What is BIM and what does it mean for SMEs?

With Small Medium Enterprises making up the majority of the industries supply chain, adopting a form of BIM will become a necessity for most.

Firstly it is important to know what Building Information Modelling (BIM) is. BIM has actually been around for at least 20 years or so and has acquired a lot of literature and definitions. BIM is essentially a large data base which houses a central building model. Every component within the model has information attached to it, such as cost, product information, supplier information, dimensions and so on. The central model is used to provide information to construction teams to enable them to design and construct a project in the most economic and timely way using the most effective building techniques. BIM enables this by identifying problems early to reduce rework, providing greater accuracy due to clash detection in the design stages, improving productivity during design and construction and providing better interoperability between systems. Following the completion of the project the building model along with all of the information gathered throughout the build process can then be passed on to the client to improve the lifecycle management of a property. BIM however isn’t just about technology, it also provides better collaboration between the construction team to work more effectively together by everyone working in conjunction with the central model. 

A lot of people consider BIM as a new concept because it was widely unknown within the industry until a few years ago, but following the UK’s Government Construction Strategy published in 2011 it’s been pushed to the fore front of construction.

What does this mean for SME’s such as BoA?

BIM is a process rather than a product that can be bought. Update software may need to be purchased to be able to integrate with client’s software but on the whole the investment will introduce new working and collaborative processes. With Small Medium Enterprises making up the majority of the industries supply chain, adopting a form of BIM will become a necessity for most in the next few years in order to provide the appropriate information to clients in a structured and consistent manner.

Drew Smith, BoA’s Senior Technical Manager said “BIM hasn’t really affected us much because the majority of our clients in the private sector are not calling for it yet” he went on to say “we as a company have been using Tekla 3d modelling software for the last 9 years or so, and following the growth of BIM within the industry, Tekla have introduced BIMsight software which allows us to export and import 3D models. We use these in our presentations at the time of tender to enable our clients to get a better understanding of what we are proposing. Then once a job has been secured, we can use the model to collaborate with design teams to make sure they are happy with our design, by enabling them to take a ‘virtual tour’ of the building or connection”.

Although SMEs may not be seeing the effect of BIM at the moment, there’s no doubt that it will eventually become an integral part of all projects as clients start to see the benefits of using such a system. With this said SMEs should take action now to make sure they don’t get left behind in the process. 

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