ROI on BIM for Contractors and Subcontractors

Monday, October 5th, 2015
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At its heart, BIM improves communication in an industry that’s famous for dispute rather than effective communication.

For construction contractors and subcontractors, performance improvements can be measured in the form of a reduction in variations or change orders and contingency expenditure, but the question will remain in the case of:

  • an improvement; was it due to BIM or simply a high performing team?
  • a decline; was it due to a learning curve?

For individual businesses that are providing construction goods and services, efficiencies in applying a new internal process can be quantified by measuring changes in the cost it incurs over time in the form of reduced hours, resources, waste and difficulties.

Many now agree that the technology is a tool to create efficiencies within their workflows and business operation. It allows project teams to leverage their resources better and utilise the whole project information for their own benefits in delivering a project well.

Real return on investment – what’s in it for me?

Like any new process, product improvement or technology, there are early adopters (and innovators) that take the leap of faith at the beginning of an innovation cycle and have the greatest opportunity to gain (and to lose).

So what do the early adopters have to say and will they share their secrets on ROI?

The following is a collection of project examples and reports from an array of contractors and subcontractors with different market perspectives who are quantifying their ROI in the BIM revolution:


One of the world’s largest contractors, Turner Construction, reports to have handled a total of 741 projects using BIM since 2002. Its utilisation of clash detection is contributing to continued project savings in relation to minimised conflicts and revisions, easier clarification of issues and reduced variations during construction. In addition, its focus on pre-fabrication processes is returning significant savings in the program.

By way of example, Turner’s construction of the new 469,000 square foot Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington DC, to be completed in 2016, applies its lean construction methodology using BIM for pre-fabricating modular corridor rack systems (157 in total) that are housing the mechanical, electrical and plumbing elements across every floor of the hospital. These racks have been modeled, built and assembled off-site. The team reports to have reduced the original installation schedule of four to five weeks per floor to just four to five days per floor using the modularised racks.

BAM Design UK first began using BIM in 2000 at Brindleyplace in Birmingham. Its current BIM Exemplar project, a £28 million commercial building called Connect110ns in Glasgow is due for completion in Summer 2015. BAM is reporting savings of £3 million in construction costs, 65 per cent improvement in supply chain engagement and all tenancies sold prior to completion due to expected building efficiencies and lower than predicted running costs.

International infrastructure group Balfour Beatty signed a three year, $12 million agreement in 2012 to expand its adoption of BIM. The UK contractor reports a realisation of savings of £11 million on one project alone, which has also achieved a five-week savings in the schedule directly attributed to BIM simulation. In 2014, in conjunction with Skanska, Balfour Beatty won the prestigious sustainability award for the upgrade of the M25 motorway. Balfour Beatty credited BIM with providing real-time information to the construction team that allowed the improvements in design, maximised the environmental benefits and reduced project delays, reporting savings of £55 million on the initial budget projections.

London’s 240 Blackfriars Road, completed in 2014 is considered the current darling of BIM collaboration and most notably the developer credits BIM with the elimination of clashes onsite. BIM was also considered to be integral in reducing the rooftop plant space by 20 per cent whilst still accommodating increased service requirements within a particularly challenging footprint, 100 metres off the ground.

Here in Australia, managing contractors ProBuild reported direct benefits from BIM in a significant reduction in RFIs on the Monash University New Horizons Project completed in 2013. Due to the complex nature of the design, BIM was a key part of ensuring its delivery. Building services and structure trades took part in the BIM process and subcontractors advised that they would have struggled if a tradition 2D process was applied. It was estimated there could have been up to 100 issues to resolve from subcontractors and ProBuild said BIM reduced this amount to just 25.


In 2009, when Mitchell Brandtman was working on the award winning RiverQuay project in Brisbane, BIM was only implemented during the design phase and was not requested by the client or project manager. We observed very different cost outcomes (in terms of variations and delays) between a single trade structural steel which implemented BIM and VDC versus the rest of the trades which did not. The building was completed on budget but the structural steel subcontract (representing 15 per cent of the entire build) did not experience any delays and only recorded a total of five variations, all of which were agreed upon prior to the work commencing.

UK structural steel subcontractor Midland Steel has invested heavily in technology and, in using Tekla Structures, has developed a method to track reinforcement on site which Midland says has resulted in a 20 per cent time reduction for its site teams.

We have seen Australian mechanical contractor AG Coombs report a 20 per cent improvement in productivity as a result of BIM technologies, and companies like American VDC organisation TURIS reporting five to eight per cent improvements in concrete production. BAM UK is also reporting reductions in subcontracts like scaffold inspection times from 2.5 hours to 30 minutes when using BIM360Field.

But how do you sell the idea that a client will save the money that it hadn’t expected to spend in the first place?

The level of investment in project collaboration, information and data management, model mapping and revisioning is directly correlated to successfully delivering a project within budget, on time and with minimal variations during construction. These are the areas of the project where, if investment in BIM at the outset is strong, savings are realised throughout construction and can continue during the life of the building.

BIM provides the contractor with the opportunity to virtually build the project prior to breaking ground and to determine and correct any anomalies in the design with subcontractors before any costs are incurred. Variations can be agreed upon and locked down prior to any work commencing. This has a huge impact on the programming and being able to keep the build on track and delivered on time.

This is where savings are realised for the owner and the contractor. The flow on effects significantly impact on the building owners and their tenancy agreements, and minimise the risks associated with penalties in missing contract deadlines. The certainty as a direct impact on savings throughout the supply chain is highly undervalued in the discussions on whether to implement BIM as a management tool.

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