Smoothing the BIM Transition: Critical Success Factors for adopting Building Information Modelling in small architects offices.


Building Information Modelling (BIM) is being extensively promoted and adopted throughout the global construction Industry. In theory, BIM infrastructure paired with collaboration software offers significant improvements and benefits over traditional design, delivery and supply chain processes. Proponents of BIM claim that BIM will change everything. In the UK, BIM has been mandated for all government procurement by 2016. BIM is claimed to provide increased design and documentation productivity, better service co-ordination and the ability to pre-empt OH&S issues on site.

The context of the proposal is small architectural practices extending to other small firms in the design and construction industry. This context will enable the research to focus on identifying the Critical Success Factors necessary for BIM implementation across the full design and construction supply chain: from design to actual construction.

The aims and objectives of the research:

  • Identify the critical success factors that support BIM adoption, implementation and collaboration by small Australian professional service firms
  • Describe and map the organisational structures, IT infrastructure and business processes necessary to the successful adoption of BIM across the practice lifecycle in small
  • Compare and then identify the interdependencies between parametric and digital modelling and BIM in early design stages and the later design development and documentation
  • Identify the potential cost and benefits and productivity gains of BIM implementation in small
  • Establish how the implementation of BIM shifts risk allocation in projects for small


  • Develop the criteria and specifications for an industry platform for small architectural practices which integrate BIM with other digital design tools across the full design and construction supply
  • Create a decision support framework to guide BIM governance, BIM workflow and BIM adoption by small architectural firms in the form of a published workbook.
  • Identify BIM industry training solutions for small architectural

In the construction industry the impending adoption of widespread BIM adoption calls into question existing business processes based on haphazard CAD co-ordination, physical documents, price competition on fees, low contractor bidding and sub-optimal project management models. For many clients traditional procurement does not privilege project foresight, nor an investment in design that allows project optimization and actual added value. Conversely when problems arise within firms that have adopted BIM they often revert to traditional ways of working.

In small architectural firms there is often a gap between using BIM and their traditional design processes and workflows.

For small architectural practices the use of BIM raises a number of significant questions: Do architects simply design the forms for BIM consultants/engineers to create useful models from? In other words, will BIM systems integration and collaboration bring about the erosion of architecture as a disciplinary specialisation? How can parametric design and generative modelling tools be matched to BIM protocols? With the rise of new fabrication technologies in the construction supply chain how might architects link the data in their BIM models to these new methods? Moreover how can we measure the costs and benefits of the use of BIM in small practices? What are the processes, techniques and protocols that Small and Medium Enterprises need to adopt to keep their services viable in a marketplace where the necessary tools/skills are becoming inaccessible?

This proposal will use an ethnographic case study research approach to examine BIM implementation —it’s drivers, barriers and possibilities—in small Australian architectural practices. In terms relevant to small architectural firms, the project will investigate how BIM can be best adapted for and adopted in small Australian architectural firms.

The overarching research question is: How can BIM be adapted in order to achieve time and cost benefits for small Australian architectural practices?

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