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If you haven’t already done so, implementing BIM technology will be crucial to retaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Will Nicol of Autodesk explores why it is important to make the move sooner rather than later

A 2011 National Building Specification (NBS) survey revealed the number of UK firms using BIM had more than doubled on the previous year (from 13 per cent to 31 per cent). Of those not yet using it, 48 per cent said they needed to ‘get through the downturn’ before considering it. Others felt, however, that this was just the right time to adopt this way of working.

BIM adoption in the UK has grown significantly and its future is set to be even more exciting. As Phil Bernstein, vice president, industry strategy and relations at Autodesk, told delegates of the Autodesk BIM Conference 2012, ‘driven by a clear and coherent UK construction strategy, BIM is transforming the country’s construction industry.’    

Although behind the US in BIM adoption rates, the UK’s recent rapid progress in BIM is ‘remarkable’, according to Bernstein. ‘In three years, the UK has achieved what has taken the US 10 years and Scandinavia 12 to achieve,’ he said. ‘And today, no other country has a clearer BIM structure and governance strategy in place.’

Early adopters have certainly gained an edge over the rest of the market – primarily through efficiency benefits. In the NBS survey, 65 per cent of those using BIM said it brought cost efficiencies, 78 per cent said it increased coordination of construction documents and 59 per cent said it sped up delivery. These figures signal a great change. With BIM becoming ubiquitous, architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) companies will start to realise that these efficiencies are also increasingly common and to drive competitive advantage they will need to find new routes to differentiation.

A significant development that is likely is the move to cloud-based BIM. BIM and the cloud are a great fit – data and functionality can be accessed at any time, from anywhere and, as the cloud is infinitely scalable, extra computing power is available when required.

Vendors are increasingly realising BIM means greater collaboration between disciplines, which demands enhanced interoperability of software products. Autodesk, for example, offers its software solutions in suites, providing a comprehensive toolset to manage all design and construction phases. Suites also mean smaller firms can move to BIM in stages, using basic design solutions for drafting and detailing, incorporating BIM tools as and when they are ready.

The second major trend we expect to see is organisations adopting a more strategic approach to BIM, centred on three core principles: standardised delivery; business alignment; and business intelligence.

Standardised delivery means an organisation is getting a repeatable, known outcome each time it implements BIM. BIM is now a controlled operating expense on a project, backed by a solid policy, procedural and standards-based infrastructure. Businesses typically have a small group of experts who improve usage, capture ideas, qualify them, quantify them and take the right ones forward. The end result? the organisation has the most efficient use of BIM – maximum benefits, minimum overheads.

Efficiency will get you so far but, in competing to be the best, the end-point is commoditisation and organisations can get dragged into a price-point war. Following a path based on added value is more likely to sustain your market advantage. Business alignment asks how you can leverage BIM’s extensibility to compete from a value perspective. What new BIM-based services could you offer? As a platform for new services, it could be argued that BIM is only limited by the imagination of the user.

For years, many sectors have practised business intelligence; by searching vast amounts of information they can spot patterns offering them an edge. Today, BIM, almost as a by-product, is creating large pools of highly structured, trustworthy project information; organisations must explore how to look at that contained in multiple concurrent projects, look back at old projects, perhaps also blend in external data, and spot patterns.

There is no doubt BIM is here to stay and more AEC companies will adopt it and benefit significantly. But with this will come increased competition. During 2013, it will be interesting to see how the market reacts to this and how individual companies differentiate themselves – before their competitors do.


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