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Scottish housebuilders team up to change the industry

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has changed the world of construction, but adopting it can be difficult for small and medium-sized companies (SMEs).

Stewart Milne Group and Mactaggart & Mickel Group are two home builders set to take on the challenge with the help of CITB funding. 

Industry growth means a new challenge for SMEs

As the industry picks up and more contracts come in, the pressure is on for businesses to keep up to speed with training and technology.

Stewart Dalgarno, director of product development at Stewart Milne Group, says: “We need to improve and grow…. We have to make the most of our people and resources to pick up the shortfall. BIM can help with that.”

While both companies currently use traditional 2D CAD, Stewart says it’s no longer efficient.

“You used to have a drawing board with a pencil and a ruler, then we moved to CAD with 2D line drawing which was great, but that's not interactive. We absolutely need to move to a living 3D model."

But BIM requires a big investment in training, and software can be costly.

“Although there's a lot of BIM training and material for general contracting and large public projects, there’s nothing to help small and medium house builders move to BIM,” says Stewart.

Support for innovation gets things off the ground

The companies decided to work together to develop a pilot project to tackle BIM.  

The pilot would provide research to evaluate the business case and develop delivery strategies for BIM within small to medium-sized private housing companies.

When the companies applied to CITB’s funding for innovation pilots, they managed to secure £178,000 to support the project.

The support came at just the right time. With funding, it was much easier to take on the risks surrounding the project.

“It's risky and difficult,” says Stewart, “but with CITB coming in and encouraging businesses like this, the sector is moving in the right direction.”

“If we didn't get funded we wouldn't be doing it, simple as that.”

Working together for better results

The project has also shown how two competing companies can work together. Stewart hopes that it will set a standard in the industry.

“The project is fifty-fifty collaboration. Our businesses are at different scales but we’re similar, and we’re both looking to grow in future.”

It’s a hot topic in construction now, and they’ve already been contacted by other companies who want to work together because they’re farther ahead. The pilot program is just the beginning.

“BIM is bigger than this one project, this pilot. There'll be a wider sector benefit. If it's good for us, there's no reason why others wouldn't want to do it as well.” 

Stewart says, "The application process made us really think about what our project was going to deliver and to align the outputs to the wider CITB, construction sector and business need. This was a tough process, but provided far greater clarity and a more robust delivery plan. CITB were very helpful in leading us through the process and providing suitable test and challenge along the way."

Snapshot

Company:  Stewart Milne Group and Mactaggart & Mickel Group
Sector:  housebulding
Size of company:  small to medium enterprise (SME)
Location:  Scotland

Challenge:  To help SMEs move to BIM to keep up with industry growth
Solution: Co-designed programme that helps sector SMEs move to BIM, using £178,000 funding 
Impact: other SMEs inspired to collaborate to solve an industry challenge; more SMEs are moving to BIM.

“BIM is bigger than this one project. There'll be a wider sector benefit. If it's good for us, there's no reason why others wouldn't want to do it as well”

Stewart Dalgarno, director of product development at Stewart Milne Group