Demand will drive adoption

This Issue This is a part of the Building information modelling feature

By - , Build 171

Construction sector take-up of BIM in New Zealand is patchy as the perception is that the return on investment is lengthy. Selling the property sector on BIM’s benefits to them and their bottom lines could change this.

THE DEGREE to which organisations in the New Zealand construction sector have adopted building information modelling (BIM) is varied. This is understandable, as there is a significant cost in adopting a BIM platform and little appetite from clients to pay additional fees to consultants and contractors incorporating it in their design and documentation and delivery service.

BIM offers long-term gains

To date, the primary factor driving the uptake of BIM by companies in the construction sector is that migrating to BIM:

  • increases their productivity
  • allows them to do more with less
  • increases precision, reducing the chance of errors and associated rework costs.

For many, these gains outweigh the considerable investment required to adopt BIM. These include software costs, training and an initial fall in productivity until personnel become proficient in using the new technology. Businesses that take a longer-term view and are committed to continually improving their service offerings are in this vanguard.

Uptake handicapped in low-cost environment

Our traditional lowest-price preferred procurement environment does not reward this move onto the construction innovation curve. Those engaging the construction sector to design, document and deliver buildings will typically choose the tenderer producing the required build, without any regard to the way that is achieved.

This disincentivises construction practitioners from adopting technology. For a sector that recently secured the headline, ‘Building, the industry that got left behind’ (NZ Herald, 26 August 2017), it is lamentable.

BIM is only part of the growing construction technology wave, although an important one as it provides a high-productivity platform the entire sector can utilise. Additionally, it is a technology that is here now, while others have yet to lap onto our shores.

What is stopping full sector-wide adoption of BIM is a perception that the return on a business investment in the technology is too long, with payback limited to savings to the user.

Selling clients on the benefits

To accelerate BIM adoption, those engaging the construction sector to deliver our built environment need to be convinced that the use of BIM provides a financial benefit to them, not just to the user.

Those in the construction supply chain who use BIM fervently believe it creates additional value to the client. Why then are we not better at selling those benefits to those who engage our services?

Given the regular announcements of projects failing to meet their handover dates, a supply chain using technology that can potentially reduce the incidences of costly delays should be favoured over one that does not.

BIM model an asset over a building’s lifetime

A further benefit provided by a BIM-enabled supply chain is that the BIM model the client receives on handover is effectively a second asset. It is a valuable tool that the client’s asset and facilities management team can utilise to maximise maintenance savings and efficiencies across the lifetime of the building.

Knowing this, the property sector will demand its use, and this, in turn, will force the construction sector to tool-up and become BIM-enabled. In this vein, the UK Government determined several years ago that they – as long-term owners of the assets delivered to them – would receive value from engaging BIM-enabled supply chains. As a result, BIM is mandatory for consortia tendering for all UK Government construction projects.

That mindset will trickle down. As an example, a developer may not see the value of a BIM model for ongoing building management, though who they sell the building to will very likely do so. The developer will, therefore, ensure they engage a BIM-enabled supply chain or fear limiting the pool of purchasers for the building when the time comes to market it.

Property sector is the tipping point

This suggests that the tipping point for wide-spread BIM adoption by the construction sector will only occur when the property sector is convinced of its benefits. At this point, they will specify the requirement to have a BIM-enabled supply chain.

The challenge the construction sector needs to take up is that it must do better at promoting the advantages of BIM to procurers. If this is done well, the environment changes from one in which BIM usage is pushed by the construction sector to one that sees BIM usage being pulled by the property sector. This will benefit all.

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