Use of building information modeling (BIM) has skyrocketed among those construction professionals that Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has been surveying. Firms reported using BIM technology in 35 percent of their projects last year, up from 8 percent in 2010. More than 1,300 firms, primarily from among the 20,000 general contractor or specialty subcontractor members of AGC, completed the most recent survey, which Computer Guidance Corp. helped conduct over the final three weeks of 2011.
Construction firms clearly expect demand for BIM to continue growing, with 47 percent reporting that they expect the use of BIM to increase in 2012,” according to the report, which serves as the basis for AGC’s 2012 Construction Hiring and Business Forecast. “Meanwhile, only 1 percent of firms expect the use of BIM to decrease this year. This likely reflects a growing appreciation among construction firms of the cost savings and increased productivity that come with BIM technology, as well as the need to compete with others who already offer BIM.”
BIM use “definitely varies based on market segment,” the report says. “For instance, relatively few (39 percent) highway contractors expected to work on more BIM projects in 2012, the least amount for any segment. Meanwhile, 53 percent of hospital and higher-education contractors expect to work on more BIM projects in 2012, more than for any other market segment. This likely reflects the increasing complexity of hospital and higher education projects, which often include sophisticated designs to handle the many different uses and equipment needed for universities and hospitals.”
Despite difficult market conditions and caution in hiring and equipment plans, 55 percent of surveyed construction firms reported that they plan to invest in their information technology departments this year.
“However, their investments are likely to be relatively modest, with 64 percent saying they will invest $50,000 or less in new IT investments this year,” AGC stated. “Meanwhile, only a relatively small percentage of firms (9 percent) reported that they plan to purchase new financial and job-cost software in 2012. Yet, those firms report more ambitious budgets, with 51 percent of firms planning to acquire this type of software reporting that they plan to invest over $50,000 in those programs in this year. This could explain why one-third of firms (34 percent) reported they would consider investing in new financial and job-cost software if they could either lease it or if there were financing options available.”
Approximately one out of every four construction firms (24 percent) reported that they plan to switch their financial, job-cost, or operational software applications to the cloud in 2012.
“This most likely reflects the fact that transitioning to cloud-based computing is likely to save firms considerable sums of money,” the association said. “Indeed, 76 percent report their cloud-based investments in 2012 will total $10,000 or less. In other words, transitioning to the cloud will cost firms significantly less than acquiring new software.”
Overall, the outlook for the construction industry is mixed for 2012 as firms must balance growing demand for certain private-sector market segments with continued weakness in key sectors, the near end of the stimulus, and declining overall demand for public-sector construction, according to AGC. An association and Computer Guidance analysis of survey responses from more than 1,300 construction firms indicated that the industry is not likely to experience a recovery until at least 2013 despite some growing positive trends.
AGC Representative Provides Additional Information
In an email interview with Construction Project Controls and BIM Report (CPC/BIM), AGC spokesperson Brian Turmail provided the following additional details:
CPC/BIM: How is the report expected to be used? Could the report be used in deliberations on proposed new policies?
Turmail: We use the report in a number of ways, including to help us understand what the construction market will be like in 2012. We use it to drive our government-affairs strategy, set our educational program schedule, and educate public officials about the state of the construction industry.
CPC/BIM: About how many construction professionals are expected to download or otherwise access the report? Mostly construction contractors and subcontractors?
Turmail: Several thousand have already downloaded the report, read its summary, or watched the video we prepared summarizing it, that we track. That figure doesn’t include people within our member firms forwarding the content to their colleagues.
CPC/BIM: Besides tightening market conditions, to what else does AGC attribute the huge rise, from 8 percent to 31 percent, in BIM use?
Turmail: More and more owners demand/prefer BIM for projects. A lot of firms find using BIM allows them to operate more efficiently, and given the fact projects are becoming more collaborative, BIM almost becomes an essential tool for coordinating.
CPC/BIM: From the survey results, can you provide rough estimates of how much money you believe typical small, medium, and large companies are willing to invest in information technology during a given year?
Turmail: Hard to guess, but even as tight as the market is, they are still investing in technology, which is largely because they understand that the new technology will make them more efficient.
CPC/BIM: Will BIM and other technology be covered in next year’s Outlook report? Will a new Outlook report be released every January?
Turmail: Most definitely we will cover BIM in our next Outlook next January.