Oct 10, 2017

BIM pilot project reveals significant opportunities and challenges facing technology implementation in Housebuilding

Whilst technology is promising to transform the housebuilding sector, a new study has shown that many businesses within the house building sector are slow to utilise technology as an added value tool within their business operations and potentially missing opportunities. Stewart Dalgarno, Director of Product Development for Stewart Milne Timber Systems, shares some of the key findings of the study, and explains some of the technology related challenges facing today’s housebuilding sector.


Over a 15-month period, Stewart Milne Timber Systems ran a pilot project to assess the cost and efficiency savings, through digital working with SME sized housebuilders. The study, which was supported by industry training body CITB and housebuilder McTaggart and Mickel, focused around digital design, construction and sales, facilitated through Business Information Modelling (BIM) and collaborative working.

Earlier this year, Stewart Milne Timber Systems created the UK’s first BIM library, which allows architects and designers to create ‘smart’ digital models of new homes from a suite of TF offsite product solutions accessed via an online portal.

We developed the BIM library, as we consider BIM a game changing collaborative working model, that enables more effective, integrated working across the building supply chain. BIM uses digital information to streamline design, construction and sales processes, which in turn has the potential to reduce waste, downtime, errors and post-build rectification.

However, of the 21 housebuilding supply chain businesses asked about BIM in our study, more than 90% were not BIM-ready, and 58% admitted they were not even aware of BIM.

The outcome of the project highlights the low levels of technology readiness in the housebuilding sector today, and provides a clear and compelling case for partners in the house-building supply chain to take huge leaps forward in productivity, and efficiency, through digital integration and industrialisation.

The pilot study looked at several critical factors in the implementation of BIM, covering:

• The supply chain’s readiness for BIM;
• Comparison with existing processes (e.g. live 3D modelling vs database 2D modelling);
• Requirements for leadership, up-skilling and training;
• Collaboration and cultural shift, towards digitally integrated working;
• Single point design technology solutions, including parametric housing models, offsite manufacturing, lean site assembly processes, virtual & augmented reality sales tools

Despite technology playing a central role in industries like automotive, in the UK, we haven’t yet embraced technology and industrialisation with anything like the vigour we could.

The project also created cultural change plans, including training and up-skilling programmes, for a series of different roles across the business and supply chain, to address fears that technology would threaten existing roles or be too hard to implement.

This pilot project provided a compelling case for house-builders and their supply chains, to work towards digital integration.  As well as significant cost savings, there are notable benefits in productivity, improved health and safety profiles, brand value and high-quality homes, with fewer defects  and more predictable handovers at the end of construction.

At a time when the UK housing market is crying out for more high quality new homes, shifting towards a digitally enabled design, construction and sales solution provides a real answer. Successful implementation requires investment and sustained effort, but we believe we can further demonstrate an obvious and swift payback.

Homes For Scotland Home Builders Federation National House-Building Council Royal Institute of British Architects Structural Timber Association Constructionline British Board of Agrement Wood Campus Build Off Site Building Research Establishment WOOD FOR GOOD

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