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Barriers to BIM adoption in housing

Barriers to BIM adoption in housing

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital approach to designing buildings using computer-aided tools. BIM software provides several benefits, such as automating some aspects of the design process, improving collaboration, and delivering modern digital visualization capabilities.

What stands in the way of BIM modernization of the housing industry?

1. Cost cutting and risk avoidance

Several factors have changed the construction industry in recent years, requiring companies to look for ways to cut costs. The current environment is challenging for several reasons:

  • Supply chain problems are causing the price of building materials to increase, on average by 8% in 2022.
  • There is a skills gap in the construction industry. Many businesses are facing labor challenges and need to spend more to train and retain employees.
  • The price of land is increasing, with the average price per acre up more than 12% in 2022 compared to 2021.

These factors increase costs for construction companies and reduce their profit margins. As a result, fewer funds are available to invest in digital innovation and many businesses are reluctant to take risks in this environment.


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2. Inadequate IT infrastructure

BIM adoption means moving some tasks and processes to a digital environment. Beyond investing in BIM software, many builders and developers will need to invest in upgrading their IT infrastructure to support new digital workflows.

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Small and mid-sized construction firms specializing in residential or small multi-family projects may not have the necessary infrastructure to support BIM adoption and will likely need to invest in and provide:

  • Cloud computing or internal hardware to run CAD apps and related tools.
  • A set of best practices for assigning tasks and sharing data in a digital environment.
  • Cyber ​​security to protect valuable data, including house plans and other designs of value. For example, the average cost of a data breach now exceeds $4 million, which is a high price to pay.
  • Access to a reliable backup solution to enable efficient digital workflows.

Many managers find moving to the cloud and investing in digital infrastructure too expensive or disruptive. There is also a lack of understanding of what BIM should be used for when modernizing the current IT infrastructure.

3. Lack of industry standards

Some construction sectors adopt BIM, but rely on CAD tools, which is not a universal practice. Due to limited use, there are not yet widespread industry standards in construction for the use of BIM tools.

The lack of industry standards creates additional challenges for users. Potential BIM users may feel overwhelmed by the various options available and struggle to choose the right building information modeling tool.

Additionally, there are no standards for data formats or best practices for sharing data. Users may also encounter interoperability issues when working with partners using a different BIM tool.

Some construction sectors adopt BIM, but rely on CAD tools, which is not a universal practice. Due to limited use, there are not yet widespread industry standards in construction for the use of BIM tools.

Professionals experienced with BIM software often learn how to use these tools on their own, meaning that experienced users do not share a set of industry standards.

These challenges can get in the way of adoption and incur additional costs until a company can develop internal standards for BIM software.

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4. Lack of vision

BIM adoption is more common among companies working on large construction projects in professional sectors. But when it comes to single-family homes and multi-family builders and developers, 71% feel that BIM is not relevant to their projects. They often feel that the projects they are working on are too small to justify the use of CAD tools, or they believe that the investment will not unlock enough value.

It is not an accurate perception of BIM. Digital design has several benefits, including reducing costs and speeding up project implementation. Digital capabilities can also open up new markets for SMEs.

Customers are also often unaware of the benefits of BIM and do not seek construction companies that use BIM.

When it comes to single-family homes and multi-family builders and developers, 71% feel that BIM is not relevant to their projects. However, it is not an accurate perception of BIM.

BIM software companies have an important role to play in reaching out to small and mid-sized construction firms to demonstrate how the benefits of CAD tools apply to the residential and multifamily market.

5. Limited competence

For CAD designers, employment opportunities will grow at an average rate of 8% per year in the near future as contractors and developers increasingly rely on digital design tools for their projects. However, few of these designers gain experience in the residential and multifamily construction industry due to the low rate of BIM adoption in these markets.

Finding experienced BIM designers is also challenging when most companies in the construction industry want to reduce costs. As a result, homebuilders and developers must bear additional costs to provide industry-specific training to CAD/BIM professionals.

Limited IT expertise is another challenge to adopting BIM because small construction firms do not have large enough internal IT departments (if they have an IT department at all) to tackle challenges such as cyber security or data backup.

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6. Lack of government incentive

The requirements that most professional contractors and builders face in order to submit bids for publicly funded construction projects often drive change for the industry as a whole.

While small and medium-sized construction companies specializing in residential construction do not usually bid on public projects, they often follow industry trends and adopt new standards and best practices used by larger companies.

It is natural that government-funded projects, especially those that are federally funded, would support BIM adoption to help streamline costs, but the US government does not currently require contractors to use BIM – despite countries such as the UK seeing the positives the effects of providing government incentives to stimulate BIM adoption.

Making building information modeling a requirement for public works projects will help the technology (and the industry) mature. Additionally, it can help BIM software companies adopt industry standards, resulting in more professionals gaining experience with BIM tools.

A mix of factors currently stand in the way of BIM adoption for the housing industry. Between managers who don’t see the value of BIM software and a lack of funds available for innovation, most homebuilders working on privately funded projects don’t think of BIM as a solution to increase profitability.

However, early adopters can gain a competitive advantage, as BIM can help cut costs, resulting in shorter project completion times and providing additional benefits.


Anna Liza Montenegro develops design technology conferences for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals as a forum for technology trends driving significant change in the industry.

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