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Posts from 2017-08-20

Is BIM Failing The Housebuilding Sector?

Adoption of BIM for house builders requires a unique approach, says Nigel Walley, Chimni founder in an article first published in

House building is arguably the BIM industry’s most notable failure to date, with only those parts exposed to public sector procurement having made significant progress.

During 2014, I was involved in setting up the BIM4Housing working group. As part of the scoping process, the founding group travelled round the UK holding seminars and workshops with house builders and contractors looking at the issues of adopting BIM.

What became clear from these sessions was that developers and contractors felt that home building was different to many other construction sectors in its exposure to BIM, and there were hurdles to adoption that would need a unique approach.

The first issue raised was lack of scale. The house builders felt that BIM came into its own with projects of significant scale, but benefits were harder to realise for smaller-scale projects. While the UK has a small number of very large house builders, housing is in large part an SME Industry. Outside of the top 10 housing companies, the average size, and number of units built annually, plummets.

A second issue, related to the issue of scale, was standardisation. Our participants felt that BIM’s advantages were greater where the multiple use of standard designs could allow BIM to be part of a broader standardisation and automation process.

While the larger house builders where able to achieve this, it was more common for small and medium-sized home builders to be dealing with fragmented and irregular land banks with a need for greater variations in design layouts. This was also an issue for innovation around offsite and modular construction.

The participants also flagged up the difficulty in ensuring that the final built home conformed exactly to the CAD or BIM models they were based on. House builders spoke about the leeway they have to give to their onsite teams in procurement and final build decisions.

Often the freedom to source materials locally if necessary, or respond to site conditions dynamically mean that the CAD model is treated as a statement of intent rather than a rigid construction guide. The idea that a BIM model would be incorporated into a digitised construction process for these developers was fanciful.

Finally, the lack of a fourth stage for BIM was highlighted as a problem. One of the key benefits of the transition to BIM, and one of the client drivers to architects and contractors investing, is the ability to hand BIM data and models over to owners at the end of the construction stage.

In housing, the benefits of this stage are hard to pin down. In structured, social housing there are FM models emerging that can use BIM output. However, the wider housing culture has yet to address this potential source of benefits. It means that, for housing, there is almost no client pressure towards the adoption of BIM.

Once again a related issue was the slow progress in creating BIM objects for domestic building materials and products. Because of the lack of pressure from owners and FMs, it was felt that the manufacturers aiming their products at the residential market had done the least to create new information models and BIM data for their products.

None of the issues cited were intended as reasons to avoid adopting BIM. The respondents were clear in their broad intentions to evolve, but were facing commercial and operational barriers that currently seemed too high. More seriously, the house builders saw nothing in the BIM revolution that would help them improve productivity. 

This is the reality for the vast majority of small and medium housing developers and the BIM industry needs to address these issues if we are to get the residential industry to catch up with other construction sectors taking a lead in field.

Housing clients need to find a unique approach to digitisation to achieve speedy and frictionless delivery. But we may have to accept that while BIM will be part of this, it may not be core to it as it is in other sectors.

Note: This article first appeared on here.

Housing Needs Level 3 to Succeed In The BIM Revolution


Lizzie Newman - In 2015 Chimni were part of  the founding group of companies of the BIM4Housing working party. That year we held workshops and meetings with a wide variety of players in the new housing industry to evaluate the challenges we faced.  The overall finding was that the house building community is having numerous difficulties with the adoption of BIM. 

In our final report, we broke down the challenges house builders faced in each of the key development phases: concept design, detail design, and construction. Each posed problems, particularly for small and medium size builders.

However, the biggest challenge we flagged up was in the fourth phase – operations and maintenance. House builders told us that there is currently almost no BIM user case at this stage in most housing developments and this therefore removed a significant push to adoption.

We made the case that in a small number of “structured” housing sectors, such as social housing, there are FM models emerging that can use BIM output. Many of the current commercial initiatives to integrate BIM output into FM models and software will eventually be applicable to residential apps targeted at the social or managed housing sectors.

However, the wider housing culture, and particularly the new “homebuild for sale” market has yet to address this potential source of benefits. 

The industry has to recognise the context is changing. The process of owning and managing new homes is increasingly being digitised. While only a small number of new homes are being built using BIM models full of useful, digital information, other aspects of home management are leaping ahead into the digital world. 

As the traditional “handover pack” is being digitised, homeowners are increasingly dealing with utilities and other service providers who are driving an online relationship. No one foresees a time when we will be handing BIM models over to new homeowners, but there may be ways that BIM data can be used to create new products and services that support the homeowner in this increasingly digital market.

This is consistent with the industry’s vision for the next iteration of the BIM revolution, BIM Level 3, or ”iBIM” as it is sometimes called. This will be the point where BIM adoption in housing leaps ahead.

The Chimni project is the first in the market to look at how to deliver useful consumer outcomes using BIM data. Our starting point is not the BIM model or its data. Our first focus is on consumer behaviour. We have looked at the needs and interests of the homeowner through the complete lifecycle of buying, maintaining, developing and then selling a home.

We then constructed a potential service vision around each of these stages, looking at how we could use data to revolutionise the way a homeowner managed their home. Only then did we ask the question: where can BIM data help us deliver this?

The challenge we are facing in BIM Level 2 is that the industry has yet to establish a culture of open and free flowing data sets necessary for the iBIM revolution to take place. It will come, but we are only in the first stages of establishing how data could and should be formatted, packaged, and distributed freely around the industry.

Beyond the new homes market, there is a strong argument to say that the retro-fit and refurbishment of existing homes will also benefit from the BIM revolution if we can get the services model correct.

The BIM object data now being created by manufacturers of products and systems used in retro-fit can also be brought into this new consumer-friendly iBIM world. Products like central heating, and home security, where significant amounts of user instruction data, maintenance scheduling and remote diagnostics data is will be created are perfect for this new world.

This data being created in this first generation of BIM objects is currently targeted at new build contractors, but it has huge potential if it evolves through BIM Level 3 to support consumer services and apps.

To get there, we need manufacturers of property tech and IoT devices to work closer with the industry bodies pushing the development of BIM in the housing industry. We need both industries to work together in the process of creating data formats configured to support consumer apps and services for retro-fit equipment.

This is not futurology – any homeowner with a British Gas Hive, or Google Nest attached to their central heating has already made a leap in this direction. It is now time to bring BIM into the consumer services industry.

It’s likely that the initial areas where BIM and proptech can collaborate will be in areas around data for performance and maintenance. It is likely that there are areas of potential collaboration that are hard to define at this stage.

However, to manage for this in the long term, both industries will need to develop a shared vision for how people will expect to manage their homes in the future and the data they will require to do that. For the BIM industry to play its part in this, may require Level 3 capability to be embedded in the house building industry first.



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