China-based construction industry firms that use building information modeling (BIM) in at least 30% of their work are bullish on the technology to boost both business and project management benefits, says an industry survey of some 350 architects and contractors.
Nearly all respondents work exclusively in China, about 85% said they were BIM users, and 94% report at least some “meaningful benefit,” says the SmartMarket Report analysis by Dodge Data & Analytics, the parent of ENR.
While 42% of non-using architects remain unclear on how BIM use can benefit them on small projects, 89% of all nonuser respondents say they are "interested" in the approach and nearly 40% are “actively” evaluating it for future use.
According to the analysis, co-sponsored by U.S. software firm Autodesk and China-based Glodon Software Co. Ltd, more than two-thirds of respondents report a positive return on their technology investment.
Users surveyed see BIM as most key to developing better designs and connecting with clients. "Faster client approval cycles can have a dramatic impact on reducing overall project delivery schedules and more effectively engaging owners in project design and construction," says Stephen A. Jones, DDA senior director and survey co-author.
Chinese contractors seem to be more avid users. About 86% of Chinese construction firm respondents indicate at least a moderate level of BIM expertise, placing the nation third behind Canada and the US. About 33% say they require subcontractors to have BIM skills and 55% state that BIM expertise is encouraged.
More architect respondents report they are not BIM proficient, with 46% reporting they use it on less than 15% of their projects, compared to just 31% of contractors. Within two years, about 52% of contractor respondents forecast they will use BIM on over 30% of their work, compared with only 36% of architects.
Respondents cite business benefits in using BIM. Enhancing the user firm's image as "an industry leader" was cited by 62% of architects and 71% of contractors.
Both contractors (67%) and architects (69%) agree that BIM is improving project delivery. Nearly three-quarters of contractors say the technology is reducing design errors and omissions, with 81% of respondents from state-owned construction firms rating this benefit highly, says the report.
Among nonuser architects, nearly 60% blame a lack of understanding of the technology for delayed BIM adoption, while 55% cite "unresolved issues" related to ownership and maintenance of BIM models. “One challenge is that most executives are highly concerned with the confidentiality of project information," says the report. "Concentrating project data into centralized models presents a perceived security risk, which will need to be addressed.”
Many more architect respondents than contractors, 42% vs. 14%, believe BIM is less efficient for smaller projects. “Non-user design firms will need to see more examples of how BIM can be effective on smaller projects," the report points out.
Gu Ming, vice dean of the School of Software at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told DDA that a key challenge is to "change the mindset" of how construction industry firms in China leverage information technology into their practices now, similar to what the manufacturing industry faced 20 years ago. "The AEC industry in China is more conservative and closed-minded and perceives that some workflows and limitations of each discipline and trade are different from each other, and this conflicts with the spirit of collaboration," says the educator. "[Also,] marketing campaigns on BIM have not been able to really promote the transformation.”
While China's private sector has led BIM adoption in vertical building construction, the Chinese government is set to develop national standards for its use in infrastructure as well, according to the analysis.
Researchers recommend that large Chinese firms mentor smaller ones to adopt BIM and that product manufacturers be urged to create "libraries" of BIM content that industry firms can access. DDA sees potential greater use of "model-driven" prefabrication in Chinese construction as another key catalyst for BIM adoption.