We are seeing the future of the construction industry unfold and it is as high-tech as space travel, writes Beverley Johanson.
In Australia, the industry is vibrant and diverse but, like its counterparts in the rest of the developed world, it is not without challenges and a deep need to change in order to maximise opportunities.
Poor productivity, delays, safety issues and a shortage of skilled labour are just a few of the issues. Increasing project complexity brings significant challenges, say the experts. Errors, miscommunication and misunderstandings increase as all parties involved in a project try to keep track of details on paper and in unconnected software applications.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is being seen globally as the way forward for the architecture, engineering and construction industries. Very broadly, it is a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a building – a digital collaboration between the software of all firms working on the project and a process for creating and managing all project information before, during and after construction. BIM integrates all aspects of a project like never before.
Using BIM, you can visualise the finished building with all its components and all its systems before construction begins. Potential problems can be identified and fixed at this time and physical errors and costly revisions avoided. Owners and contractors can identify, analyse and record the impact of changes on costs and scheduling.
BIM tracks and monitors materials, so this becomes streamlined, highly efficient and waste is reduced. After handover, BIM becomes the basis for maintenance scheduling.
BIM can be used on parts of a project, but to get the full benefit of the technology, owners, designers and contractors need to incorporate it right from the design stage, and all stakeholders need to adopt design and data-reporting formats compatible with BIM. With its ability to minimise waste of materials, time and effort BIM is also a driver in lean construction.
[…] Figures on the uptake of BIM in all its forms in Australia are not available. A 2016 survey by Redstack of 150 industry professionals in Australia and New Zealand found that 47 per cent of respondents had completed at least one BIM project, but does not indicate how extensively BIM was used on the projects. Twenty per cent of respondents said they were implementing it and 18 per cent are planning to involve BIM.
Nando Mogollon, Design Technologies expert at Central Innovation, the Australian representative of global software company and ARCHICAD creator, GRAPHISOFT, says that from a historical perspective Australia and New Zealand were early adopters.
“In the late 1980s and ’90s, we were at the forefront of implementing this type of technology. It was not called BIM. It was called Virtual Building. I think we started lagging behind to see what other countries would do. The government take here on it has been slow,” he says.
There seems to be a consensus that adoption has stalled because of the lack of effort to mandate BIM adoption or develop national BIM standards. Other barriers include software incompatibilities among stakeholders on a project; some legal issues are still to be tested; the cost of software; and the lack of experts working in the field.
Nathan Hildebrandt, director of Brisbane architectural practice Fulton Trotter, says that the use of BIM has the ability to improve the overall economy. “If clients can obtain a built asset for less, that enables the client to invest more in their building or in other ways. The idea is to improve the overall economy and reduce waste.”
“In the UK, they talk about 20 to 30 per cent in savings.”
“If clients can obtain a built asset for less, that enables the client to invest more in their building or in other ways. The idea is to improve the overall economy and reduce waste.” Nathan Hildebrandt, Director – Fulton Trotter.
Hildebrandt is also working with a committee for the Queensland branch of the Australian Institute of Architects and the Association of Consulting Architects to analyse a BIM capability survey of the Queensland architectural profession, which they hope to release at the BILT ANZ conference in Brisbane in May.
The joint BIM task group was established because the Queensland government is moving to mandate BIM. “We are hoping they will announce their policy at the conference,” Hildebrandt says.
“We want to make sure we protect the future interests of architects,” he adds
The committee is taking a three-pillar approach. Improving awareness of BIM is one, as a survey they conducted showed that awareness of BIM and its scope is quite low.
“People think because they bought the software, they use BIM, but the industry needs to learn all of the components.”
Training is another pillar. The committee has been talking to Registered Training Organisations about developing a course that aligns with the recently released BIM Knowledge and Skills Framework – a framework of principles, practices, and outcomes with which to build an education curriculum, professional development and business BIM requirements released by the Australian Procurement and Construction Council in conjunction with the Australian Construction Industry Forum. “That document might become the basis of BIM skills and knowledge capabilities,” Hildebrandt says.
The third pillar is the committee working on the architecture profession’s advisory notes to include how to deal with BIM.
[…] BIM is rapidly becoming industry standard across global architecture, engineering and construction industries. Governments in Britain, Finland and Singapore mandate the use of BIM for public infrastructure projects. The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia says that “the Federal Government, as well as various state government departments, are intensifying their efforts to promote and adopt BIM.”
The Australian Construction Industry Forum says that “with an estimated construction spend in Australia of $207 billion in 2016-17 it is critical that efficient and effective processes are utilised. For example, a 15 per cent productivity improvement driven by BIM would result in a $31 billion saving. The potential for savings through the use of BIM is estimated at 15-20 per cent per project.” […]
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