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Owners see BIM use gaining fast in U.S., faster in U.K.

Owners see BIM use gaining fast in U.S., faster in U.K.


Legal mandates have accelerated the use and acceptance of building information modeling (BIM) by construction owners in the United Kingdom, but the trend is definitely catching up in the U.S., as well, albeit at a slower pace.


That is the chief finding of a new SmartMarket ReportTheBusiness Value of BIM for Owners, released this month by McGraw-Hill Construction (MHC). The research is based on "structured telephone interviews" with 101 U.S. owners and 40 U.K. owners. Of all those surveyed, 53% reported annual construction budgets between $50 million and $400 million; 18% had annual budgets in excess of $400 million, and 29% were below the $50 million threshold.

"BIM, which began primarily as a design tool, then evolved to a must-have for leading contractors, is now gaining traction with owners around the world," writes Stephen A. Jones, a senior director with MHC and the study's principal author. The evolution is natural, he explains, because "owners are the greatest beneficiaries of BIM... (They) see its benefits on their projects and also want to use it in their facility operating environments."

Primary sponsors for the research were San Francisco-based Autodesk Inc. and Skanska AB, Stockholm. Contributing partners were Balfour Beatty Construction, Dallas TX, and M.A. Mortenson Co., Minneapolis MN; with additional support from from Hensel Phelps, Greeley CO; Chicago-based American Institute of Steel Construction; and the buildingSMARTalliance, a council of the National Institute of Building Sciences.

Among the findings: 

  • 40% of U.S. owners and 38% of U.K. owners expect that more than 75% of their projects will involve BIM within two years, with a particularly high level of growth in the U.S.;
  • Growth in the U.K. is being driven by the approaching implementation of a central government mandate requiring use of BIM on all public projects by 2016, with over two thirds (67%) of U.K. owners reporting that the mandate has a high impact on their use of BIM.
Bernstein of Autodesk (Australia Design Review)

Bernstein of Autodesk
(Australia Design Review)

"The report clearly shows the most important driver of BIM use in Singapore and the U.K. has been their national BIM mandates," notes Phillip G. Bernstein, VP of Strategic Industry Relations at Autodesk. "With these two governments continuing to make infrastructure development a high priority, the adoption of BIM has become a critically important step towards minimizing lifecycle building costs and improving the design quality of their built assets."

The influence of the mandate in the U.K. yields a stark contrast with BIM implementation in the U.S. As a result:

  • U.K. owners are more aware of BIM use by the core project team members (architects and general contractors) than their U.S. counterparts;
  • Most U.K. owners (88%) are formally measuring the impact of BIM, but only 18% of U.S. owners are;
  • More U.K. owners agree that they have experienced key BIM benefits like enhanced visualization, fewer problems due to design errors, coordination issues or construction errors, and beneficial impacts on project schedule and the control of construction costs.
Putnam of Skanska UK (

Putnam of Skanska UK

"When Skanska is an owner, we mandate BIM and have done so since 2008, as we believe it brings significant benefits," says Mike Putnam, president & CEO of Skanska UK. "However, the report clearly shows that there is still much to be done before BIM is routinely used to develop more sustainable buildings and infrastructure."

Because the findings demonstrate the powerful influence that governments can have on the implementation of BIM, the report also contains research on BIM policies in over 20 major construction markets globally, as well as qualitative research with owners on the use of BIM in Singapore and Scandinavia, two regions with strong, effective support of BIM by their national governments.

According to the report, one aspect of having a central government mandate is the demands it places on all players on the project team to be working with BIM. The use of BIM by the full core project team rather than by select players can have a significantly positive impact on BIM's influence on project outcomes.

The findings also reveal that U.K. owners are using BIM for facility management, capitalizing on the benefits of BIM not just to reduce the cost of building design and construction but also throughout the building lifecycle.

  • 54% of U.K. owners already report that they have high capabilities to leverage BIM for building operations and facility management, compared with only 14% in the U.S.
  • By 2019, almost all (92%) of U.K. owners expect to have high capability to use BIM for building operations, a sharp contrast to the U.S. with just 49% expecting to be at that level.
MHC's Jones

MHC's Jones

"For as long as BIM has been used, practitioners have foreseen the potential value to owners of bringing the data-rich models developed by design and construction teams into owners' facility management and operations environments," adds MHC's Jones. "Recent advances in standards and technology are now putting this within reach of owners everywhere. We are at the beginning of an exciting new era for BIM."

Despite the vigorous involvement with BIM by owners in the U.S. and especially in the U.K., the study also reveals that they would expand their engagement with BIM if there were more industry professionals with BIM skills at design and construction firms, if their operations and maintenance staff had a better ability to utilize the model and if there were standards of model development and exchange to better enable use of the model across the entire project team. Even so, the trend is obvious, and as the comfort level grows, the skill levels will, as well.

Konchar of Balfour Beatty. (

Konchar of Balfour Beatty. (

“BIM has taken the industry to a new level over the last several years in terms of leveraging technology for gains in productivity, accuracy, quality, and worker safety,” says Mark Konchar, chief enterprise development officer at Balfour Beatty. "As building owners expand their BIM strategies, we encourage them to promote open and creative collaboration among all partners early in the process which often leads to significant opportunities for innovation and project value."

Among the project teams, though, other hurdles remain, primarily when different team members use different operating systems that adopt BIM in different ways. "There is a lack of software/hardware interoperability," noted Ricardo Khan, Mortenson's director of integrated construction, in an interview with SmartBlog earlier this month. "The various levels of adoption can pose challenges. (But) we have noticed that projects where all those in the supply chain are high BIM/VDC adopters have more collaboration and higher performance during design and construction, in the end driving higher value to our customers."

More and more owners everywhere now seem to be coming to that realization.

For the full SmartBlog interview with Khan:

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