Chloe Smith speaks at BIM4SME Building Information Modelling launch

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Chloe Smith speaks at the launch of BIM4SME, explaining how digital technologies can benefit SMEs in the construction industry.

I am delighted to be here today to support the formal launch of the BIM4SME working group.

Let me start by painting a picture in words – not digitally or in 3D as many of you seated here could do – to show how digital technologies, or you may call them Building Information Modelling or BIM, are already helping SMEs to make an impact in the construction industry.

Firstly, at a local level, the London-based practice of David Miller Architects has shown how BIM has unlocked better productivity and allowed them to grow from a practice of 4 to 14, moving them into new and bigger markets.

Secondly, nationally, London-based Wagstaffs Design with 22 staff has created bespoke real-time 3D applications for Crossrail incorporating, for example, pedestrian flow simulation data so Crossrail has new ways of interrogating and presenting infrastructure and building information. These very visual and results-orientated communication tools are accessible through mobiles and online.

And thirdly, internationally, Bryden Wood, a British-based multi-disciplinary design and technology company, who in February 2013 won a competitive tender for a landmark construction project in St Petersburg, Russia. They beat much larger, international practices and it was their experience of working on complex projects where BIM is essential to coordinate the vast range of design, construction and handover activities that secured the contract. And this is not a BIM one-off. In the last year, Bryden Wood has seen their workload in high-value BIM-driven projects increase dramatically and has been able to expand from 45 people to 70.

I’m sure you will agree these are inspiring pen portraits and we want more for the BIM gallery!

The case for BIM

Let’s now move on to the even bigger picture.

The Government Construction strategy challenges industry to modernise and innovate – with efficient low carbon solutions and digital technologies to strip out waste and deliver real savings to the tax-payer.

So you can see this puts BIM squarely at the heart of the shift to reform the industry and deliver greater efficiencies.

The Government’s plans to deliver better value for money in the construction industry and get the supply chain working more collaboratively is ambitious but achievable. Indeed, we are on track to achieve savings of £350m in 2012/3 to reinvest in new Government projects.

By 2016 all Government construction projects will be using BIM level 2 – a goal we believe is very much achievable over the next three years.

To safeguard against creating a two tier construction community, the BIM mandate will be irrespective of project size or the capital expenditure cost of a project.

Our strategy is about driving collaboration and bringing together communities, sharing data in a common environment to make smarter decisions both in the capital and operational phases.

Collaboration between Government and industry is fundamental to develop and roll-out BIM successfully.

This means continued input and involvement from all players in the supply chain, especially the SME community who form the back-bone of the construction industry. The BIM4SME group is just one way SMEs can engage with Government on the roll-out of BIM.

With this in mind, the Government’s BIM requirements have been built both as an open format and technology agnostic.

This is crucial, as it allows SMEs to feed in to a single data set from the outset of the design process and to drive innovation through early engagement.

The BIM way of collaborative working and the efficiencies it will drive, stripping out waste and duplication, is also scaleable whether it be:

  • a kitchen block replacement or a new-build school
  • prison refurbishment or road repairs.

And there are early successes. The Ministry of Justice, an early adopter, has secured £800,000 of savings through the use of BIM at Cookham Wood prison in Kent where a 180-cell extension is now on site. Through BIM’s innovative 3D modeling data, MoJ was able to see exactly what is being built and identify any potential issues, leading to savings being made right at the outset.

Crossrail is committed to BIM and has set up an Information Academy, with their technology partner Bentley Systems, to capture, develop and share BIM best practices with the Crossrail supply chain and provide training to their contractors. Since November 2012, over 225 individuals from 28 suppliers have been through the Academy awareness sessions and now have access to supporting online training.

It’s great to see clients also stepping up to the challenge and realising the benefits.

Importance of SMEs

It is true that SMEs often take on and offer more innovative solutions.

Construction is no different and with the majority of the construction supply chain referring to themselves as SMEs, ensuring SME whole-sector adoption of BIM is central to future success.

As an SME, no matter what your role in the built environment is, it is highly likely your business will or should be involved in the BIM process whether through supplying or managing data. You may be involved directly working with a government department or indirectly with a supply chain partner who needs data as part of their contractual requirements.

It is clear that BIM does offer the SME community many benefits, irrespective of their position in the construction landscape and construction supply chain – it helps to improve their working processes and remove waste at all stages of the lifecycle.

BIM is becoming a catalyst for growth for the SME community.

For example - Kykloud, a British company set up in 2010, provides BIM ready building surveying and asset management apps so data can be collected onsite in real time and then reports compiled automatically on future long term maintenance costs. Their software is being used by some of the UK’s leading surveying practices across 23 million square metres of infrastructure including HMRC estates, MoJ and 6,000 schools - one third of English schools. This is impressive and the company has gone from 2 to 15 staff in a year with a ten-fold growth in revenue.

So it’s great when you hear SMEs say that BIM helps them compete with much bigger organisations. BIM is a great leveller.

SMEs are agile and innovative and will be amongst the trailblazers in a BIM enabled industry stimulating growth, especially in the international market place where the UK is already seen as a pioneer of BIM enabled solutions.

And it is not just the Government who believes this.

This was validated last month at the Fiatech international awards ceremony in Texas where the James B. Porter Jr. Technology Leadership Award recognised the HM Government and UK industry for their leadership in advancing technology and productivity improvement in capital projects and, in particular, as a world-wide leader for digital technologies in construction.

Giving SMEs a voice

It is crucial to give SMEs a voice and sense of community.

The BIM4SME group is keen to be inclusive and reach out to other SMEs. Their vision is to bring together a BIM SME community and, as a particularly IT-literate group, already have a virtual presence through social media.

The BIM SME regional hubs, set up by the Construction Industry Council hosting the launch today, will develop a community of like-minded SMEs. The hubs will be two-way - sharing guidance and updates on the UK Government BIM programme and allowing feedback from SMEs on the reality of using digital technologies.

These are great examples of Government and industry working together to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of BIM adoption.

BIM is here to stay

BIM is not a fad.

BIM is now becoming more mainstream and new guidance and standards, like the BSI BIM standard recognised here and internationally, will help to give companies working in the UK a competitive edge in the global race. This includes SMEs.

It is so important to create communities that will push the industry along – groups like the BIM2050 group – a voice for young professionals – and now the BIM4SME group who can provide support and encouragement to other SMEs using or developing BIM solutions.

BIM is fast becoming a master-piece for industry reform and better outcomes.