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How BIM can boost the bottom line for SMEs

Ask any construction executive what keeps them awake at night and they’ll say profitability.

So keeping an eye over new developments in all operational techniques and in systems applications that could minimise costs, maximise efficiency and give them an edge is a necessity.

However, some observers have a perception of an industry unwilling to embrace the digital age. A recent Pinsent Masons survey revealed that 33 per cent of contractors and consultants blamed the supply chain for slow progress on BIM.

Clear benefits

So why is BIM so important? Everyone in the industry creates information about projects almost in isolation and in formats that suit their own unique requirements.

Consequently, the construction process is bedeviled with clashes of unco-ordinated drawings between designers and misunderstandings by the contractors and subcontractors.

“Against this imperfect background, BIM helps to bring much welcomed efficiency to the construction process”

The result is a process riddled with waste, higher costs and longer delivery timescales.

The finished building may have incorporated so many unintended variations that it may be markedly different from what was intended.

Against this imperfect background, BIM helps to bring much welcomed efficiency to the construction process.

The government has placed BIM as an enabler and at the heart of its central procurement strategy, with a target date of April 2016 for the implementation of BIM Level 2 on all centrally procured projects.

The macroeconomic view is that when attained, it will assist the UK in meeting at least two targets: a 33 per cent cut in the cost of construction and whole-life costs and a 50 per cent reduction in time from project inception to completion.

Shift in mindset

BIM will require a culture change for clients, consultants, contractors and the entire supply chain to adopt an open information-sharing mentality.

“Contractors should view their share of BIM costs as an investment on which they will earn a return”

For this to happen, a common and unified language for the production of construction data is essential, otherwise the cost of participation will remain prohibitive for many SMEs.

Given, however, that any reduction in costs will first feed into the contractor’s bottom line, contractors should view their share of BIM costs as an investment on which they will earn a return.

The client will have to bear the greater cost of implementing BIM, given they are the ultimate beneficiary of the building.

As such, clients will need to appoint a BIM project manager at the very outset who will define the employer’s information requirements.

Further, contractual provisions will have to be introduced into the professional services appointment of consultants as well as within the main and subcontract terms and conditions.

Issues bound to arise down the line include the protection of all aspects of information exchange, including storage and retrieval and how to secure, for example, the information’s intellectual property.

The security of the completed building as well as its occupants will also have to be considered, given the recent events at Hatton Garden Safety Deposit vault, as well as the risk of sabotage and terrorism.

Produced by 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square in association with Construction News. Samuel Okoronkwo is a barrister at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square. He specialises in planning, construction and engineering law and can be found at samuelokoronkwo.com, by calling 0207 534 5828, or contact his clerk at soclerks@4-5.co.uk

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