By helping to promote efficiency and productivity as well as reduce wasted effort and minimise disputes, collaboration amongst project team members in the construction industry is undoubtedly a good thing.

Such effort has been enhanced in recent years by the development of two initiatives:

1. Integrating project teams to create, sustain and encourage the collaborative behaviour required of all members of project teams if optimal project outcomes are to be achieved.

2. The powerful enabling tools presented by Building Information Modelling (BIM) that optimise the process of planning, designing, constructing and operating assets.

BIM produces the best possible results – design to achieve project sponsors’ objectives, minimal changes, optimal buildability, designed-in operational efficiency – when all who can contribute are involved in designing and planning for the work they will perform.

Having a main contractor/project manager and bespoke trade contractors (those producing unique elements whether structural, façade or services) as part of an integrated team driving collaborative use of BIM means they can ‘pull’ the design documentation they need to install and commission, as opposed to the wasteful ‘business as usual’ approaches of having documentation designers think they need or are accustomed to producing ‘pushed’ on to them.

This in turn means designers should have more time, and fees, to produce what is needed and valued without wasteful iterations of documentation that are not needed.

Although each of the aforementioned developments have delivered significant improvements in time, cost and quality outcomes on their own, the full benefits of BIM will not be realised without a delivery methodology that facilitates the integration of contractors, trade contractors and suppliers in the design process.

The higher the level of integration at the early design stages, the greater the opportunities to derive maximum benefit from BIM. BIM promotes clearer, more accurate, up-to-date communication by consolidating currently disparate project information. It also allows all team members to contribute to the establishment and population of the databases underpinning the planning, design, construction and operation of the asset.

Indeed, conventional approaches taken by the construction industry in Australia and overseas have led to as much as 30 per cent of effort being wasted, much of which could be avoided if the client, designers, head contractor, specialist trade contractors, cost planners and others could work together and share responsibility for the successful delivery of a project.

The greater the level of integration from a project’s beginning, the greater the team’s ability to collaborate on the design, cost plan and allocation of risk before construction begins and the more likely it is that everyone involved will have a shared interest in achieving the client’s declared objectives.

Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) and its government counterpart the Australasian Procurement and Construction Council (APCC) will shortly publish the Project Team Integration Workbook, which will provide project team leaders with tools to make the task of integrating project teams more effective, and unlock all the power of BIM software and thinking.