BIM challenges facing contractors

With just 16 months to go until the use of BIM becomes mandatory on Government funded construction projects, is the industry ready?  Robert Daniel, technical advisor at Marley, discusses the use of BIM on roofing and cladding projects and the challenges faced by subcontractors.

The Government has mandated that BIM Level 2 must be used on centrally funded construction projects by 2016, yet for many roofing and cladding contractors there is still uncertainty about how and if, BIM will affect them. 

The trouble with talking about how BIM will affect subcontractors is that everyone is working to different levels and there is no one standard way of using the process.   Clients, architects and main contractors have their own views on how BIM should be used and this can be confusing for the supply chain.  The one thing that most parties agree on is that BIM is more about collaboration and sharing information, than it is about the software.

The purpose of BIM is to provide a collaborative approach to any construction project, saving time and cost throughout the supply chain.   BIM connects information from every discipline into a combined model that can be used during both the construction and occupancy phases of a building.

Although the Government only requires BIM to be used on centrally funded projects, many local authorities are following this lead and we are also seeing an increase in BIM use on large private sector design and build contracts.  In fact, the latest statistics from the NBS National BIM Report 2014 show that over half of construction professionals are now using BIM, with 54% using it on at least one project in the last year, 40% more than in 2010.  This number is expected to grow rapidly, with just over 93% of those surveyed predicting they would be using it in the next three years. 

Therefore, it is likely that all roofing and cladding contractors working on large private and public sector projects will need to interact with BIM at some level.  One of the main purposes of BIM is to bring together different parts of the construction supply chain and as key players in this, roofing and cladding contractors will inevitably be involved in the process. 

Roofing in particular often includes several trades e.g. carpenters, installers, roofers and plumbers.  Using the BIM process, an interactive model is produced so each member of the supply chain can contribute.  This enables any issues to be addressed early in the process and to look at where time can be saved, for example by using a different type of roofing material.

Just as BIM has different levels of maturity, we see that there are and will be different stages of involvement for roofing and cladding contractors, depending on their technical capability and the types of project they are working on.  The first stage is projects where they need to be able to view the BIM model and see the data contained within it.  This will show them what products and fixings are used and how it is constructed to enable them to cost and carry out their part of the building.  The second stage is projects where they will need to interact with, rather than just view the model throughout the design and construction phases.  For example this may mean adding materials used into the model.

The third and more advanced stage of BIM involvement follows the benchmark that has been set by steelwork contractors, who already provide computer modelling at design stage to show how a building can be put together. The ultimate goal for roofing and particularly, cladding contractors, is to emulate this – having early involvement so they can input into the BIM model, using their specialist expertise to advise on the best way to construct a roof and what materials could be used to save time on the programme or how cladding can fit together with a steelwork structure for example.

However, unlike large building firms, most roofing and cladding contractors don’t have the resource to have a dedicated BIM manager, so cost, time and culture change are significant barriers to overcome.  We’ve heard feedback that cost and confusion are the main concerns that subcontractors have when BIM is mentioned. However, there are some very good free BIM resources out there that subcontractors can use to help them:

BIM on a budget

• While 3D computer modelling is often seen as the face of BIM, you don’t need to be a designer to use it or buy expensive software. There are several good free BIM viewing tools available to download. The BIM Task Group has a list of the best ones
• Some manufacturers like Marley have developed free to download BIM objects for their products.  These are available at our BIM Space
• Generic and manufacturer specific BIM objects can also be downloaded for free at the National BIM Library
• BIM 4 SMEs is a good website for those companies looking to get started with BIM  They are also carrying out demand driven training, so the website enables you to put in a request for training as well as access free online courses from White Frog
• There is a free online BIM video resource called B1M with lots of short tutorials on different aspects of BIM

At the heart of BIM is the concept of working together and sharing knowledge to construct buildings more efficiently and cost effectively.  Yet at the moment it is this consistency that isn’t there.  At Marley, we are already part of the BIM4M2 working group, which has been set up to support manufacturers and enable collaboration with project teams to ensure a standardised approach to product data.  In the same way main contractors and their sub contractors should work together to ensure the supply chain is following the same BIM processes.  For example, we have already heard of some main contractors providing free BIM training for subcontractors because they value them as a supplier and don’t want technological resource to be a barrier to using them.  This is a really positive step and one which we would like to see more of in the future.

As we head towards the 2016 deadline, it is clear that subcontractors need to learn how to assemble, use and migrate information in the BIM process if they want to work on large roofing and cladding contracts.  For BIM to work properly, it requires early subcontractor involvement and it is clear that those roofing and cladding contractors who embrace the BIM technology will gain a significant competitive advantage, particularly for public sector and large design and build projects and those that don’t, could miss out on a big part of the market.

Here at Marley Eternit, we are always on hand to offer practical and experienced support. Select an option below or call us on 01283 722588.