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Publication date: 23 February 2021

Choeu Tshepisho Makabate, Innocent Musonda, Chioma Sylvia Okoro and Nicholas Chileshe

Building information modelling (BIM) has had a significant impact on the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector in the past several years. However, not…



Building information modelling (BIM) has had a significant impact on the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector in the past several years. However, not much is published concerning small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) adopting BIM in the construction industry. To address this knowledge gap, a complete and in-depth literature review of the adoption of BIM by SMEs in the AEC sector is conducted in this study. The paper also provides a comprehensive review of the mainstream studies of adoption of BIM in the AEC organisations.


Based on a five-stage literature review, 54 articles on the adoption of BIM by SMEs from the period 2009 to 2019 were critically analysed from the following three perspectives: (1) the number of articles produced; (2) the research focus and (3) the author's contributions. The techniques of the visualisation of similarities (VOSviewer) software were used to analyse the citation networks of the 54 articles as identified.


From the analysis, it was established that the number of studies on BIM adoption by SMEs in the reviewed journals has not been increasing and not many articles are available. The finding makes the argument that BIM adoption by SMEs is not a focus point but rather the adoption and implementation of BIM is generalised in the AEC sector. In addition, the results revealed that most of the published articles come from the United Kingdom (UK). However, this finding is hardly surprising due to the requirements in the UK, which have made the adoption of BIM mandatory on all publicly funded projects and are at level 2 BIM. The other highly ranked countries by origins of studies on the adoption of BIM by SMEs were found to be Australia and the United States of America (USA), all of which are developed nations or economies. Some key BIM in SME research trends (adoption, enforcement, benefits, strategies, skills gap, awareness, education and training, and technology) were identified and evaluated.

Research limitations/implications

The results presented in this journal are only applicable to SMEs in the AEC sector. As a result of little available literature on the adoption of BIM in developing countries, the articles have been drawn from developed countries. The dataset was mainly extracted from the Scopus database for the analysis.


An accomplished series content analysis of the implementation and adoption of BIM by SMEs from international construction journals were reported. The study makes significant and emergent contribution by building on the foundation of BIM research in SMEs as well as providing a reference point for the interpretation of findings, as well as directions for future research.


Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0969-9988


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