BIM can fuel USA’s growth story in the construction sector. Here’s why!

BIM can fuel USA’s growth story in the construction sector. Here’s why!

The construction industry is one of the largest sectors in the world economy, yet its challenges are gaping. The sector is labor intensive and has processes deeply set in the physical realm. Low efficiency, delayed construction and high costs are a few aspects that offer opportunities for optimisation. Digital transformation is the lever that can catapult this sector into its next wave of growth. This is where Building-Information Modelling (BIM) comes into the picture. 

BIM offers the potential to view the entire project in full glory, covering all elements of design and construction, right at the pre-construction stage. Access to information at every phase has deep repercussions on the time taken for completion and overall costs incurred. Real-time information on the project fosters deep collaboration between stakeholders, helps them foresee risks, and reduces the possibility of errors.

Implementation of BIM is possible at different stages covering eight dimensions, which translates to information for all stakeholders at various depths.  

The case for a BIM mandate in USA

With expenditures reaching over 1,293 billion US dollars, the United States is one of the largest construction markets worldwide. Post the pandemic-led pause, the sector is expected to bounce back with anticipated growth in the healthcare, commercial, and transportation sectors starting in 2021. The demand for housing is on a steady rise, with multi-family complex, residential projects picking up pace. 

Managing this increase in workload with no significant drop in productivity would need the right technologies. Quite evidently, BIM can offer solutions for many of these incumbent challenges. Construction firms in the USA had started implementing BIM in the 1970s yet the adoption rate has been rather slow. 

Even at a projected growth rate of 15.6% in 2021, the sector doesn’t yet have a national-level BIM mandate. In 2003, the US General Services Administration created the National 3D-4D-BIM Program that included a BIM adoption mandate for public building projects. Among the states, Wisconsin was the first to implement a BIM mandate for public construction projects for over a USD 5 million budget or more.  

BIM mandate in the US has been challenging because there is no single federal agency that can plan and mandate BIM for all public projects. Without a mandate, BIM adoption is likely to be slower as it will be dependent on the association between construction firms, contractors, architects and other stakeholders.  

For BIM adoption to grow, we must think of BIM beyond its use as a design tool and explore the depths of information that BIM models provide. The information at every stage of construction enables enhanced control over the entire project, reduced errors and risks, optimized costs, better safety and logistics and faster completion. Besides, BIM can be used in diverse construction arenas including highway and road engineering, rail and metro transportation engineering, landscape and land development, tunnelling and subway architecture, offshore and marine architecture, heritage building conservation to name a few.  

Even if a universal mandate is not feasible, a gradual implementation would work in the nation’s favour with federal buildings leading the way for BIM implementation. The government should refine the mandate based on its own experience with BIM. Besides, a mandate governing construction projects in the private sector may also be worthwhile, especially based on the building height, size or complexity or environmental impact. The regular revisions of the National BIM Standard-United States (NBIMS-US) will propel the adoption of BIM as a comprehensive tool for visualization, construction simulation, and facility management for any project. 

While mandate implementation may take its time in the US, having defined BIM standards can facilitate faster adoption.

Adoption of BIM across the globe

With the increasing demand for urban planning and smart cities, many countries are moving faster towards BIM adoption.

The Scandinavian countries Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark have been among the early adopters of BIM. In 2007, Finland implemented IFC compliance and BIM adoption for all public construction projects. Similarly, Norway adopted the BIM mandate for its state projects in 2010, followed by Denmark in 2011 and Sweden in 2015. In 2016, Norway shared an open BIM certification.

The Swedish Standards Institute has published a series of guides with the aim of promoting BIM in the country since 1991, while starting from 2014 the BIM Alliance Sweden has brought together the main public and private stakeholders, to find more resources and support construction innovation.

UK has also been a forerunner when it comes to BIM adoption. In 2011, the UK government aimed at digital transformation of the construction industry that would eventually project UK as the leader in the sector. Thus in 2016, the UK implemented a BIM Level 2 mandate for all its public construction projects. While Portugal and Spain are already going strong on BIM, France and Germany have scheduled a phased-out introduction of BIM in the last couple of years.

In Asia, Singapore was one of the first countries to adopt BIM, followed by Japan, Korea and China. In 2015, the Building and Construction Authority in Singapore had made BIM obligatory for all construction projects over 5,000 square metres. Since then, the Singapore government has witnessed a significant increase in construction productivity. In fact, the government estimates that productivity increases by up to 30% when using BIM. Australian state governments see similar benefits and some have introduced similar mandates.

These leading countries share a common goal: digitizing the construction industry to help minimize costs and ensure sustainability. A strong BIM mandate is helping them achieve this goal and build a smart nation.

Shouldn’t USA be then acing BIM too? What do you think?