The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is increasing rapidly, as the construction industry moves towards a more collaborative approach through the lifecycle of new buildings.
The Scottish Government has actually integrated BIM into its strategy in order to achieve its carbon net-zero, apprenticeships and efficiency targets. However, as always there are some in the industry who are a little cautious of change – which is hardly surprisingly really, since it hasn’t had a shake up in a long time.
With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to lay out the advantages and disadvantages of BIM for the construction industry.
Related Articles: What is Building Information Modelling (BIM)
Advantages of BIM
Communication & teamwork throughout all stages of the construction process
BIM enables teams to have a more coordinated approach to the construction of a building. From the design phase right the way through to the handover stage, contractors are able to communicate through an individual technology process. This means that decisions can be made quicker, fewer mistakes are made due to lost data in communication trails and improvements can often be discovered along the way.
Dynamic monitoring of changes in design
BIM is a data led process that allows it to be digitally dynamic. What this means is, that if a contractor wants to explore a change of material or layout of one component, the impact can then be seen across the rest of the building. This is far quicker than having to refer back to original architectural drawings and then exploring the knock on impact with different contractors individually.
Visualisation at planning stage
In commercial and industrial building construction, there are usually a number of stakeholders involved, each eager to visualise the end result. BIM facilitates this easily through the planning stages, helping to keep parties engaged in the process and enabling any concerns to be easily addressed before work starts onsite.
Nobody wants to arrive onsite to realise that the site isn’t ready for them, it is expensive and unnecessary. As BIM facilitates dynamic data, it means that clashes can be detected between different trades and sub contractors, helping to streamline work scheduling and avoid ‘dead’ time on site. This in turn, will help to save costs as efficiencies are driven through the project so that all parties can benefit.
Improved health & safety
Construction is one of the most dangerous industries to work in within the UK- There were 40 fatal injuries in 2019/20 with 61,000 non-fatal injuries reported on average each year (Health and Safety Executive November 2020).
BIM will flag areas and construction stages with high risk, which in conjunction with strict adherence to health & safety policies helps to minimise the number of health & safety incidents.
Reliable budget control
With BIM you can have sight on the whole project, and as data is entered per commodity it allows users to see where budgets might overrun ahead of time, and make adjustments accordingly. This is in stark contrast to before BIM where budgets notoriously ran over in the last stretch as the knock on impact of decisions caught up with reality.
The construction Industry is driven to lowering it’s carbon footprint, however the machinery and resources required can often make this difficult. BIM helps to reduce wastage; for example in plumbing and electrical entire plans can be drawn up in advance to minimise materials and resources onsite. In addition new greener technologies can be introduced and the impact of them measured, this benefits not only the live construction project but it also provides data for future builds.
Disadvantages of BIM
Modelling software required
BIM is a digital process that requires an investment in software and computer resources. It needs to be seen as a long term investment for the business, with returns increasing over a period of time, rather than expecting sizable cost savings and benefits on the first project.
Training & staff
An investment of time and resources in training will be required to embrace BIM. As whenever learning something new, it means the process may take longer to start off with as people undertake training and then essentially learn on the job. There needs to be a mindset and a commitment that this will get easier in the long term as change becomes ingrained in the daily operations of the business.
Trust & co-operation throughout the project
The construction industry is known for its hands on approach and reliance on verbal communication. In order to be effective and reliable BIM requires communication to be held centrally in a digital format. This needs to be understood and practiced by all involved parties in the buildings construction life cycle in order to be effective. If information is not input centrally there is risk of unforeseen issues. In the UK construction industry you’ll often now see BIM as a requirement of tender and written into the contract agreements, which reinforces this messaging to improve trust throughout the supply chain. Information input needs to be accurate and planned time scales need to be adhered to where possible so that BIM can operate at an optimum level.
End user engagement
BIM isn’t just about the construction of a building, it can also benefit the management of the facilities after the handover stage. However the drawback is that contractors can often spend hours of resource time though inputting data such as product specifications and instruction manuals only to find that they are ignored by the onsite facilities team.
Incompatibility with partners
Although the use of BIM has increased rapidly in the UK, there are still construction businesses who have not adopted the approach. This means that their operations are incompatible and they will often be left out of the tendering shortlist. However, to flip that on its head, if you do practice BIM in your construction business, you are increasing your chances of being successful in your tendering application.
In summary, The Advantages & Disadvantages of using BIM
As the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) continues to increase in the construction industry the disadvantages are quickly outnumbered by the advantages.
Yes there is a sizable investment, both in time and money. However, the long term results mean smarter and more efficient construction, benefiting not only the businesses practicing but the whole industry.
McKenna Group have integrated BIM into its practices for over X years, with a team of X personnel all trained on using specific parts of the process. We have seen our productivity increase by X % over the past X years