The Architects Client - BIM and the Construction Industry


We present BIM as a visual tool able to allow greater design understanding and then appear to be frustrated when a client demands change as a result of that better understanding.

We have sold the BIM concept too cheaply and now despair of the reality it presents, given the real level of skill available in the industry.

According to the author of the article below, “from architects to contractors, the construction industry has become increasingly frustrated that clients ask for BIM, but don’t seem to understand what it is, or what exactly they want”.

Hardly surprising that clients don’t understand, why should they? the industry has struggled with this technology process for years, and hasn’t yet grasped its real use, nor benefit. In an somewhat dubious support to the initial statement, the follow up is “the focus (of BIM information available) has been very geared towards reducing cost, construction schedules, number of RFI’s, rather than the end value it can deliver to the client.

Without wishing to state the obvious, nor detract from the quality of the article itself, its reasonable to suggest, that two out of three of those benefits would be very much within the end value a considerable number of clients would be interested in.

Do Clients Know What They Want From BIM?

Perhaps the industry should be asking the question of itself, do the industry know what the client really wants, and has it presented the capabilities of this digital transformation within a framework that would allow clients to see the capabilities and benefits, as it sees them or as it would want the client to see them. Bearing in mind of course that this transformation is driving the development industry, not necessarily theirs.

The level of skill required to formulate a BIM project brief is considerable, is it realistic to expect a client to be undertaking such a task without consultant advice, if not then who would the client go to?

Where's the BIM Knowledge?

Looking at some of the BIM adoption numbers around the world, we still have a long way to go before the industry can consider itself highly skilled. Notwithstanding pockets of expertise, the example from the NBS National BIM Report 2017 in the UK, has some 60% of their design industry use BIM, however only 30% are using it on all projects. For the Australasian scene, the figure are much the same, about 50% of industry projects use BIM.

There is still some way to go before the industry understands the application of BIM, what project criteria would define its application, how procurement impacts the decision making process, and how the constructors will deliver the final built form when using the outcomes of the technology.

Interestingly, the New Zealand Industry Wide View 2016 provides insight to BIM implementation barriers and how the design professions perceive client BIM usage. Much of the comment reflecting a desire for high level of client expertise in order to define parameters, and in addition, the capability to amend their decision making timeframes to enhance the BIM experience.

Without intending critiscism, it is reasonable to comment that many of the design/construction stakeholders themselves struggle with design outcome and the collaborative nature of the design process. Even in cases where the client representative is an architect, engineer or contractor, it is unlikely their core business function would allow them to develop skills at the expert level.

If you accept this premise, then consider what the industry does provide in terms of guidance for a client building a project brief of expectations, and definition of project outcomes. Not forgetting that in most cases, the client representative is also working back to a core client team that likely are even more remote in their connection to the industry.


When you step back from respective stakeholder corners and ask how the industry presents BIM, much has been made about the great efficiencies and opportunity for collaboration between project stakeholders. This approach combined with the example shown in the BIM Industry Training Group bim101 Insights, would have anyone thinking BIM is the panacea to all the industry ills of poor performance, rfi’s, variations, contract disputes and rework.

In reality, BIM has a part to play in all aspects of the design/build process, even more so in the asset management area, however to portray a technology/process as the great solution without further developing and identifying the changes needed in design management, procurement and project management process, is foolhardy at an extreme level.

In addition, the creation of so many guides and handbooks is defeating the understanding of the BIM concept, The essence of the technology applies collaboration, this collabroation no different than has alwasy been necessary, but driven out of the industry by the lowest cost procurement strategy, developed and applied by the market. Anedoctal evidience would say that most consultants/contractors on winning a tender, immediately look to find what they missed out in order to be successful.

We present BIM as a visual tool able to allow greater design understanding and then appear to be frustrated when a client demands change as a result of that better understanding.

We have sold the BIM concept too cheaply and now despair of the reality it presents, given the real level of skill available in the industry.


The foreword of the second edition of the handbook states “the aim of the many revisions is to provide further clarity on how to implement BIM on a project”. That being the case, the cost figures presented would imply it's about asset management , not design. This document highlights the proportional split of building lifecycle costs of 87% to operation, 9% to construction, 3% to transition , and finally 1% to design.

Why would a client be accepting of benefits during design and construction, given that contractural arrangements to a large degree protect the client from the impact of errors and omissions and also project delays. The benefit of BIM during the design and construction phase rests within the industry, and if fully realised would only serve to enhance profitability or reduce costs of those involved.

Further handbook comment is a focus on BIM providing early engagement of clients and other stakeholders in the process, that the handbook aims to increase clients understanding of BIM, and finally the Project BIM brief is to be developed by the client. This latter is one aspect that would appear to be out of context, however it is acknowledged that in some cases there are clients further advanced in BIM than the industry itself.

If we adopt the idea that a client would benefit from having a complete as -built virtual model of the completed built form and could manage the operation of that built form to a greater level of cost effectiveness, then why do most industry surveys tell us that FM providers aren’t moving to BIM platform in any great rush. Less than 40% of the survey respondents in the New Zealand industry wide view 2017 were using the technology.


If the design and construction industry wish to remain solely in the bounds of those two phases of development, the real benefit of BIM should be focused on design, design coordination and the seamless transfer of design information through to the manufacturing and construction process.

UK Construction Market

In many ways this is how the concept of digital design technology began. From project experience in early 2005, the digital approach to design was about transferring the design along a supply chain, each part of that chain able to contribute their expertise, and allow the final manufacture to be controlled through a shared design platform. The benefit was very much focused on cost saving by way of the elimination of, or at least major reduction of design errors, design information transfer issues, and re-work of manufactured elements.

In the years following development of software such as Autodesk Revit, the technology has evolved to a far greater level than the industry has capability to accept and implement. Like many things in our digital life, the technology provides so many opportunities to simplify process, the guides and handbooks are out of date at the time of publication. BIM can do so much more now, however that apparent complexity is causing some major issues.

For the construction industry it is critical to embrace the technology and process in one, deal to the issues that make the industry one of the worlds worst performing, and build the value of the skills back into projects.

This focus would realise commercial and process benefits, both of which would directly assist an industry which certainly in the New Zealand scene is desperately in need of instant measure to enable it to survive.

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