While Australian infrastructure developers have been advance adopters of BIM, both local and federal governments could follow the lead set by other countries such as the UK, Singapore and New Zealand in fostering a shift toward the new paradigm within industry.

Steve Cockerell, Bentley Systems marketing director for EMEA and Asia says major Australian infrastructure projects have taken the initiative in the usage of BIM.

“A good example is the Brisbane Airport Link Road – the new link into the city that was a Bentley Be Inspired award winner a couple of years ago,” he said. “They were doing BIM right there and the in the early days – using BS1192, which is the UK standard, as well as Projectwise and the collaboration tools that it provided three or four years ago.”

According to Cockerell, Australian industry has proven well aware of the benefits conferred by BIM beyond just the design and construction with which the new technology is still most often associated.

“Australia is ahead of the curve in employing BIM as a tool for the entire lifecycle of an asset, and improvements to the operation and maintenance phase in particular,” he said. “This includes the digitisation of assets that were completed long in the past, in order to enhance operation and maintenance in the present and future.”

He pointed to Transport for NSW and the Sydney train system as a prime example of how organisations are taking a lead role.

“They’re looking at the other end, where they’ve got this thing called a virtual plan room, where they take all their legacy information, all the drawings and designs for their existing rail network, digitise it, and are now able to provide convenient access to that information,” he said. “It’s all part of the wider BIM definition.”

Australian industry’s precocious usage of BIM’s full functionality has been achieved despite what some say is a need for greater leadership on the matter from government.

“We have no mandated policies to drive the effective usage of BIM across the whole of the infrastructure asset lifecycle in Australia,” said Bentley Systems industry solutions director John Taylor.

“Given the focus on government infrastructure delivery in Australia, particularly in the transport sector, the federal and state governments need to provide leadership requiring their requirements for BIM to deliver and manage infrastructure more effectively and efficiently.”

Taylor pointed to the benefits of BIM for government budgets, given the immense size of its infrastructure portfolio in Australia.

“Government in Australia owns the vast majority of infrastructure in the country and they bear the responsibility for managing their infrastructure in the most cost-effective way, while maintaining service levels demanded by our citizens,” he said. “Effective BIM strategies for major infrastructure have been proven to reduce whole of life infrastructure costs enhance project delivery.”

According to Taylor, Australia is already falling behind other countries in the region when it comes to the adoption of policies to foster BIM usage for the development and management of key infrastructure assets.

“Both the New Zealand and Singapore governments have a mandated BIM policy for major infrastructure projects, which is expected to deliver significant cost savings,” he said. “The UK government has a BIM Taskforce and mandated policies for fully collaborative 3D BIM  by 2016, and this is already delivering tangible cost savings and timely project delivery for some of the largest construction projects in Europe.

“It is time for Australia to mandate similar commonwealth and state policies for BIM, as the benefits of doing so will deliver real value to the Australian public.”