BIM is here, and it’s not going to go away. Interior subcontractors of all sizes need to get their heads around it because it’s going to affect them sooner than they might think, says Andrew Orriss, head of business development at SIG360.

To many smaller subcontractors, building information modelling (BIM) is like a war being fought in some distant land: they keep reading about it in the news and they’re aware that one day it might affect them directly – but until that happens, it’s probably best not to think about it.

It’s no surprise that much of the industry feels this way. The BIM revolution has been the very definition of a ‘slow burner’, with BIM having been around in various different forms since the 1970s without ever taking hold. Even when the government announced in June 2011 that collaborative 3D BIM would be used on all of its build projects by 2016, we didn’t see an immediate impact.

Now, finally, BIM appears to be taking centre stage. The UK’s major contractors have been pouring investment into their BIM strategies to prepare for the 2016 mandate, and are already starting to achieve (and widely publicise) remarkable benefits in terms of cost savings and improved efficiencies. While the BIM revolution is yet to filter down beyond the major government construction projects, it’s now only a matter of time – and everyone needs to be prepared.

There are a number of perceived ‘barriers to entry’ that may be dissuading drylining and ceilings contractors from getting up to speed with BIM. The initial outlay on the software programmes and computer hardware, and the investment (in both time and money) required to train staff to use the systems are both major sticking points. The reluctance to invest until there is an immediate return is understandable; but the sector needs to recognise that delaying investment in BIM is a false economy. The longer it’s left, the more it will cost to get up to speed when BIM becomes a must-have for all projects, public and private – and be under no illusions, that time will surely come.

Of course, this is not the only reason to invest in BIM. It has the potential to bring about huge efficiency improvements on site, from automating the materials ordering/delivery process and co-ordinating different trades on site, right down to reducing the need for paper documentation – all of which will undoubtedly benefit subcontractors’ bottom lines.

The quicker drylining and ceiling contractors get to grips with BIM, the quicker they will be able to realise these benefits – and the less anguish they will face when the BIM revolution finally reaches their doorstep.

Andrew Orriss

Head of business development SIG360