects. Riverside has already been using BIM for more than five years and offered to provide Nu Construction with the model it had built for the project.
Lennon had also been speaking to Robert Hicks, UK account manager at software company Synchro, who used the architectural model to build Nu Construction its own project management model. “Much of the talk around BIM focuses on large companies, but SMEs need as much help as anyone else,” says Hicks. “I think the first steps on the ladder should be small and relatively inexpensive, so I wanted to look at how we could support that.”
He says the 4D model is “proof of concept” and will allow Nu to visualise the construction sequence. “I’ve always felt that aligning the 3D model against the construction programme is one of BIM’s lowest-hanging fruits. You can get to that stage quite easily and it gives you the most benefit.”
Now Lennon’s fingers are crossed: “If we win the tender, we’ll be able to use BIM on a live project, so it’s a really exciting stage.”