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Supermarkets: BIM must show the whole life cost saving

Supermarkets will fully embrace BIM when contractors can demonstrate the “tangible” costs savings across the whole life of a building, including facilities management, leading retailers have said.

Directors from Asda, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer were speaking at a conference last week.

Tony Jacob, construction director at the John Lewis Partnerships - which includes Waitrose - said BIM is a “great opportunity”.

“But it’s got to help us save money or the investment in it does not really make sense,” he said.

“It has got to help us design and build more efficient buildings and the output should help the FM guys run it.”

Paul Glinn, head of architecture, design and specification at Marks and Spencer, said: “BIM is here to stay, there’s no doubt about it – but it’s early days for us.

“When you can start to identify the tangible benefits over the life time, then you will see a real drive towards it,” he added.

Mr Glinn said people trying to sell BIM to a retailer “can be accused of being architecture or construction bias”, adding it is “seen as something that’s a new toy for the construction industry that you can link to cost”.

He said the contractor’s focus needs to be on understanding where retailers are spending and being able to provide the data that illustrates savings.

Mike Abel, director of construction and implementation at Asda, added:  “If this thing can get us to a place where the guy that goes in to maintain a store can get the information he needs before he sticks his hand in the asbestos, that’s great.  Whether we will or not, I’m not sure, because it’s a monumentally complex issue to deal with.”

Mr Jacob added that he sees BIM as “a great tool to get standardisation and efficiency” to tackle the challenge of finding the best components for a building.

But both Mr Jacob and Mr Abel agreed that a big challenge is accurately estimating the cost of a building that could be 3-5 years away due to the planning system, when commodity prices are ever-changing.

Mr Jacob said supermarkets are having to be “far more creative” in unlocking land for development and then achieving the most efficient buildings.

And with a growing focus on refurbishment, there will also be a “real pressure on us to cut costs”, said Mr Jacob.

Mr Abel added that he believed supermarkets are all “moving away from huge boxes” to smaller stores  in the short to medium term as they are faced with a difficult climate and multi-channel shopping.

Major contractors including ISG, Morgan Sindall and Willmott Dixon also urged retailers to stick with frameworks rather than chase cheaper prices on the open market.

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