BIM adoption: Why Can’t it Just Be About Best Practice?

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In late 2013, McGraw Hill conducted 435 online surveys with architects, engineers, contractors, consultants and building owners from across Australia and New Zealand’s construction industry.

The Australia and New Zealand SmartMarket Report released on Wednesday analyses the full range of data received and, in relation to BIM adoption, the levels of experience and collaboration, expected and estimated return on investment and likely future importance and adoption rates of BIM in five years in Australia and New Zealand.

On reading the report and listening to the speakers at Wednesday’s Consult Australia Technology Symposium, it is clear that greater sharing of models and data will provide the best incentive to improve the BIM and engage all project team members to return the benefits.

What the client wants

Over two-thirds of respondents reported that working with team members who have BIM expertise improves project outcomes and increases quality.

What we are seeing on the ground is a need to shift the thinking from mandatory BIM implementation (i.e. the UK model) to best practice design and construction.

The ANZ SmartMarket Report data also suggests building owners within both the public and private sectors are likely to have the greatest influence on BIM adoption.

Clients will always expect better design and properly coordinated delivery of the project, on time and within budget. BIM is a tool that assists in delivering what the client wants. The technology facilitates the improvement in best practice. The project team should apply BIM because it makes business sense to do so. It generates savings through efficiencies like the development and implementation of any new technology or process should.

What the designer wants

Canada reports that 89 per cent of contractors ‘always or often’ receive models from designers. When it comes to expectations in receiving models from designers in Australia and New Zealand, just nine per cent hold this view. We rank at the lowest end, well below all other regions. In comparison to the US (44 per cent), South Korea (50 per cent), Brazil (50 per cent) and the UK (29 per cent) our real BIM adoption rate falls far short of what we think is happening in relation to BIM take up and real project collaboration.

According to the report, over two-thirds of architects and engineers are requesting ‘more 3D Building Product manufacturer-specific content.’ With the groundswell of take up amongst architects and engineers, the report highlights the need for this group particularly to demand content that is searchable and that can be indexed.

When working closely with designers across a range of large and small project, our 5DQS team at Mitchell Brandtman finds that the greatest benefit to everyone is reliable data that can be revised quickly and accurately as the design develops. The technology allows for this. What is critical to the process is the understanding of the power of this data across the consultancy team and that everyone is aware of its usefulness up and down the chain of supply. Inevitable data anomalies are then able to be identified and rectified collectively and quickly.

What the contractor wants

According to McGraw Hill’s report, Australian and New Zealand contractors are more likely to focus on whole of project team benefits through improved BIM processes. Contractors rated more highly (in comparison to architects and engineers), better data integration, functionality and interoperability of the software as the factors most likely to increase the BIM benefits for users.

Contractors in Australia and New Zealand also seem to be leading the way in their plans to invest/upgrade IT infrastructure, expressing high to very high importance for BIM. More than half of the contractors who responded also plan to invest in developing collaborative BIM processes, which McGraw Hill reports is outpacing the average of all other global regions.

What is also evident from the statistics overall is the role of contractors. The data supports the view that this group is most likely to be the key drivers of BIM adoption in Australia and New Zealand in the next few years given their calls for greater functionality of the software and more clearly defined deliverables to support BIM.

In our experience when working with contractors, particularly on large scale commercial and public sector projects, they are focused on IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) and VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) as the means to successfully deliver a project on time and on budget. IPD provides contractors with a softer way to contract. VDC allows contractors to rehearse the build which reduces waste and delivers a leaner project more likely to be on time and within budget.

Contractors want to de-risk the project through accurate and fast updatable documentation. All parties participating in BIM achieve this. Efficiency should be the driver for increased adoption and this is only going to come from greater sharing of project successes, knowledge sharing of work-arounds and software developments and full collaboration across the project team from preliminary design through construction and post construction.

Trades Take Up Fast

Contractors are reporting high proficiency use amongst mechanical/sheet metal/plumber trade contractors in Australia and New Zealand. It is most likely that these trades can more readily see the immediate financial benefits and process improvements, particularly where they are moving to greater prefabrication.

Given that trades make up approximately 83 per cent of costs on a typical building project, it is expected that BIM will most likely bring about the most immediate savings and benefits to the subcontractors. This is certainly what we are seeing on our 5D projects.

Engaging Non-Users

When we look more closely at the non-users responses, more than two-thirds believe their competitors are using BIM but over 40 per cent of them feel that it is at a low implementation level of less than 15 per cent of projects. The report points specifically to this being more commonly thought within companies working domestically only.

By contrast, all large contractors (revenues of $250 million or more) say their competitors are using BIM and half of those believe it is at a high implementation level.

The most significant benefit that would influence take up for both non-user contractors and architects/engineers is more accurate construction documents followed closely by improved communication. What is surprising is that amongst the early BIM adopters these are both generally considered as immediate and achievable deliverables when implementing BIM across the project team.

It’s always about industry Best Practice

The report makes a strong case for greater education amongst domestically focused and small companies in Australia and New Zealand yet to adopt BIM or who are still at a very low level of implementation.

