Investigating the future of model-based construction in the UK

Tara Brooks, Ryan Zantinge, Faris Elghaish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: Although data rich building information models have been widely adopted in the Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry in the United Kingdom (UK), use of 2D drawings on site for construction is still the norm. The ability of 2-dimensional (2D) drawings to convey complex 3-dimensional information is limited and requires interpretation from operatives, and 2D drawings can be quickly superseded by model updates. Although constructing directly from a model has been adopted in the aerospace and automotive industries, its use in construction is in its infancy. This research therefore aims to investigate the potential for, and barriers to, model-based construction in the UK. Design/methodology/approach: This research uses a qualitative approach, thematically analysing 13 semi-structured interviews with UK-based construction professionals who have experience of paperless or model-based construction. Findings: Although model -based construction has been implemented to a limited extent on some civil engineering projects; research and investment in software, network capacity, legal and contractual issues, and cultural and human factors will need to be considered before model-based construction can be implemented more widely. Originality/value: The research contributes to an understudied, emergent area of construction practice and outlines hurdles that need to be understood and overcome before more widespread adoption of model-based construction can take place.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSmart and Sustainable Built Environment
Early online date07 Oct 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 07 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Several respondents (2, 3, 7, 9, 12 and 13) called for the UK government to incentivise model-based construction as a way to encourage development in this direction. Respondent 2 suggested that the incentive might take the form of financing (perhaps a government subsidy) geared to developers and contractors to enable them to bankroll a project adopting this kind of approach and invest in the skills and technology required for its delivery. Several interviewees suggested that the UK government should take a leading role, driving innovation in drawingless construction. Interviewee 12 suggested that they should target research and innovation funding to this area and remarked that the construction industry needed to improve in its use of existing government research and development tax credits. Developers are unlikely to take risks with a new way of constructing buildings unless the risks have been largely eliminated and the benefits clearly demonstrated, according to respondent 13. Interviewee 3 suggests that pilot projects should be funded by the UK government to demonstrate the viability of drawingless construction, backed by university research into the project. Interviewee 7 suggested that a big client like HS2, Heathrow or Tideway could undertake a case study project. Interviewee 9 agrees with this perspective, suggesting that a case study project on an exemplar project could be undertaken, citing Heathrow Terminal 5 as an example where construction innovation was demonstrated. He suggested that the whole construction industry could reap the benefits from this approach.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Building information modelling
  • Digital construction
  • Drawingless construction
  • Information and communication technology (ICT) applications
  • Model-based construction
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Cultural Studies
  • Architecture
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Building and Construction
  • Urban Studies


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