Clients are missing out 50% of the benefits of BIM

“Many clients think they are getting the best out of BIM, but most are not even scratching the surface.


When attending or presenting at the regular BIM conference circuit there are always things to learn and information to be gleaned – but I find some of the most valuable or telling lessons often come from the coffee break discussions rather than just the lectern.

Customers across a wide range of sectors are becoming engaged in BIM. The construction industry is of course endeavouring to meet all their needs and business objectives. Their interest in BIM however ranges from forensic to neutral. This is typical across the industry.

We have identified over 60 benefits of BIM, including 30 for the client, be they developer, owner, occupier, user or FM operator. BIM can bring benefits to projects across all sectors, scales and project types. Customers using BIM in the power, education, health, retail, highways, commercial and other sectors exploit BIM to serve a range of differing needs -nothing wrong with that.

Clients are generally only taking advantage of 50% of the potential benefits of BIM

I have done a rough calculation, that when measured against a matrix of benefits, across the board, clients are generally only taking advantage of 50% of the potential benefits available to them. Why is this?

Too many clients think of BIM only in terms of clash detection or something only for the design community. Others think it is about COBie data which many still regard as not for them. It’s a process of engagement and ‘education’. We all have a duty to help them.

Let me illustrate how some client groups are exploiting the digital toolset to serve their purposes:

  • Validation – the ability to interrogate design models in order to validate engineering decisions. (Network Rail & HS2)
  • Show cost implications of design changes (Power Transmission)
  • Integrate patient movement RFID tagging (Healthcare)
  • Link directly with their current FM system. (Higher Education, Utilities)
  • Help eliminate interface and coordination challenges between packages/different teams (Crossrail)
  • Demonstrate safe methods of working, logistics planning and movement (Airports)
  • Design Optimisation – Clash avoidance gives comfort to the Client as planning back of house corridor routes and risers which will need to accommodate tenant services usually leads to a bun fight and delay (Retail)
  • Integrate data into their Asset Database (Highways Agency)
  • Provide linked schedules (Area, FFE etc) direct to models to ensure net lettable area visible at all times (Commercial)
  • Provide detailed design information to aid Safety Case work (Nuclear)

Crossrail, Heathrow Airport and some universities are BIM exemplar clients, because they are exploiting the opportunities and benefits of BIM throughout every stage of the project’s lifecycle to deliver value to their businesses. Ultimately I believe others will follow their lead as they begin to appreciate what’s on offer.

Peter Trebilcock chairs Balfour Beatty’s UK-wide design community of practice and its UK BIM Steering Group”