Take-up of BIM in the housing sector has been relatively slow. Andrew Carpenter, chair of BIM4Housing, says that is starting to change in the wake of the Hackitt Review and the rise of offsite construction – but we need a continuing drive to raise awareness of its benefits
I’m minded in this piece to reference a report, in which I played a minor part, from the Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning Research in March 2018. The document by Dr Gemma Burgess, Michael Jones and Kathryn Muir, entitled BIM in the UK House Building Industry: Opportunities and Barriers to Adoption, set out to identify just that and in my humble opinion achieved its ambition.
Interestingly, it reported that awareness of BIM across the entire UK construction sector is starting to spread, driven by the government mandating its use on their construction projects by April 2016 (this was not the case for housing).
NBS carries out an annual survey and found 31% of respondents were using BIM in 2012, 62% in 2017 – and 95% thought they’d be using it within the following three years, ie by 2020.
However, the take-up in the housing sector has been much lower, probably fuelled by the fact it was not mandated in 2016. In 2013, the NHBC surveyed major housebuilders to find only 11% were engaged with BIM, 25% hadn’t heard of BIM and 64% had looked at it but seen no benefit to their business.
In the subsequent six years, things have moved on with the HBF setting up its own BIM sub-group to educate and inform this particular sector and, of course, our own BIM4Housing group, now in its sixth year, which sets out to promote the business benefits of adopting BIM to the wider.
We have seen a noticeable increase in activity within the affordable housing sector since the publication of the Hackitt Review that followed the Grenfell tragedy. In it, Dame Judith talks about the “golden thread” of information, which of course refers to BIM and espouses the virtues of using it with particular regard to asset management.
This March, BIM4Housing has been invited to present to both the G15 (the largest housing associations in London) on the general benefits of BIM and the London Councils Group on the fire safety benefits that might be derived from using it, which is an indication of this direction of travel.
The National Housing Federation has also set up its own sub-group within BIM4Housing to accelerate knowledge transfer amongst social landlords. All signs that at long last the housing sector is acknowledging the potential benefits of using BIM in design, construct and particularly FM.
The report also links BIM with the fast-accelerating use of more and more Modern Methods of Construction. In my opinion, these are inextricably linked and will only really succeed if we adopt a truly collaborative culture with an integrated supply chain.
Their adoption and eventual success both rely on the early involvement of the entire supply chain and an understanding that value is derived from ‘outcomes’ and not transactional procurement. Interestingly, it may be this drive for offsite solutions that provides the breakthrough for the adoption of BIM because of this strong link.
In my own industry of structural timber, we have seen a huge increase in the use of offsite solutions in housebuilding in the UK. I’ve been in post since 2011, when there were approximately 30,000 homes built in timber frame across the UK. Last year that figure was 60,000 homes, outlining a significant change in the way our housebuilders, both private sector and affordable, are looking to provide the 300,000 homes per annum we so desperately require as a nation.
One of my largest members, Stewart Milne, outlines many business benefits for the adoption of BIM, including not only greater productivity and profitability but also brand image and health & safety.
Mark Farmer, in his groundbreaking report Modernise or Die, launched in late 2016, also set out his views on the links between offsite construction and BIM, which include the following:
- Helps contribute to higher levels of IT integration.
- Combats the poor reputation of OSM gained through the early years of ‘prefab’.
- Provides visual simulations for training purposes.
- Reduces concerns through virtual testing.
- Reduces concerns about transportation through simulation.
- Faster production, better logistics and better collaboration.
- Cost reduction.
- Improved aesthetics through model views.
The conclusions are that while potential benefits have been recognised, take-up has been slow due to a number of factors including notably the necessary resources required (cost and time) and skills shortages.
The answer, they say, is to raise awareness of the benefits of using BIM – so enter BIM4Housing. We were set up in 2014 to do just that.
Farmer also recommends further research in which BIM4Housing could and should be involved including the following:
- The potential for Homes England to mandate BIM.
- The use of BIM in other countries (BIM4Housing has links with Norway, which is approximately five years ahead of us in the use of BIM).
- The quantification of evidence.
- Supporting energy efficiency of housing stock (a current project for BIM4Housing in 2019).
- The advantages of BIM for portfolio landlords (BIM4Housing is particularly involved with fire safety currently).
- The role of BIM in modernising construction methods.
If you’re involved in housing, private development or public sector, and want to get involved with BIM4Housing and help our drive to cascade BIM across the sector, please contact me at Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org or visit constructingexcellence.org.uk/bim4housing/about/ for more information.