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The delusion of innovations? An investigation into micro-level factors to an effective macro-level diffusion of Building Information Modelling in the UK

Robinson, Melanie Jane


Melanie Jane Robinson


Building Information Modelling (BIM) is being hailed as the digital enabler to reform of the traditionally stagnant construction industry, with the UK leading much of the global drive to strategize the macro-level adoption of BIM. However, in an inherently competitive environment borne from the heterogeneous, project-based nature of the industry, there is a risk that a disjoint may exist between rhetoric and reality. Furthermore, data from commercial studies suggest that barriers to effective macro-level diffusion may instead lie at the micro-level (i.e. individuals) rather than at the meso-level (i.e. organisations and projects) which has formed much of the focus in literature to date. In addition, recent efforts have begun to employ technological innovation adoption, borrowed from the Information Systems (IS) research domain, as a theoretical lens through which to study BIM adoption. However, this presents BIM adoption as a false dichotomy. This study departs from this fallacy by appraising BIM as a systemic innovation comprising people, process, and technology constituent elements. The adoption and assimilation of BIM therefore requires practitioners to develop a myriad of competencies, inter alia: hard skills, (e.g. how to interact with BIM-enabled tools), soft skills, (e.g. how to collaborate efficiently), and knowledge of the fundamental components underpinning the digital workflows. In an industry with a renowned dysfunctional training delivery model and a world with increasing reliance on internet-based, unstandardised knowledge acquisition, it is crucial to consolidate the role of BIM competency with adoption rate assessments.

The research problem is a need to better understand the efficacy of BIM adoption and utilisation, using interacting levels of analysis, within the context of the AECO industry’s strained relationship with reformation and digitsation, and the UK’s position as a leader in the global BIM rhetoric. Neglect to consider this assimilation efficacy has the potential to impact on the ability to realise the purported benefits driving the UK’s BIM agenda, such as meeting key sustainability targets and industry transformation. Therefore, using an established BIM adoption taxonomy, this study explored and investigated the role and potential impacts of micro-level factors on achieving an effective macro-level diffusion of BIM in the UK. Using Pragmatist philosophical principles with abductive reasoning, the present research employed an exploratory sequential design in which a qualitative phase preceded and informed a quantitative second phase. Phase I employed an extensive literature review to explore the narrative that a so-called “assimilation gap” effect may be influencing perceived levels of BIM adoption. These findings were augmented by two semi-structured focus groups comprised of a heterogeneous range of BIM-related experts. Drawing on technological innovation diffusion and system success theories, a comprehensive conceptual framework was then developed to investigate the relationships between perceived and actual use of BIM, its antecedent factors, and its adoption outcomes. The developed model informed Phase II, which utilised an online questionnaire survey for data collection, and descriptive and Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling (PLS-SEM) techniques for analysis.

The qualitative findings support the narrative proposed by the study that existing adoption measurement and upskilling procedures regarding BIM diffusion within industry are insufficient. The conceptual model is then empirically tested and refined by the quantitative results. This thesis argues that the efficacy of systemic innovation adoption and assimilation should be considered from a multi-level perspective, rather than attempting to understand diffusion using dichotomous, meso-led measures. Several theoretical contributions are made, including: ascertaining the roles of perceived and actual use in innovation adoption research, developing a bespoke instrument for competency assessment derived from the UK BIM standards, and reinforcing the importance of existing, innovation-based concepts within construction applications. This study also provided a gateway to establishing a robust BIM assimilation and use assessment framework by challenging the current UK diffusion and policymaking model and its effectiveness in a digital world.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Feb 24, 2022
Publicly Available Date Feb 24, 2022
Public URL
Award Date Jul 31, 2021


The delusion of innovations? An investigation into micro-level factors to an effective macro-level diffusion of Building Information Modelling in the UK (19.3 Mb)

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