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Inside Innovation: Despite growth projections, BIM and digital twinning face adoption challenges among SMEs

John Bleasby
Inside Innovation: Despite growth projections, BIM and digital twinning face adoption challenges among SMEs

The future of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and digital twinning (DT) continues to be forecast as rosy. Heading into 2021, and despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19 in 2020, indications point to continued rapid growth.

According to a recent report published by Allied Market Research, “the global Building Information Modeling market was valued at $5.205 million in 2019 and is projected to reach $15.892 million by 2027, a compound annual growth rate of 15.2 per cent from 2020 to 2027.”

Frank Weiss, senior director of new products at Oracle Construction and Engineering, writes in PBC Today that growth will be contingent on project partners refining their use of exchange of information and data.

“Organizations will focus on what information they most need and why, instead of asking project teams to share everything about the project. This relevance-based approach will be key when they want to use digital information to, say, speed up an automated cost estimation or for benchmarking.”

Moving beyond BIM into DT, further progress and acceptance will depend on the quality of data available for AEC solutions during the planning and construction phases, plus the ongoing operation, maintenance and management of the facility after completion.

Yet as promising as the future might be, there are obstacles to the increased adoption of digitized modelling among some players in the construction industry.

Aside from large governmental and institutional work, some question the strength of client demand for BIM and DT on smaller projects. Clients with tight budgets and timelines may be reluctant to pay extra for digitized modelling despite the well-publicized benefits. As a result, small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in the construction pyramid may be hesitant to make the required investments.

Clifton Harness, CEO of TestFit, tells Construction Dive that in the particular case of DTs, “currently, very few buildings are getting a digital twin because the level of detail that has to go into the modelling is so high that no architect gets paid enough to do that kind of thing.”

Many SMEs in the construction industry either will be, or already have been, asking themselves whether the investment in BIM technology is worth it. There are risks to adopting digitized solutions simply for their own sake without fully understanding the importance of the data that can be delivered.

An article published in ArchDaily and authored by Autodesk Inc., an American provider of software products for the AEC industry, outlines some of the ROI challenges to be faced.

These include traditional near-term concerns including capital costs, staff training and lost productivity during the transition to digitized processes. And, as Autodesk points out, “There are also long-term costs involved with BIM related to how the workflow for BIM changes your firm’s internal processes.”

For SMEs, these factors may be reason to pause before rushing into the adoption of BIM platforms, let alone taking the leap into DT technology. The risks and costs of adoption must be weighed against the upside; the potential for reduced errors and costly change orders, and higher profits realized through improved productivity resulting from shared documents.

Furthermore, as Autodesk points out, “The difficulty centres upon the fact that traditional return on investment analysis is unable to represent intangible factors that are important to a construction project such as avoided costs or improved safety.”

“The most benefit will be reaped when everyone that needs to be involved is on board with BIM from the start of the project,” writes Eric Hinds in Landform Surveys. “The more effectively BIM is used, the greater the benefit in cost savings.”

Damian O’Neill, director of U.K. civil and structural design services provider Lyons O’Neill, writes in BIM Today that, “managers and company directors also need a shift in attitude. They need to stop seeing BIM, with its associated software and training costs, as an optional extra, but a critical investment in their financial future; as fundamental to business as a website or employee contracts.”


John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to

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