As of 4 April 2016, all centrally procured public sector construction contracts are required to incorporate Building Information Modelling ("BIM"). The target date has inspired much comment and analysis, with mixed reactions and a variety of predictions for the future of BIM and the impact the requirement will have.
The new milestone required from 4 April for all centrally procured public sector construction contracts is that they are Level 2 BIM compliant. For the purposes of reviewing the current state of play of BIM it is sufficient to say that Level 2 BIM involves multiple separate models of portions of a construction project that can be individually merged into a main model of the project. Each separate model takes the form of a CAD model that contains its own relevant information embedded in the data it imports relating to the relevant item of work. BIM allows the project to be more effectively managed by demonstrating the design and construction order of a project.
However only a handful of contractors and other industry professionals have made the extra leap and obtained independent Level 2 BIM certification. Does this indicate inertia due to a lack of interest in certification, which itself reflects the attitude towards BIM more generally? Does it demonstrate that the industry has reached "peak BIM"; where difficulties with the nebulous concept combined with a lack of client demand have discouraged BIM uptake despite the Government deadline?
If difficulties in the adoption of BIM are an issue, one aspect that can be discounted as a difficulty are legal obstacles. The impact of Level 2 BIM on current contractual and legal relationships is minimal, especially as the level is characterised by parties "ring fencing" liability instead of using the collaborative and risk sharing approach epitomised by Level 3 BIM. Documents such as the CIC BIM Protocol which can be incorporated into the hierarchy of contractual documents make implementing Level 2 BIM relatively simple, rather than a hindrance.
In discounting contractual hindrances, a look at industry statistics may instead help determine the root of the concerns of the uptake of BIM. Taken at face value together, the NBS's National BIM Reports from 2014 and 2015 would appear to support the suggestion that the uptake of BIM has stalled.
The differences between the 2014 and 2015 Reports produced by the NBS showed a drop in usage of BIM among the respondents from 54% to 48%. Furthermore, 67% of respondents felt that the industry did not have a clear enough grasp of what BIM is. Combine those issues with others widely recognised by the industry and included in the Reports, such as lack of experience and lack of training, and it would appear that "peak BIM" has been reached.
However, those statistics alone are not enough reason to conclude that the industry will be underprepared for the world after 4 April.
The NBS suggest that the downturn in adoption is in part due to the difference of respondents from year to year and because "late adopters" are dragging their heels on BIM until the real world value becomes more apparent. As more contracts are undertaken using BIM that demonstrate its value, its adoption should begin to increase. The fact that in the 2015 Report 92% of respondents believed they would be using BIM in 3 years' time points towards an industry confident of the value that BIM will add to construction contracting.
Industry awareness of BIM generally is also an encouraging sign. In the 2015 Report 96% of respondents were aware of BIM as a concept. Hopefully the impetus of the 4 April cut-off should inspire a broad range of professionals to properly engage with BIM for fear of missing out on centrally procured public sector contracts.
It appears that the main reasons for concern regarding BIM uptake are short term obstacles in adopting the method and the perception by some of an absence of demonstrated value. These concerns should not worry the public sector. Obstacles can be managed and worth demonstrated. Concern regarding "peak BIM" will hopefully prove unfounded. The industry as a whole appears to support BIM, but a section of it clearly requires to be convinced of the benefits.
Hopefully a combination of the championing of Level 2 BIM by major contractors combined with the impetus provided by the deadline will convince those currently on the fence of the worthiness of BIM.