Whilst the strength of the advocacy of BIM in Australia and the number of organisations collaborating and conversing on how to improve it is essential, developing sound business strategy at the individual level to improve ROI is imperative. This can be achieved through better design and model data management and is likely to have a greater impact on adoption rates and encourage best industry practice. Historically this has always remained the greatest incentive for adoption of any new process or technology.

Whilst the industry debates the need for a national standard, what may serve us better is focusing on standardising the elements that can report the ROI coming out of better design and model integration of 4D and 5D.

We also need industry-wide education on the best practice benefits of project collaboration along the supply chain. We know early decisions have a high ability to influence time and costs. We need to look beyond the issues of where we should be on the BIM journey and focus efforts on who can influence best practice at the early stages of design. This may create far greater success in leveraging BIM’s benefits throughout the design, construction and post construction phases for those in the project team who choose to adopt.

CONTRIBUTED BY:


David Mitchell is a 5D Quantity Surveyor and Partner of Mitchell Brandtman. With 30 years of industry experience and a family background in construction consulting, David has a deep understanding of construction and development. David is passionate about people, open leadership, technology and the c...
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  1. Geoff Clark says:

    I am sick and tired of reading sales pitches for BIM!

    Firstly, to suggest that BIM is useful for the one room, or deck extension is absurd, but this is just the extreme case. The vast bulk of projects are small so this garbage about what clients WANT and what contractors WANT is utter rubbish in this context.

    Secondly, the ramifications of this are already evident in the dismal decline of skills in the architectural profession. A reliance on the tool is most definitely going to diminish reliance on knowledge and ability, and ever more over time.

    The appalling skill set that even quite senior architects gain through sitting in front of a BIM model prevent them from being able to use the back of an envelope, or from working on-site in any useful way. The BIM IS the designer and USERS have no ability to RESPOND without the DESIGNER.

    Just another instance of a rule based society going mad, attempting to make a rule for everything, because it is BEST PRACTICE. I am sorry, but BULL%$#@!

    Who pays the bill? It gets passed on to client of course. Is that what the client demands?

  2. David Chandler says:

    BIM has amazing potential but it may not be sufficient to lead Australia's construction out of its productivity and competitiveness mire. Many claims are being made about how BIM will improve quality and lower project risk. I am not so sure. I have seen no evidence that BIM is leading to changing construction methodology to lower cost or enable faster on site construction or assure quality. Of course there are adhoc claims to this affect but they are not bench-marked to any reliable set of industry measures aimed at doing so. As with most Integrated Computer Technology (ICTs) uptake over the last 20 years BIM runs the risk of further enshrining "business as usual". The reality is that business as usual ensures that Australia's construction costs are at least 20% to high across the board. Business as usual has so far only ensured that those bits of construction of fabrication which can be moved off-site are effectively moving off-shore.
    I estimate that if this trend continues and only 15% of Australia's construction today moves off-site and possibly off-shore then as much as $40 billion and over 75,000 jobs stand at risk to our economy over the next 10 years. It really is time for Labour and the unions to get a grip on this.
    Construction in Australia needs a serious rethink. It will take insight and leadership. This will not come from the custodians of the status quo or the defenders of the lowest common denominator. Its a pity that the factors recently considered by a labour dominated committee into this subject concluded that industry claims of national economic benefits exceeding $6 billion if the ABCC were reinstated were excessive. They would do so if they used trailing indicators and continuance of construction methods as we know them today. The bottom line is that those measures do not look into the future and test what needs to be done to turn things around. They would find that if the industry was returned to a lawful industrial climate then the step changes that BIM and other measures could pursue would deliver multiple times the construction cost savings that have been put forward so far.
    But this challenge does not just lie at the feet of a Labour opposition and unions. Its a national challenge. There are three clear trends that will define global construction in the future. The first is that construction is going off-site, the second is that it is becoming industrialized and thirdly it is going global. There will be a place for leaders and innovators but not for laggards.
    To get the best out of what BIM could offer the industry we firstly need to set some overarching pre-competitive objectives to be adopted by the industry as a whole. I suggest that these be as simple as reducing on-site workforce inputs by 30% (i.e. on-site fabrications) and on-site construction durations by 50% by 2023. Such measures could be easily collected as they are standard record keeping on most construction sites. I tender that positive achievement towards these goals be a precursor to future wage and salary increases, and that government add these to their tender pre-qualification criteria.
    It does not take much insight to realize that achieving these goals has more to do with project pre-planning and changing construction methodology. So here in my view is the pre-competitive justification for BIM. Then the leaders can start to use these advances to drive innovations that could become their competitive difference to gap the laggards.
    Embedding BIM as another ICT ahead of setting industry game changing direction in place will only add process and I dare say cost.
    There is much more to this conversation if Australia is to have a viable construction industry adding to the nation's competitiveness in the years ahead. More importantly will be how much remains of construction's 209,000 construction businesses and 1,000,000 workforce.


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