BIM usage throughout the construction business value chain
I have written many articles on BIM usages among various stakeholders, but never before have I had the opportunity to compare the actual BIM adoption between these groups. I always like to state that BIM is or will become a license to operate. It’s an oversimplification, but one that is true nevertheless.
There are many arguments to support this claim, but perhaps one of the stronger ones is the ability of reducing failure costs due to clash control. Granted, this is a limited view on what BIM can bring to the table, but it is a feature that potentially addresses a huge problem in the construction industry, failure costs. Average failure costs on any given project can run as high as 8-10%. Combine this with an average EBITDA of contractors of between 2-5% and it’s obvious why clash control and the ability to reduce failure costs is so important.
BIM usage amongst architects, contractors and mechanical installers
Now as said, BIM is or can be so much more then just clash control. However, this is not the topic of todays article. What I would like to share with you is the adoption rate between 3 stakeholders in the business value chain; Architects, contractors and mechanical installers. A key rule of thumb is that BIM adoption drops the further down the business value chain you go. Clearly, as can be seen in the image below, this rule of thumb is very much true. BIM adoption is the highest among European architects, with 38% of European architects using BIM. This number drops to 12% among European contractors/general builders and 7% for mechanical installers.
The percentages of BIM adoption among the selected stakeholders says a lot, but it is not the complete picture. It’s important to understand the significant differences there are when it comes to BIM adoption between the various countries. Let’s pit the country with the highest BIM adoption against the country with the lowest BIM adoption. Let’s start with the latter, the country with the lowest BIM adoption (in our surveys we cover France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the UK) is Germany. In Germany about 23% of the architects use BIM, this drops to 7% for contractors/general builders and to 1% for mechanical installers.
Now compare this to the numbers for the Netherlands, which features the highest BIM usages in projects; 81% of architects, 42% of contractors/general builders and 19% among mechanical installers.
Now you might wonder, what are the drivers of these huge differences between the countries? Well there are many, for example the pressure from legislation, the degree of standardized and repetitive types of construction, overall digitization, level of conservatism, prevailing building techniques and many more.
How will the BIM adoption evolve in the upcoming years
Even though I am mentioning BIM as a license to operate or a future license to operate (depending on the country, product type and stakeholder in the value chain), this adoption of BIM is an evolution, not a revolution. The construction industry is slow moving and so are the trends in this market. That being said, BIM adoption among European architects is projected to be around 60% in 2023. After that, the share of architects who are using BIM will continue to grow, but not as fast as we have been seeing in the last couple of years.
There is a simple and clear reason for this, BIM will not make sense for all types of construction projects (or at least not for the foreseeable future). Take for example the new build of a single family house. The investment to work in BIM, will not outweigh the costs and efforts. This is even more the case when we look at the renovation market. So many, primarily small architectural agencies will not starting to work with BIM anytime soon, as they tend to focus more on the project types mentioned above. This is also the case for contractors and mechanical installers.
So, the size of the companies will have a strong effect on the BIM adoption. The larger an architectural, construction or installation firm is, the more likely it is that they will use or start to use BIM. Besides the fact that they are focusing more on segments where the use of BIM makes sense, they can also make the initial investments needed to be BIM ready.
We expect that BIM adoption among contractors/general builders will continue to increase over time, just like we have seen with the architects (the early innovator) a couple of years ago. Contractors/general builders have a lot of direct benefits from working with BIM and they are forced to work with BIM due to legislation and demand from the architects & principles.
For installers, the growth path is not so clear. The further down the business value chain we go, the less likely it will become to find BIM users. With installers, in many cases an engineering company is involved directly for the design of the installation. Furthermore, BIM usage will only be sensible for the largest of installation companies, thus further lowering the share of BIM users. Overall BIM usage will grow, but at a lower rate then we have seen with the architects or currently see with the contractors.
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