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Industry doubts over UK government meeting 2016 BIM target increasing – survey

Doubts among infrastructure professionals that the UK will meet government targets for the use of building information modelling (BIM) software on projects are increasing, according to a survey conducted by Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

Although 94% of survey respondents were aware of the government's stated commitment to the use of 'Level 2' collaborative 3D BIM on all centrally-procured government projects by 2016, 71% said they believed the industry would not be ready. This view was reported by 63% of respondents to the same survey last year. There was also a significant increase in the number of respondents believing that the lack of understanding of BIM further down the supply chain was the main reason for this.

"As a headline that doesn't make great reading, but it's not a massive surprise," said infrastructure law expert Chris Hallam of Pinsent Masons. "Over the last few years there has been a huge and very successful effort by early adopters in the industry and government to promote and encourage awareness, acceptance and use of BIM - to a stage where there is near universal industry recognition of BIM and widespread private sector investment in BIM implementation and technologies."

"However, awareness and investment is just the start. It's clearly going to take time for the wider industry to get up the BIM learning curve to really understand what BIM can do, and obviously with time comes experience. That is the challenge for the next few years, as the innovators and early adopters turn their sights to 'Level 3' BIM, we are very optimistic that it will happen," he said.

Last year's survey found that the main barrier to implementation of Level 2 BIM was the absence of collaboration in the construction team and its supply chain. This is still considered to be a major factor for 24% of respondents, according to the 2015 survey; although 52% said that they were experiencing greater collaboration in the construction industry due to the effect of BIM. One third of respondents said that lack of understanding among subcontractors and consultants was the biggest barrier to Level 2 BIM capability, while 25% cited insufficient experience of BIM within their own organisations as the greatest barrier.

A BIM system uses a computer generated model to collect and manage information about the design, construction and operation of a project centrally. Any changes to the design of a project made during its construction are automatically applied to the model, making it especially useful where many parties such as different subcontractors provide input on the same project.

BIM is used to different levels of sophistication and 'Level 2' BIM is a term that broadly refers to a fully collaborative 3D environment where all project information, documents and data are electronic and where software and interfaces allow for the management and integration of that material. The UK government's target for full adoption of BIM on all centrally-procured government projects refers to Level 2 BIM. The next stage, Level 3 BIM, will involve full collaboration between all parties on a single, shared project model held in a centralised repository.

The UK government published its 'Digital Built Britain' strategy for the development of Level 3 BIM beyond 2016 in February. However, nearly half of the respondents to the Pinsent Masons survey had not heard of this report. Of those who had, 40% thought it was 'good' and around half rated it as 'average'.

Over two thirds of respondents to the survey did, however, believe that technology would have a high impact on construction processes and procedures over the next five years. Respondents particularly anticipated the greater use of 3D printed components, cited by 69% of respondents; use of drones, cited by 57% of respondents; and big data, cited by 55% of respondents.

International telecoms expert Diane Mullenex of Pinsent Masons said that it was "already the case" that the increased use of technology was changing the construction industry. BIM was "a good illustration of this impact", she said.

"Level 3 BIM will offer to all actors of the project a common platform," she said. "This highly collaborative approach should allow the construction sector to develop new synergies. It will allow promoters to be more innovative, notably to have a more sustainable approach, and forget about miscalculations discovered only when it's already too late."

"Other governments around the world are only starting to include BIM in their reflexions. It is a chance for the UK to lead the way in integrating technologies in the future of construction processes and regulations," she said.

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