In their recent survey of building services contractors, the Electrical Contractors Association found that 89% of contractors with turnover above £20 million were ready for the implementation of BIM, but that a third or more with turnover below this level are not BIM-ready.
It is probably the same throughout the industry with the larger companies using BIM and already gaining advantage from the technology, while many of the smaller organisations have not felt ready to invest.
All of this makes it difficult for manufacturers deciding what to do. I suspect that there is a similar situation, with the larger organisations having already invested while the smaller firms try to justify the cost. But, for the manufacturer, the challenge is more complex. Should you provide content as Industry Foundation Class (IFC), proprietary software, Product Data Templates (PDTs), COBie or all of these?
In October, Competitive Advantage published our survey ‘Adoption of BIM by Architects’ in which we asked 100 of the larger architects practices about their usage of BIM. In line with the trend, all of these practices have BIM and have been using it for a while. No doubt if we talked to the smaller practices we would find that many were still to make the investment. But as usage increases more and more small organisations will make the commitment, either because their clients require it or their competitors are gaining advantage by offering it.
At the moment the focus is on the government’s April 2016 deadline for the mandatory use of ‘BIM Level 2’ in all Whitehall-procured contracts. Although this is an important step, it is merely the catalyst for adoption throughout the industry.
Feedback from the leading architects shows that over the next few years many will start to use BIM for all of their projects. But the industry is still learning to use BIM, and even the leading architects we interviewed, all of whom have been using BIM for some time and thus have practical experience, send out mixed messages on everything from the format required, to file size and where to host objects.
This is possibly because they are using BIM in different ways. More than half have their own standard design modules and keep a library of BIM objects, in much the same way as they would for standard specifications. Many of these do not need a BIM object from the manufacturer, just the data which they use with their own geometry. So in this instance PDTs are probably fine. Only a relatively small proportion said they required PDTs from manufacturers but this may be because they are a relatively new concept, which until now has lacked consistency. The recently announced initiative between BIM4M2, NBS, CIBSE and the CPA to provide consistent product data parameters and templates will probably see these take a more important role going forward.
The initiative provides building product manufacturers with free access to product data parameters and templates that are relevant to their products and have been developed through a defined consensus process. By using these templates manufacturers will be able to supply product information in a form that aligns with the UK’s Level 2 BIM requirements. Each template defines the minimum information about a product that is required for UK Government BIM projects.
So the indications are that going forward BIM will be increasingly be used. The good news is that it is becoming easier for manufacturers to make content available, but there are still differing requirements between users. It is thus important to understand what your customers and users require.
An opportunity to gain further understanding is on Tuesday 12th January at 12pm when there is an exclusive interview with Paul Broadfoot, Space Group and Peter Walker, Garners FSE when they will be discussing what specifiers need from product manufacturers in terms of BIM. This is an ideal opportunity for all manufacturers, whether already on your BIM journey or still thinking about taking that first step, to join the chat and ask your own questions, so please get involved.
Simply follow #BIM4M2chat on Twitter, and feel free to ask Paul and Peter any questions you may have in your tweets.
Chris is a specialist in specification strategy and founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy which specialises in market research and training for the construction industry. He is a member of the BIM4M2 steering group and a member of the organising committee for CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.