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FPS chairman’s blog: The trouble with BIM…

The Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) is doing much to encourage its members’ to embrace BIM, not only as a means to securing more business, but in recognising its potential and usefulness in support of the many issues facing the construction sector such as sustainability, safety, cost and supply.

In fact, the FPS has established a working group focused entirely on BIM to ensure its membership is ready to meet key targets. It is also helping provide information, guidance and systems, ensuring they are in place to help integrate processes with associated sectors of the construction industry. All good then?

I wish it was that simple. The trouble is, our BIM preparedness highlights the slow progress being made by the next level up and even beyond. While the wheels of BIM were never going to turn at the same speed across all sectors of the supply chain – probably because each tier has its own issues to address and systems to implement – what is actually worrying is that much of the slow uptake appears to be with the supply chain having little or no desire to push BIM forward. In some sectors there seems to be zero demand push either.

There may be many reasons why this is so, but perhaps the main one is the lack of understanding of BIM in the supply chain. Organisations want to adopt BIM and understand the many benefits it offers, but are unable to realise their ambitions. Some companies have made great strides and have well established BIM systems, but for many I believe there is considerable confusion and as consequence, a lack of enthusiasm to invest in training and processes, which could change all this.

It is also concerning that while our own members are keen to embrace BIM, there are still many instances where they are not being asked to be BIM compliant and the projects are not rolling down BIM compliance to tier two contractors. If few projects are calling for BIM then where’s the incentive to even look at establishing compliance? We all know BIM costs money even if the return on the investment can be demonstrated further down the line. The UK is certainly not out of the woods economically, so why throw money at something that isn’t always requested and may not deliver financially for many years to come?

The wider construction industry has its concerns too; a recent survey by law firm Pinsent Mason found that 71% of the construction professionals it questioned believe that the requirements for the 2016 BIM mandate will not be met. This finding was supported by a survey of more than 1,200 architects, contractors, developers, engineers and product manufacturers questioned by the BRE in partnership with UK Construction Week, which found that 74% felt the same.

BIM, despite its detractors, is here to stay and will ultimately be central to the success of all future construction projects and not just those from the public sector. The interests of the entire supply chain should be to act now to embrace it through both understanding and processes. They must commit the necessary investment in training and resources to capture the undoubted benefits that full BIM implementation will release.

Martin Blower is chairman of the FPS

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