BIM Saves Money: Objective Proof?

One of the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) recently published its report on the benefits of BIM Level 2. The verdict: significant cost savings.

PwC’s report, titled ‘BIM Level 2 Benefits Measurement’ was commissioned by HM Government through its research body Innovate UK. The report highlighted savings averaging 2.3% of construction costs on the public projects it assessed. The difference represents savings in lifecycle costs with BIM, measured against the cost without BIM.

Average Cost Savings from the use of BIM Level 2 – 2.3%

Projects from both the Environment Agency and Department of Health were studied. The Department of Health results were a 3.0% saving, with the Environment Agency achieving 1.5%.

Interestingly, the bigger savings were achieved where BIM maturity was greatest, adding further strength to evidence of the value and benefits of deploying BIM in a strategic way to drive through tangible results.

Organisation BIM Maturity Benefit as % of Cost
Department of Health 93% 3.0%
The Environment Agency 63% 1.5%

Source of data: PwC ‘BIM Level 2 Benefits Measurement’

The aim of the PwC report is to provide objective evidence of BIM benefits, and to quantify the cost savings achieved. The lack of such evidence has long been a concern. The £840M savings reported in the HM Government ‘Digital Built Britain’ strategy in 2015 cited BIM Level 2 as having “greatly assisted” and “taking a significant part”, but perhaps fell short of providing definitive proof of the direct cause and effect between BIM and costs.

This lack of ‘hard’ evidence has been recognised as one of the main barriers to BIM adoption. Some organisations still perceive BIM as a cost. There are, of course, costs involved in changing to a more effective information management process and more digitally enabled ways of working. These costs are easier to understand and quantify than the benefits, which are often more complex and less immediately visible. The benefits are often perceived as less tangible, so the return on investment more difficult to clearly quantify. Evidence is needed to confirm that BIM is an investment with a return, not just a cost.

PwC has addressed those issues with a comprehensive methodology focussing on BIM benefits, measured in ‘hard’ monetary terms.

The report also identified a range of further benefits that could not be quantified for lack of reliable data. However, it concluded that “the omitted benefits could be significant”, so the cost savings highlighted are likely to represent a conservative view of the actual benefits.

An example of this is the savings achieved by using clash detection to avoid site issues. The benefit was clearly evident, but the project team were able to accurately quantify the cost savings in only one instance, so the remaining examples are excluded from the results. This explains why the value identified at the build, commission and handover stage are perhaps lower than the true savings.

The financial results only form part of the BIM picture, measuring just 1 of 8 significant areas of benefit identified in the PwC methodology:

  1. Time savings
  2. Materials savings
  3. Cost savings
  4. Health and safety improvements
  5. Risk reduction
  6. Improved asset utilisation
  7. Improved asset quality
  8. Improved reputation

“...the cost savings highlighted are likely to represent a conservative view of the actual benefits.”

So, whilst the report falls short of quantifying all of these, the cost savings it does identify provides some of the first objective evidence of the monetary value of BIM, independently assessed using a robust methodology.

Also, of note is the report’s findings on where in the lifecycle these benefits accrue. With the greatest proportion of time and cost typically being in the operational phase of an asset’s life, it is expected that the greatest benefits would be evident at that stage. The report’s measurement bears this out.

Lifecycle Phase Design Build, Commission, Handover Operation All
Benefit as % of phase total cost 4.6% 0.5% 5.8% 2.3%
% of benefit in each phase of the lifecycle 16.7% 14.8% 68.5% 100%

Source of data: PwC ‘BIM Level 2 Benefits Measurement’

The implications of this are clear - this detailed assessment fully supports the long-held view that BIM can provide benefits to organisations throughout the project and asset lifecycle, and across the industry supply chain.

The PwC report adds the considerable weight of one of the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms to the growing body of evidence of the tangible benefits of BIM.

In an industry with tight margins, cost savings can have a huge effect on profitability – a 2-3% reduction in project cost can double profit margins. With the vast majority of organisations implementing BIM now experiencing a positive return on investment, and BIM usage increasing year-on year, the business case is becoming overwhelming.

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About Author

Neil Reed, Director at BIMcert Ltd

Neil’s vast experience in the construction industry allows him to support clients to acquire and demonstrate their BIM capability. His experience covers all aspects of behavioural change, systems and procedures, technology, workflows and commercial issues.

Visit Neil’s LinkedIn for more information -

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