How SMEs can get started on BIM

Autodesk’s Matt Wheelis outlines the benefits of BIM for smaller companies on Construction Manager.

BIM is just as relevant to smaller construction firms as their larger competitors. Yet, more often than not, these firms put off using BIM, dismissing it as “not something for a company of our size”. 

If nothing else, the government’s 2016 BIM mandate provides a compelling reason for smaller firms to start thinking about it – particularly if they want to participate in centrally procured government projects.

But where to get started? There are a number of products to choose from. For example, a vendor like Autodesk provides a BIM solution using tools as diverse as Revit (modelling), AutoCAD (drafting and documentation), Navisworks (project review) and 3ds Max Design (visualisation), among others

If you use any of these, you are already on your way to a BIM-based workflow.

In addition to being purchased individually, these products can be purchased as part of a suite, such as Autodesk Building Design Suite, or Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite, which provides greater value to smaller firms than purchasing individual licenses.

Additionally, there are cloud-based tools, such as Autodesk BIM 360 Field (construction field management) or Autodesk BIM 360 Glue (BIM coordination and management), which offer lower upfront costs than traditional desktop software licenses.

Training for these products is readily available, including instructor-led courses, online training, and self-paced tutorials. Users can validate their skills with Autodesk Certification, get expert guidance at an authorised training centre, or dive into a recommended training guide or ebook

Let’s picture a small firm that is building a leisure centre in central London and see how these tools could help them.


Benefit 1: Work-winning

Without BIM, the contractor responds to a government request for proposals with a standard proposal. This relatively uninspiring costs profile leaves the firm competing on price alone.

With tools like Revit and BIM360 Glue, the firm can produce a 3D model of the centre that lets them communicate very clearly to the client exactly what is being built and what it will look like. They can even let the owner experience the building for themselves and even comment through cloud-based project review.


Benefit 2: Quantity surveying

Quantity surveying (QS) in a non-BIM project is a matter of manually measuring the quantities that are on the blueprint, and then remeasuring manually if and when there are any changes.

With a tool like Navisworks Simulate, many of those quantities are automatically measured, giving firms the ability to rapidly adjust to changes, generate revised cost proposals, and show the customer visually where economies may occur.


Benefit 3: Coordination

After our theoretical small firm has performed the QS and won the work, it needs to go out in the field and execute the work. Now, this manager is not building just one of these projects: they are building many around town. In the non-BIM based process, they have to carry a set of blueprints around from jobsite to jobsite – and hope they’ve got the right ones.

Using a tool like BIM 360 Field, the firm has easy access via the cloud and mobile devices not just to 2D drawings and representations, but also to 3D models. If the tradesmen need a little extra help understanding what the firm’s trying to accomplish, they can simply show them – right there, in the field – via a tablet device.



Small firms don’t need to view BIM as a monolithic, intimidating process that is too complex to even contemplate undertaking. Instead, firms can take a problem-solving approach and pick just one area of their workflow they want to improve – say, work-winning, or field management – then use BIM as part of the solution.

Moreover, in smaller firms, the disciplines around costing, QS, programming and scheduling tend to be done by a single person who’s a jack-of-all-trades, making it even more natural to integrate these disciplines within the BIM process.


Matt Wheelis is senior industry manager, construction, at Autodesk. 


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