2011 the UK Government published the Construction Strategy mandating the use of Level 2, 3D Collaborative Building Information Modelling (BIM) on all central government construction projects by 2016, irrespective of project value.
Fast forward to the present, and we are increasingly seeing projects being built twice, one digitally and the other perfectly on site.

Through the implementation of BIM we have been able to construct buildings and infrastructure digitally, which has allowed organizations to identify and resolve issues prior to the start of construction, which has led to reduced risk and error and has attributed to increased efficiency and profit.

BIM software

But what impact will this have on subcontractors and small businesses that are faced with financial barriers?

When the mandate was first imposed for 2016, a number of architects and main contractors were already able to deliver projects in BIM, allowing them to sail through the chain of custody without a hitch. Although great for some, this, unfortunately, had a negative effect on small business and subcontractors who were unable to adapt as quickly and comply with new regulations, which has led to the loss of opportunities and work and poses the threat of liquidation.

Despite the benefits of BIM being undeniable, the sky-high fees have presented significant barriers for smaller business and specialist subcontractors as they struggle to justify the value of the software and weigh up the return of investment.

For some specialists with fewer than five employees, such as joinery, fit-out companies, plasters etc. the obstacles have overwhelmed them and created a reluctance to up skill, which to their detriment has prevented them from being able to work with as many main contractors who have now started to demand BIM as a compulsory requirement.

How will main contractors overcome the skill shortage in specialist sectors?

With the construction industry facing a skill shortage in specialist sectors, main contractors are also facing hardships as they struggle to find a highly skilled workforce that is compliant and able to take on the work.With both parties experiencing the knock-on effects of the mandate, it’s clear that there is a definite training defect within the industry that needs to be addressed.

Funding and support from main contractors

Although things may seem bleak for the small business owner, having a niche trade could, in fact, prove to be in their favour, especially if they have pre-existing or long-standing partnerships with main contractors.

In order for organizations to start a BIM project, they must first demonstrate that they are able to deliver in the environment and that all parties involved in the project are onboard with the process from the get-go. This means that main contractors are faced with two options. They either need to train their supply chain or seek out new suppliers who are BIM compatible.

Although both options present various pros and cons, the latter may present greater risks if the main contractor is unfamiliar with their work, which could lead to potential delays if the new supplier is unreliable. With the being said the main contractor might also find that the pool of specialist contractors is a sparse one to choose from.

BIM funding

Who is responsible for implementing BIM?

Without having a BIM compatible supply chain, main contractors will struggle to deliver on projects, and equally, without upskilling the workforce, subcontractors will face a loss. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that BIM was implemented to promote collaboration across the supply chain.

As it stands if you’re a small business who is at risk of being left behind, now is the time to take action as neither party can thrive without the other.

Although there is still a long way to go in terms of establishing responsibility for implementing BIM, seeking the support of the main contractor can lead to benefits for both parties. By simply asking main contractors about the tools and processes they have in place to implement BIM on a relevant project, will help open doors and will lay the foundations for a better understanding of what’s expected from both sides in terms of training and responsibility, and will help the specialist contractor overcome obstacles and remain a key part of the supply chain.

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