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BIM in the UK: a new study shows how small architect practices are advantaged

New research regarding BIM in the UK shows how small businesses have been faster in adopting it, acquiring numerous advantages due to their dimensions

Recent research in England has shown that 79% of British architectural practices have already adopted BIM thanks to national policies that have come into effect since 2011.

Big studios and large companies were the first to approach BIM and also the most consistent that moved to adopt it.

However, it has been small companies that have achieved full adoption of these working methods more quickly, thanks to the smaller dimensions of their structures.

The research was carried out by Mohamad Kassem of Northumbria University and by Ahmed Louay, a graduate student at Sheffield University School of Architecture.

The two scholars examined a sample of 500 organizations (companies, architecture studios and Public Administrations) included in the lists of BIM service providers by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). 178 organizations have directly participated to this study.

Summarizing the results of the surveys among the employees of these organizations, 10 benchmarks were identified:

  1. internal communication system for companies / studios
  2. top management support and the coordination it provides
  3. size and organizational structure
  4. “organizational culture” of companies and professionals
  5. readiness and flexibility in changing and adapting to it
  6. awareness of the benefits that comes from innovations
  7. monitoring benefits / results obtained by innovation
  8. compatibility of the innovation
  9. limits and constraints to the adoption of innovation
  10. rules and conventions

Commenting on the speed of BIM adoption by small businesses, the authors of the study stated that:

The large-sized organisations developed their ‘awareness’ and ‘intention’ quicker than the micro and small-sized organisations. However, despite this advantage at the awareness and intention stage, the adoption rates of the large-sized sample did not reach 100% earlier than that of the micro-sized organisations.

In fact, it was noted that small and medium-sized companies, even if they realized the importance of Bim, were also able to integrate it faster into their internal processes, thanks to a leaner and more flexible structure.

Researchers have added that:

“Indeed, the micro-sized organisations surpass the large-sized organisations and achieve full rates of adoption one year earlier … “

This trend can be justified by:

  • the high flexibility that characterizes micro-sized organizations in responding to changes compared to large organizations;
  • greater vulnerability of micro-sized organizations to the market and its changes compared to large organizations.

However, it was noted that small businesses that have adopted BIM only after 2016 may not have been fully prepared for the transition, so the authors advise:

after 2016, our analysis of micro-sized organizations showed a negative change between market demands and the availability of organizations. This suggests that the micro-organizations have taken the decision to adopt the BIM to respond to specific requests of clients / public tenders but not as a result of achieved readiness. When the market has slowed down, and the demand for Bim-oriented calls has decreased; small businesses have resumed using traditional processes.

BIM maturity levels in the UK: working towards BIM Level 3 for 2020



It was also noted that very few companies have adopted BIM in 2011, the same year of the government mandate announcement: “This can be justified by the uncertainty around the country’s BIM vision and strategy at that early stage in the policy development and implementation”.

Dr. Kassem commented: “We are now trying to understand how the top drivers and factors affecting adoption decisions interact with each other to form causal relationship networks. These insights could inform the planning of tailored policy actions that improve BIM diffusion rate”.

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