BIM's is a priority - so what's holding us back?

Chris Hallam, Pinsent Mason

Despite the majority of infrastructure experts being aware of the government's 2016 Level 2 BIM target for centrally procured projects, uptake has been slow, explains Pinsent Mason's Chris Hallam.

Whilst more than 7 out of 10 respondents to our 2015 BIM survey said that their organisations are prioritising investment in BIM, less than 3 in 10 believe that the industry will achieve the Government's 2016 target for level 2 BIM capability for all centrally procured projects. 

This is consistent with the findings of the recent CECA survey where 74% believed the deadline would not be met.  So why is the level of confidence in achieving the 2016 target so low?  What are the key issues and barriers holding the industry back?

There is no single or easy answer.  Our survey identifies lack of understanding of BIM in parts of the supply chain and "insufficient experience of BIM within our own organisation" to be the two most significant blockers, with the "absence of a truly collaborative approach" polling at a similar level.

These top three issues will probably come as no great surprise, but if we drill into the detail a bit more a number of other challenges and barriers emerge:

The EIRs. There needs to be greater consistency and clarity in Employer's Information Requirements so that tenderers know what is required of them and are bidding on a level playing field.  There is a helpful EIR template together with guidance notes available, but clearly there is still much inconsistency in EIRs and ITTs at the moment with far too many generic statements of BIM, rather than specific well thought through requirements.

Transparency.  Clients need to supply adequate data about their assets at the outset – this is still not happening at present and obviously limits the ability of the professional team and contractors to do their job.  Knowing what information is available will not only help to define the brief but also inform the design process and enable performance outcomes and operational budgets to be established.

Classification.  There needs to be a complete and consistent BIM classification system – much progress has been made but the general view is that we are still not quite there yet.

LODs.  It is important to manage and align the Levels of Detail and Levels of Information produced by a multi-disciplinary design team within a BIM project – BIM comes with a much greater need for co-ordinated common geometric and information outputs.

Plan of Works.  The new Digital Plan of Works needs to be used effectively, especially by supply chains who are not directly involved in it – early days for this, as the Digital Plan was only launched in April.

Software.  The available BIM software needs to be brought into line with the emerging classification system and ensuring that it is truly compatible.

Contracts.  Perhaps not such much an issue for Level 2 BIM, but as we move towards and beyond Level 3, it is inevitable that we will need better, more "BIM friendly" collaborative forms of contract.

Skills.  It's obviously essential that there is adequate capacity and skills to deliver level 2 BIM – including the experience and training needs identified by the respondents to our survey.

Most of the material necessary to enable these things to happen is now available and a huge amount of work has gone into the development of the suites of documents and guidance notes are now available on the BIM Task Group and NBS' websites.

The good news is that no one seems to be in any doubt as to the potential advantages of BIM.  Survey respondents mention "improvement in design production process", "greater clarity/transparency for the client" and "greater cost controls/certainty in the construction process" as the top three benefits.  

So the real problem seems to lie in the extent of active and early client input in the process and the willingness for true collaboration, between all members of the team including most importantly, the clients and their advisers.  Interestingly, a whopping 94% of survey respondents believed that the use of BIM requires a more collaborative approach between the client and the whole construction team.