Why the benefits of BIM make it a no-brainer - not a burden

22 February 2019

As I recently discussed on a podcast, it’s an unfortunate fact that in some circles Building Information Modelling (BIM) has an image problem. As a process for creating and managing digital information through not just construction but every phase of the lifecycle of a built or “real asset”, you’d think it would be embraced eagerly by everyone in the industry. But it isn’t.

In fact, opinions on the benefits of BIM are sharply divided. On one side are the evangelists – “It’s a smarter way of doing things, a no brainer!”. On the other are the sceptics – “It’s an overly complex design process that’ll cost more than it’s worth”.

Who to believe? The reality is that these polarised views of BIM stem from a lack of hard evidence quantifying the benefits, but we have now filled that gap.  Through our recent work for the UK Government we developed a way of measuring the economic value derived from using BIM across the asset lifecycle. We called it the BIM Benefits Measurement Methodology (BMM). Then we applied it to two real-life projects, and published the results.

Our findings provide a truly unique insight into what BIM delivers on real-world projects, and what organisations should do to realise the most value from it.  Our BMM tool generated this insight by linking the various uses of BIM – we call these ‘BIM enablers’ – to the potential benefits. Mapping each of these uses during key activities across the full asset lifecycle produced 117 different “benefit pathways” – or ways that BIM can generate quantifiable benefits.

The two projects selected as test cases were both public sector – one real estate, one infrastructure. We used our BMM as the basis for a series of workshops with the project teams to identify and then quantify in monetary terms the benefits they’d realised through BIM.  

What did we find? By applying our BMM we were able to estimate the total savings made, the specific uses of BIM and types of benefit that generated the savings, and how these savings were distributed across the project lifecycle.

Looking at the overall level of savings, our analysis indicated that BIM generated savings equivalent to up to 3% of the whole-life cost of the projects. While initially this may appear small, and I do think it is a lower bound as I explain later, given that the average gross margin for UK contractors hovers around 1% to 2%, these figures are significant. Also while this is a small relative saving, if applied to the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, it could generate benefits to the economy of around £430m per year.

In terms of the stages where savings were realised, we found that over 70% of the benefit occurred during the operation phase. While intuitive to most this is interesting when considering that the use of BIM is more commonly focused in the design and construction phases.

I do think our results actually underestimate the total savings made, for two key reasons. First, we identified more benefits, but didn’t have enough evidential data to quantify them. And second, our analysis looked only at BIM savings at the project level, not at a programme or organisational level.

Our experience shows that these higher-level savings can be significant. For example, by using BIM to gain a better understanding of the projects within their, companies can digitise and aggregate their material demand across different projects, and realise economies of scale by managing procurement across their business.

What does all this mean for companies considering or already using BIM? While there are many different uses of BIM, they each generate different value and at different stages of the lifecycle. This means that organisations should focus their use of BIM to generate the maximum return on investment, and realise this in incremental steps through the lifecycle.

BIM should also be seen as a vital enabler of digitisation across the built environment, and of improvements to the related design, construction and operation processes. Companies can use BIM data to help digitise and enhance these processes, boosting the value from BIM still further – and our BMM provides a unique tool to help with this.

So, to return to my original question: who to believe, the BIM evangelists or sceptics? With our BMM, you don’t need to believe either of them. Just the facts. Which are that BIM can deliver real value – and not just in your projects, but across your business – if it’s used in the right way.

To read more about our BIM benefits measurement analysis, click here.

Andrew Walker

Andrew Walker | Capital Project Services: Digital Built Environment
Profile | Email | +44 (0)7808 798 716

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