The NBS has recently released the 2013 version of its insightful survey which has a broad spectrum of participants - clients, contractors and consultants - drawing out some meaningful trends across procurement and contract use. We’ve selected three of the key areas covered by this survey: contracts, BIM and collaboration and summarise below the statistics with some further thoughts and analysis.

Procurement / Form of Contract Used

The dominant procurement options are still the traditional route with over 55% of respondents saying they had used this route most frequently and design and build with over 25% using it most frequently. The JCT contracts are still the contract of choice with 48% using it most often compared with 22% using NEC contracts most often. This has shifted from the previous survey (2012) when 60% used JCT contracts and only 16% used NEC contracts most often, so the uptake of NEC contracts is still increasing. Interestingly the survey charts the contract used by value of project, with the overall impression being returned that JCT contracts are used for lower value projects (up to £5m), NEC contracts used for medium value projects (£250k-£25m) and FIDIC being used for higher value projects (over £25m). Given that there will be a larger quantity of projects at the lower value end and the preference at those values being for JCT contracts, this perhaps accounts somewhat for the contracts overall dominance. It is also interesting to note that as the project value gets higher, the NEC contracts, seen as the more collaborative option, is used in preference to JCT. Or it could be that NEC tends to be used for particular types of projects, e.g. engineering and public sector works which tend to be of higher value than a straightforward build project.

Building Information Modelling

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the buzzword of recent years and often dominates the political rhetoric around the future of construction, but only 23% of respondents referenced BIM in their contractual documents and only 9% would actually provide or receive BIM information as part of the project documentation. Whilst this seems like a low number there could be a few explanations for this: At the moment BIM is more often shared amongst the professional design team to aid design and undertake clash detection and thereafter traditional documents are produced for the actual build. So BIM use on projects is almost certainly higher, but a lack of understanding as to the contractual risks associated with BIM will often prevent consultants providing BIM outputs outside of their design circle. BIM is also not suitable for every project with lower value projects or predominantly ground civil engineering projects gaining fewer benefits from the offerings of current BIM software. It will certainly be interesting to see how the figures for both contractual references to BIM and BIM information becoming part of the project documentation grow over the coming years and if the actual use of BIM tracks the contractual references to BIM.

Collaboration

Collaboration is another popular topic with the success of larger projects often being put down to the high levels of collaboration across the disciplines. Yet 49% of respondents said they never collaborated on projects and only 10% said they collaborated on every project, with a slightly more respectable 51% either always or sometimes collaborating. Collaboration takes many forms though, and for those who do collaborate on their projects 61% said it was through a contract (such as the NEC contracts) that included the ethos of trust and mutual co-operation. Only 32% said it was through a formal partnering agreement. This is a reminder that even though collaboration has been championed within the industry for several decades, the reality is that formal arrangements are often simply not palatable to contracting parties and that for a majority of parties, at best they will sign up to an obligation of mutual trust and cooperation and good faith. Interestingly 40% of respondents said that they thought BIM is essential for collaboration so perhaps the increasing use of BIM will lead to greater levels of collaboration.

The full survey can be downloaded and read here.