As technology continues to disrupt the real estate industry and efforts continue to digitise real estate assets, the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology is increasing in the global construction industry.
Digital technology and the data-sharing economy combined with the need to build and operate assets for less and more efficiently means the way real estate assets are designed, built and maintained is shifting to digital.
The use of BIM technology is helping to drive that shift as it seeks to aid better decision making and bring about key benefits such as reduced costs and improved efficiency in the built asset process – from inception (the planning, design and construction phase) to the ongoing use and operation.
What is BIM?
BIM is not a single application or technology. It is a way of working to aid collaboration and the sharing of information among everyone involved in the construction of a built asset which is supported by various tools and technologies – the output of which is the creation of a BIM model.
BIM is a process whereby a building project team shares all information and data about a project in a single digital space (referred to as a Common Data Environment). This information includes non-graphical information (i.e. building specifications, performance requirements, cost plans) and a graphical 3D model of the proposed asset.
The BIM model links the non-graphical information to the 3D model – clicking on any part of the 3D model gives a user access to information/data behind that aspect of the project/asset.
There are various definitions of BIM together with levels and dimensions of BIM, but the key principle of BIM is encouraging information management, collaboration and use of that data/information to make better informed decisions. The levels and dimensions of BIM relate to greater digital integration and inclusion of more data/information in the BIM model.
BIM technology has a number of key benefits including:
- Project Management – the collaborative way of working promoted by BIM means a project team can share information, communicate and react to changes in the construction process in a way which is not possible with traditional construction projects based on paper drawings.
- Visualisation – BIM technology allows for the planning and visualisation of a project pre-construction permitting changes to be made by the project team at the planning stage thereby seeking to avoid any clashes or coordination issues between the various disciplines. It also allows the end-user to visualise their asset pre-build, input on design and/or make any changes before any construction work commences –ultimately allowing the project team to deliver a better quality end product aligned to client needs.
- Cost – efficiency in the construction planning and build process through collaboration and information/data sharing means BIM technology results in fewer project variations and unused materials, better project cost modelling/estimation and a reduction in delays, which in turn translates into potential cost reductions on a construction project.
- Safety – BIM technology supports greater safety in construction projects by allowing potential hazards to be logged in the model and/or pre-empted based on being able to better plan the various stages of the construction process and make more informed decisions from the data/information contained in the BIM model.
- End-User Building Management & Performance – once the asset is built, the BIM model can be handed over to the facilities/asset management team of the end-user. The BIM model will house all the data/information about that asset in one place which will aid the end-user in really understanding the built asset and to maximise its operation and long-term performance through better decision-making.
Adoption of BIM
The global construction market is expected to grow by 70% to $15 trillion in 2025 and so there is significant opportunity for digital technology to play a big part in shaping that growth. Given the expected market growth and the overarching objective of BIM is to drive efficiency in the design, build and operation of built assets, it is not surprising that there are a number of government initiatives around adopting BIM technology within the construction industry.
Leading examples include:
- The UK government, which has been particularly active in promoting the use of BIM technology. In 2016 it become a requirement in the UK that any construction project funded by central government had to be delivered using BIM technology. The UK has sought to lead the way in BIM exploitation, BIM service provision and standards development by introducing guidance in the form of PAS 1192-2, PAS 1192-3 (which provides a framework for collaborative working and information management in BIM at the asset construction and operating stages) and by adopting a BIM Protocol (a standardised supplementary legal agreement that can be incorporated into professional service appointments and construction contracts). The UK has a strong construction sector and is not only seeking to lead the way in BIM exploitation on a domestic level as part of its wider Digital Built Britain Strategy but also on the global stage.
- The EU has established (in 2016) a BIM task group with the objective of developing a digital construction sector and adopting standardised BIM practices across Europe. In France the government adopted a digital transition plan for the construction industry where it budgeted €20 million to digitising the industry and committed to using BIM technology to build up to 500,000 houses by 2017. In Germany it is expected the use of BIM technology in public infrastructure projects will become mandatory by the end of 2020.
- In Singapore the Building & Construction Authority and building SMART Singapore adopted a BIM Roadmap promoting the use of BIM technology with the aim for at least 80% of its construction industry to be using BIM technology by 2015; in recent years we have seen the government crediting increased productivity in its construction sector due to BIM.
- In the United States, BIM has been mandated by a number of states and while the U.S. government has not made BIM mandatory, the U.S. venture capital community has been pouring money into digital technologies in the construction sector and as a result BIM adoption is increasing.
BIM – The Opportunity
The development of BIM technology and its adoption is still in the early stages, with the framework still very much evolving.
While BIM has the potential to disrupt the construction industry, the transition to an integrated digital process for the design, build and operation of built assets presents a new way of working and with that a number of challenges and opportunities, including:
- Ownership of the BIM model – as data and intellectual property is becoming more important in a digital economy it will need to be clear who owns the BIM model and the data/information within it, who is responsible for its accuracy and for what purpose the data/information within it can be used.
- Information & data security – a BIM model will contain rich data/information about the operation and performance of a building (which may be sensitive with public infrastructure projects) in particular as the technology develops and the level of integration in BIM models deepens. BIM models may therefore be subject to cybersecurity attacks and/or data breaches so appropriate investment will need to be made in protecting data/information contained in BIM models and legislation will need to evolve around BIM.
- Transfer of the BIM model – consideration will need to be given to the physical transfer of a BIM model to the end-user and any successors to the end-user. It is likely that the end-user or their successors may not have the supporting technology or expertise to host, operate or maintain the BIM model, in which case we are likely to see a significant growth in BIM service businesses that licence BIM software or manage BIM models on an outsourced basis for which a framework of standards will need to be developed.
On the whole adoption of BIM technology in the global construction industry is a potential game changer that will disrupt the traditional methods and players in the construction industry. But the real opportunity with this technology is the potential for convergence with the internet of things, the information sharing economy and the smart cities initiatives that could pave the way for a truly digital economy for infrastructure, buildings and services.
 HM Government July 2013 , Industrial Strategy 2025