Whilst Australia continues to debate the merits of whether we should have a whole of government or whole of industry taskforce and whether to mandate or not to mandate BIM, the UK has quietly launched the Level 3 BIM Strategic Plan 12 months prior to the end date for the Level 2 Plan which has netted the UK government an estimated £840 million in savings. Why are we so far behind?

Leading the charge globally

The Level 2 BIM program launched back in 2011 was considered very ambitious for its time but has allowed the UK to deliver major projects and infrastructure, including the 2012 Olympics and Cookham Wood Prison with quantifiable savings. The innovative strategy has been touted as key to the development of their new rail projects, Cross Rail and HS2. Their recognition of the drive of the digital age provides the UK with the opportunity to lead globally in the value of its built assets and the data preserved to create a digital economy for all.

Digital Built Britain (DBB) brings together a number of key government initiatives driving the high-performing UK digital economy such as Construction 2025, the Business and Professional Services Strategy 22, the Smart Cities Strategy 23 and the Information Economy Strategy 24.

It will transform infrastructure development and construction and, according to the recent launch and accompanying DBB report, “it will consolidate the UK’s position as a world leader in these sectors.”

Given the estimated share of the world market for construction is forecast to be in the region of $15 trillion globally by 2025, this strategy goes a long way toward positioning the UK as an innovator of the digital age, something that Australia, given its decline in manufacturing, should be aggressively addressing as it works to catch up.

The Digital Evolution Index (DEI)

In September 2014, the Institute for Business in the Global Context (IBGC) released a report titled Digital Planet: Readying for the Rise of the e-consumer. The report is a culmination of six years of research relating to 50 nations’ digital evolution trajectories.

The IBGC is the hub for international business at the Fletcher School, the oldest graduate school of international affairs in the United States. The purpose of the research undertaken is to create a Digital Evolution Index (DEI) that ranks these 50 nations in relation to their progress or decline in their own journey and evolution into the digital economy.

Australia, quite unsurprisingly sits within the category of “Stall Out” – a nation that has previously advanced rapidly only to recently stall or decline in its digital evolution.

TrajectoryChart

The UK again quite unsurprisingly is trajecting itself toward the “Standout” category and ranks fourth after Singapore, Sweden and Hong Kong in relation to the 2013 Composite DEI score, which accounts for four drivers: Demand, Supply, Institutional Environment and Innovation.

Australia’s composite DEI score ranks us 12th out of the 50 countries. The report acknowledges that the UK is at risk due to the stalled performance of the rest of Europe given its economic stagnation and austerity policies currently in place.

Where is Australia’s Construction strategy?

More concerning a question is “where is Australia’s construction strategy, let alone its digital and BIM strategies?”

There are many active and progressive industry groups taking up the charge, but without significant government voices at the table to discuss how we can nation build through BIM, any strategy developed by industry is going to fall short.

The government funding for the UK’s Level 3 BIM Strategy will be used for a series of key measures identified as follows:

  • “The creation of a set of new, international ‘Open Data’ standards which would pave the way for easy sharing of data across the entire market.
  • The establishment of a new contractual framework for projects which have been procured with BIM to ensure consistency, avoid confusion and encourage, open, collaborative working.
  • The creation of a cultural environment which is co-operative, seeks to learn and share.
  • Training the public sector client in the use of BIM techniques such as, data requirements, operational methods and contractual processes.
  • Driving domestic and international growth and jobs in technology and construction.”

Whilst none of this is necessarily groundbreaking on the surface, having it planned, funded and nationalised is imperative to its success. The whole industry benefits from the upskilling, technological advancements and productivity increases created through standards and protocols holding the entire industry to account. All parties buy in because it is in their direct interest to do so to be sustainable as a company. It has a wider flow on impact to educational sectors, wealth and well-being of citizens and direct contribution to the UK’s GDP.

The success of the strategy is underpinned by a “skilled digitally enabled workforce,” “digital infrastructure – both physically and regulatory,” “a rich data set describing the existing user and asset base,” “sharing technology across sectors” and “an effective education and change management programme” – a very compelling plan.

Australia’s BIM strategy by comparison is admirably led by passionate and visionary people who come together through groups like APCC, ACIF, Consult Australia, Collaborate, BrisBIM, MelBIM, WABIM, Lean Construction Institute and buildingSMART – a worldwide industry funded organisation for BIM.

Australia’s strategy, The National Building Information Modelling Initiative (NBI) report was set down in 2012. It was commissioned by the Built Environment Industry Innovation Council (BEIIC), authored by buildingSMART Australasia and co-funded by the Commonwealth Government. This report outlines the strategy to support “the focused adoption of BIM and related digital technologies and process for the Australian built environment sector.”

The Australasian Chapter of buildingSMART advocates that “the Australian economy could be better off by as much as $7.6 billion over the next decade by adopting the NBI recommendations.”

In 2014, the Productivity Commission Infrastructure Inquiry called for submissions from industry and buildingSMART Australasia made its case to reiterate the benefits for all of industry and most obviously for Government.

The official Productivity Commission Infrastructure Inquiry report released in July 2014 most controversially advocated that “impediments to adoption” for BIM could be overcome by the market. buildingSMART and indeed many of the BIM advocates in Australia, strongly disagree.

Australia is certainly being “outflanked by other nations,” as described by buildingSMART, who seek to change the commission’s recommendation regarding BIM. buildingSMART feels the commission should explicitly recommend that the Australian Government actively work with industry to accelerate BIM adoption in Australia to not only benefit industry but achieve significant savings for Government as well.

This is a far cry from the UK’s vision of “bringing together expertise in design, planning, construction, operations, funding, technology and risk management will enable the UK to capitalise on the essential need to provide infrastructure and its services to our citizens and across the world.”

Given the evidence and warnings coming out of the Digital Built Britain Report Level 3 Building Information Modelling – Strategic Plan – can Australia afford to fall back even further in the BIM arms race?