Will BIM help deliver what the client is expecting?

By Dave Khan: Technical Marketing Manager – Knauf Insulation Northern Europe

Generally speaking architects, architectural technicians, structural engineers and a whole host of other building professionals spend a great deal of time, effort, creativity and not inconsiderable experience to design a building that complies with requirements contained within the clients brief.

One vital part of this process is the creation of the building fabric solutions required to deliver the thermal, acoustic or fire performance to ensure that the building complies, both on a statutory level and with the individual demands stipulated by the client. At the end of the day a highly collaborative effort is required in order to achieve the clients` goal.

When it comes to the creation of the building fabric specifications a combination of research expertise, experience and building knowledge needs to be employed by the specifier in order to select the products to deliver the best functional and aesthetic solution for the building under consideration.

However, what very often ends up on the building site is not that which started out its life on the “drawing board“. One very common reason for this is that well thought out and designed fabric specifications are very often changed at the whim of the contractor purely based on the cheapest product to meet the specified performance level. Is this really in the best interests of the client, or the contractor?

This practice may however be about to change for those buildings designed employing Building Information Modeling (BIM).

One thing that the BIM should bring to the table is much greater transparency as many pairs of eyes will fall upon the building as it is progresses from imagination to reality.

What should be of paramount importance is that a well built, well designed, well specified building is erected, using high quality cost efficient materials which will last at least the lifetime of the building. Not something that is necessarily at the forefront of a contractors mind when it comes to switching a product specification to one that is more in his interests than those of the client.

In actual fact the subliminal message could be said to be that the contractor, rather than the architect, knows what is the best solution for that specific element of the building. This will sometimes be the case, but not (I would suggest) to the extent that currently exists.

BIM will shine a light on this particular practice so everyone involved in the design, procurement and building process, will be able to see when product or solution specification changes are made and then be able to make an informed decision as to whether or not this is in the best long term interest of the building or “heaven forbid“ even the client!!

In essence well written specifications integrated into the BIM are a good example of how well structured data, delivered in the required format and made readily available will help to strengthen the wisdom and experience that has been called upon to create the product or system specification in the first place, thereby redressing the influence of the specifier, that has been on the wane in recent years.

Further information on BIM can be found via the following web links:




3 thoughts on “Will BIM help deliver what the client is expecting?

  1. This article mis-informs it’s readers on the viewpoint of the contractor to cost, material choices and design. What is not discussed as part of this article is the client’s choice to competitively tender a project, rather than on a partnership or negotiated basis? For the client, everything usually comes down to funding and cost balance, it is not the contractor that always drives a spec change other than for innovation purposes. The contracting sector are looking forward to the introduction of BIM, because we experience difficulty with Architects understanding the concept of ‘buildability’ – BIM will help greatly with this. Having project managed in mainstream contracting for some years, on buildings up to £29m in value, I believe I have a rounded view of the situation – more so than the writer of the article.

  2. Interesting comment from A Morgan. Clients can competitively tender and I agree that funding and cost are key drivers. However, to suggest that contractors only change a spec for innovation purposes, whilst it might be your experience, it isn’t mine. If that was the case then product manufacturer sales resources would be focused entirely at driving specification. The implication from what you say is that specifications are nearly always maintained. My experience from architects is that specifications rarely go unchallenged. Indeed if they did, why would suppliers have to focus so much resource on contractor relationships in order to try and defend ( or break ) them.
    My experience is that contractors are working to low single digit margins, and any opportunity to drive a time saving or a product cost saving by switching a specification is an opportunity that should be taken. They are often working on a fixed price basis which drives a similar approach.This isn’t a criticism, it’s just the way the UK supply chain works.
    What BIM enables ambitious contractors to do where there is, as you mention, a competitive tender, is to work up a reasonable level of project detail within the BIM and be better placed to know where to pitch their bids. There are some good examples from the USA where the Main Contractor did this, came in with the cheapest bid, but was confident they could still make their intended margin from the project based on the pre-work in the BIM
    You are right to say contractors are looking forward to BIM. In fact large contractors are driving the BIM agenda more so than an other supply chain stakeholder. For contractors, especially on complex projects, it’s about controlling the project from an holistic single coordinated model and driving the timely exchange of structured information, leading to less clashes in design and delays on site creating workarounds. It’s also about giving the client an effective facilities management tool, as the Ministry of Justice have realised in their BIM pilot projects

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