BIM and the small construction firm: a critical perspective

The need for technological and administrative innovation is a recurrent theme in the UK construction reform agenda, but generic improvement recipes are beginning to give way to a more focused prescription; Building Information Modelling (BIM). The current strategy is to mandate the use of BIM for government projects as a way of integrating the design, construction and operation of publically procured buildings. This aspiration represents a partial turn away from a focus on managerialist agendas towards a belief in the power of digital practices to achieve the aspiration of integrated working, collaboration and innovation, a trend that is being reflected globally in relation to both national and firm-level policy interventions. In this paper we subject this ‘BIM revolution’ to critical scrutiny. By drawing on theories of the digital divide we develop a critical discourse around the ways in which political reform agendas centred on BIM might not stimulate innovation on a wider scale, but could act to disenfranchise small firms who are unable (or unwilling) to engage with them. This critical analysis presents important new research questions around the technocratic optimism which pervades the current reform discourse, the trajectory of industry development that it creates, and the policy process itself.