SMEs are key to the UK’s BIM journey, so their uptake is vital to ensure our BIM leadership. David Philp, Head of BIM at Mace and the UK BIM Task Group explains their importance.

In 2013, there were 4.9 million businesses in the UK, with over 99% categorized as small or medium sized businesses (SMEs) i.e. employing between 0-249 people. Of this populace the SME community’s share of construction turnover in the UK private sector was 72.4%.

Given that SMEs are the backbone of our sector, we must ensure that they have sufficient digital capacity and capability to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of BIM (Building Information Modelling) leadership across the globe. But why should they care? Why should they consider investing in change?

The reality is they have to compete on a new basis with fierce international competition for the provision of skills and products and ever tight project affordability constraints. It is self-evident, therefore, that to flourish with the backdrop of these challenges that they must reform and unlock more efficient ways of working.

Building Information Modelling really offers SMEs the opportunity to raise their game and contend in the heavy weight classes. Despite often being resource constrained, the SMEs are a motor of innovation with inherent change characteristics often not found in bigger organisations, coupled with faster decision making processes. It is essential, however, that SMEs build adequate knowledge capital in the BIM space to improve their value creation processes to:

  • Sell or export this knowledge to another organisation as part of their offering; and,
  • Improve their offering, such as manufacturers who can liberate the data associated with their products to increase exports, create new markets or simply get specified earlier in the construction process.

There is much evidence to support the hypothesis that digital enabled workflows benefit the SME in the built environment. Organisations such as David Miller Architects (DMA) have seen both direct and indirect benefits through their BIM implementation; growing from a small to medium size practice through the efficiencies they are achieving, but also how they are being perceived differently by clients and through meritocracy competing for larger and more prestigious commissions.

Additionally, the tier 2 and 3 communities play an important part in enabling the larger tier 1 organisations. It is therefore essential there is a symbiosis between these parties to help each other up-skill and exchange digital data.

So where should an SME start their journey? Firstly start with the free stuff.

1. Perhaps I am a tad biased on this but visit the BIM Task Group website . This is a treasure trove of great resources on the BIM standards and processes. Be sure and visit the labs space and read the fortnightly newsletters.

2. Read PAS1192-2:2013 and PAS1192-3:2014 which looks at information management for the capital and operational phases of construction projects using BIM. These can be downloaded free of charge from the BSI website. They can be also be accessed via the BIM task group website.

3. Build a network – trust me, BIM is about open innovation and collaboration. Join the dots with your local Regional BIM Hub and the BIM4SME working group who are doing great work to raise the awareness and value proposition of Building Information Modelling for smaller organisations.

4. Capability. You are probably already doing some BIM efforts but perhaps you don’t even realise it. Have a review of how you create or manage your digital data. Do you use a common data environment? Work out where you are on your point of departure and determine what up-skilling is necessary to close the gaps. Consider both: knowledge of processes as well as skills on digital toolsets.

5. Have a play about. Most technology vendors offer free viewing, or indeed in some cases, free clash detection tools. Often viewing and reviewing models will be all you need and you can do it for free.

Do your duty. Ensuring the UK construction sector builds on its rich heritage and makes a big step into the digital frontier will be massively driven by the uptake of the SME community, so remember you can’t hit a home run unless you step up to the plate.

Our digital universe is growing exponentially as are the opportunities. Big data, and the increasing value of the internet of things will all create new exciting prospects for the SME players in our fast changing built environment.



Head of BIM at Mace and

Head of UK BIM Task Group


Tel:+44 (0) 20 3522 3000


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here