BIM usage among installers shows slow growth but huge potential

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is one of the most important developments in the construction sector. Aside from being a part of the overall trend of digitalisation of the construction process, BIM touches upon many trends and developments in building construction. Using BIM facilitates  increasingly complex building construction, easy sustainability calculations, using prefabricated elements and reduces failure costs, for instance. As such a central element, BIM has the potential to truly change construction.    

Be that as it may, changes in the construction sector happen more often as steady evolution than quick revolution, which seems to be the case with BIM as well. We have seen that in the slow rate at which architects adopted BIM since we started measurements in 2009, for instance. Still, usage grew slowly but steadily and in 2021, 44% of European architects reported to be using BIM. 

As a substantial share of architects is now using BIM in their projects, the question arises whether BIM is also adopted by other parties that are involved later in the construction process, like installers. For USP Marketing Consultancy’s European Mechanical Installation Monitor, we asked HVAC installers from six major European markets about their awareness, adoption and usage of BIM.

BIM usage among HVAC installers is only growing slowly

Although the share of European installers who are aware of BIM is rising rapidly, their usage of BIM is only growing very slowly. These low usage shares and slow adoption rate remind of where architects were about a decade ago, and are quite easily explained. For architects, who are often working with design software anyways, BIM has instant rewards, like additional design information and direct clash control. Installers are still working more traditionally and are still used to using drawings. To start working in BIM, they have to invest both in the necessary software and in training or hiring a colleague to be the BIM expert in the company. Absent a direct benefit, that investment is still too much for many installation companies.

In some cases, the direct benefits outweigh the investment though. The Netherlands is quite a frontrunner where it comes to BIM usage, as many building construction projects are already done using BIM. As a result, there is more of an incentive for installation companies to adopt BIM as well, and almost a quarter of the Dutch installation companies are already working with BIM. In other five countries in the scope the European Mechanical Installation monitor, however, the average usage of BIM among HVAC installers is still well below ten percent.

Future of BIM in the world of installation

A solid prediction is that BIM usage among HVAC installers will grow slowly but steadily over the next years. We have seen a similar adoption pattern among architects over the years. The next group of construction professionals in line to adopt BIM more rapidly are the contractors. Once BIM usage among contractors becomes a bit more common, we expect the adoption rate among HVAC installers to start increasing as well, firstly among the larger installation companies involved in new-build projects.

In the end, BIM offers the same to installers as it does to other parties in the construction process. They also want to reduce failure costs and will also have to deal with sustainability calculations, prefabricated elements and increasingly complex installations in increasingly complex buildings. As such, there is a huge potential for using BIM that is yet untouched by HVAC installers but will be explored and increasingly exploited in the years to come.  For more information on BIM usage among HVAC installers in six major European markets, as well as their turnover development and order book portfolios, we refer you to the Q1 2022 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s European Mechanical Installation Monitor.

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