There can be little doubt that the future for the construction industry lies in Building Information Modelling (BIM).

Unfortunately, BIM requires significant investment both in time and money. The software is expensive and the training needed to get fully up to speed is intensive.

The Institution of Structural Engineers, the world’s leading professional body for qualifications and standards in structural engineering, has raised concerns that there is a clear divide between smaller and larger consultancies in their ability to adopt the technology.

The institution surveyed its UK membership regarding attitudes towards BIM and from the 900-plus responses discovered some very clear trends, as well as challenges and opportunities created within the industry.

“BIM still means different things to different people and still creates uncertainty about how and when it is best employed,” said Martin Powell, chief executive of the Institution of Structural Engineers. “What is certain is that working with BIM will mean a transformation in traditional working methods across the construction industry.”

Among the survey respondents, 53 per cent were from companies with over 50 employees while 29 per cent were from businesses of ten employees or fewer. Nine per cent were from companies of 11 to 20 employees and nine per cent from companies of 20 to 50 employees.

The survey highlighted the challenges which BIM implementation presents for small businesses:

  • 73 per cent of all those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that BIM implementation presents serious cost and commercial challenges for small businesses
  • 76 per cent of respondents from businesses with fewer than 10 employees said they are just starting their BIM journey and have little understanding of the finer details.
  • Only 9.6 per cent of respondents from businesses with fewer than 10 employees said clients regularly ask about their company’s use of BIM, (compared to almost 50 per cent of respondents from businesses with over 50 employees).
  • 66 per cent of respondents from businesses with fewer than 10 employees agreed or strongly agreed that the government BIM initiative will make it harder for small businesses to compete for government contracts.

bim survey 2013

Other key findings of the survey included:

  • 71 per cent of all those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that BIM is here to stay and that in the future clients will expect it to be incorporated into their work.
  • 61 per cent of all those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that BIM will improve current structural engineering practices.
  • 58 per cent of all those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that BIM implementation presents significant opportunities for new business and improved efficiency.
  • 56 per cent of all those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that there is a lack of clarity about what Level 2 BIM actually is.

Autodesk, one of the leading providers of BIM software solutions, has at least recognised cost-related issues, having recently announced a greater focus on subscription-based offers.

Autodesk currently has 1.9 million subscribers and hopes to increase this by 50 per cent over the next five years.

The move to a subscription-based service for more expensive software reflects a broader trend within the market as engineers and architects seek access to a steady stream of new features instead of being stuck with one version of a software package.

Beyond the costs however, there are a number of other gaps that needs addressing.

“The question now is what if any opportunities does BIM offer small and medium enterprises? Further, how can we improve education on the subject to identify positive steps which smaller businesses can take to make a success of BIM?” Powell said.