BIM is Here. But Where are the Builders?

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February 03, 2015

It has been touted as the next best thing for saving money and operating more efficiently, but home builders have yet to embrace Building Information Modeling, or BIM, even as large commercial, production and multifamily developers continue to find new ways to shave costs and time.

So what’s the disconnect? Members of the NAHB Business Management & Information Technology Committee talked about the problem when they met at the International Builders’ Show last month.

BIM is a way to automate the construction process: Every nail, 2×4 and sheet of drywall, every delivery and inspection, and every change order – which can in turn cause conflicts and disrupt design and ordering decisions – is tracked electronically using construction software.

NAHB has been advocating a standard for BIM so that builders and remodelers can choose from a series of software packages and apps and not be concerned that they won’t work across platforms or other projects.

But even pressing for a standard is almost getting the cart before the horse: Too many subcontractors and small builders know so little about how BIM works that the education may need to come first, committee members said.


“BIM does not require standardization to be valuable. The various vendors can and will do a great job at exchanging the digital information if and when it becomes available. Standardization is a bit of a distraction,” said committee member John Jones.

Wide-scale adoption of BIM faces two major hurdles, he said. “Manufacturers and trade partners. Until we get buy-in from those important groups, the use of BIM will be limited in scope.”

“My HVAC guy is a seven to eight man company,” agreed Illinois builder and committee member Phil Hoffman. “His invoices are hand written, and he just says, ‘This is the way I do it.’ Technology is a difficult thing. I can see where BIM works in commercial, and that this would be a great thing for us, but how do we drag [the trades] into it?”

“The word is intimidating,” said Jones. “And it won’t happen until your plumber wants to route his pipes in 3D.” Or, Jones said, until regulators see the money and time they can save by mandating its use. “If you go to the building department and are required to give them a 3D blueprint, that will be it,” he said. In Europe, BIM adoption has been accelerated by the requirement that any project that is even partially government funded be BIM enabled, he said.

In the meantime, Jones said, BIM could be a clear point of differentiation, especially for small-volume design-built firms, who may be able to supply product faster, and at a lower cost, then competing firms still working in the analog age.

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