BIM Adoption: Why it Has Failed to Mainstream, and May Never

BIM Adoption: is it as prevalent as ‘they’ say?

I have written about BIM adoption in this space in 2014, dispelling bunkum that media spins about BIM adoption in the construction industry. In that same paper, I lampooned doctored surveys and questionnaires that purported to back up the survey findings. In a nutshell, the adoption survey did not circulate to random control groups, as it should have – it only surveyed those who own the program, and stated a 67% adoption rate among builders surveyed, which of course, is utter nonsense.

BIM adoption rates: what’s real?

Nevertheless; BIM driven projects only account for less than 10% (BLS, US Census) of all construction work in the US, despite Obama’s executive action to mandate BIM for Fed projects. However; this 10% is mostly AE billings, not contractor works, and here’s why.

A BIM project may require a contractor to purchase the software, which is typically a one-off for the builder, who will have considerable outgo for the software license, maintenance contract, training, and BIM jockey. On a good day, the BIM captain for the contractor can turn in shop drawings, and have them returned approved, and ready to be fabricated from the BIM models.

How BIM models should work

But this is the rare exception. In most case, the BIM models are uncoordinated to such an extent that they’re of no use to the sketchers, and even present a hindrance.

This being the case, there is no compelling reason for a builder to keep a BIM jockey on payroll, and maintain a costly BIM license past the life of the project. Once the project is complete, the BIM software, now obsolete, is discarded, and never used again.

BIM program changes, when made globally are one of BIM’s strengths, however its weakest suit when made locally, or one at a time.

Large and complex projects, as well as those with many redundant programs, e.g., stadiums, lend themselves well to BIM adoption programs; the tolerances are a lot more forgiving, and clearances are liberal. Architects and engineers should experience fewer program conflicts in their clash detection survey. Yet, no matter how forgiving the tolerances and clearances, if proper coordination is not done in the design phase, it will have to be done in the production phase by the builder’s sketchers and detailers, creating deep disruption to the works, and forcing other activities to jump ahead out of sequence, and buggering the CPM schedule project logic.

This circumstance of BIM design flaws is so ubiquitous that it has become banal, created low expectations of pre-coordinated drawings, and generated billions in disruptions to the contractors who have to sit and wait for a corrective sketch from the design team, and change order from the client. BIM program changes, when made globally are one of BIM’s strengths, however its weakest suit when made locally, or one at a time.

Instead of chirping about phony adoption rates, and misrepresenting real-life conditions, BIM program distributors should focus more on how the interface between architect and engineer can be better coordinated before drawings are released for construction, not during. BIM manufacturers can provide leadership, and improve the quality and efficiency of BIM adoption models in the industry, and in so doing, improve the marketability of their products. In this way, a win/win scenario, so what are they waiting for?


Written by

Derek Graham is a Primavera 6 scheduler and schedule oversight consultant for public and private sector projects with four decades of construction industry experience. He has been an active construction expert witness in over 30 cases - both nationwide, and Federally, since 2006, when his book Managing Residential Construction Projects, was published by McGraw Hill