BIM for Infrastructure, the Sleeping Giant 8

Thursday, January 29th, 2015
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Let’s assume for this discussion you are aware of BIM (Building Information Modelling) and understand at a basic level its application and use within the construction industry.

This leads us to consider the lag in its uptake. Another article, To BIM or not to BIM, What a Question! by fellow Sourceable contributor Peter Barda addresses this well. He rightly suggests that industry has been pushing BIM adoption and application, yet this has been mainly in ‘vertical BIM’ (buildings,) whereas horizontal or ‘linear BIM’ (infrastructure,) for the most part, has been reluctant to adopt.

For infrastructure projects (and, inherently, the majority of its client base) one of the reasons for this reluctance is quite often the time to raise funds and procure via public bodies – local, state or federal. There are also hang-ups due to the current required contractual frameworks and the protracted delivery times of large infrastructure projects. Other challenges include a perceived lack of technical expertise; soft and hard implementation costs; a lack of industry standards. Ultimately, the reference made is that clients are unaware and industry has, thus far, done a poor job of communicating the benefits of the migration to BIM as a ‘better than current’ client outcome delivery method.

From an industry standpoint, it has not been for the lack of effort, mainly by industry professionals such as BuildingSMART and collaborate-anz offering their own time to introduce and promote BIM across all sectors. These groups and the myriad of BIM user groups and vendor specific user groups have been championing the push for adoption across the Asia Pacific region. The momentum they have built has prompted governments to provide a level of guidance and investment to realise a consistent asset focused BIM process.

The year 2015 sees the creation of the Global Infrastructure Hub based in Sydney as a result of the G20 meetings in 2014. There is the recognition that countries in the Asia Pacific region are forecast to spend $700 billion a year over the next three decades on infrastructure. Both Australia’s and New Zealand’s governments have broad programmes of infrastructure spending from aviation, roads, rail and other infrastructure projects ahead. Acknowledging these drivers, coupled with the lessons learned from the successful adoption of BIM in other parts of the world such as Scandinavia, the UK and Americas, as well as several rail projects in Australia, we now see ourselves at the foot of the BIM for infrastructure climb. It’s been a large wheel to get turning but it’s now gathering momentum and will see greater understanding by client organisations and, therefore, increased tangible savings based on productivity.

I see a bright future in BIM for infrastructure over the coming years and personally welcome the challenges we face as an industry in adopting common robust methodologies which provide both productivity gains for companies plus sustainable outcomes for infrastructure client organisations and their clients, the public.

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  1. David Chandler

    I do not share Cullen's enthusiasm for BIM. The current applications of BIM have yet to show any independently measured or benchmarked productivity benefit. Yes there is potential, but as yet the tool only does those things a competent designer would have done. While it is now possible to integrate the entire documentation suite it still eludes clients to get a single point of accountability that contract documentation if fit for tender and fit for construction. The applications I have seen remain partitioned and not universally accessible to the entire project supply chain. Most telling is the lack of benefits at the job site where workers still have to chop up parts of the work that have been wrongly coordinated. So to is the amount of waste being carted of construction sites. BIM and its counterpart DFMA will not reach their potential until there is a more informed and contemporary approach to procurement by the industry's clients and consultants who all seem happy with the status quo. BIM should prove its worth by measured improvements to workflows on the job site that are independently benchmarked with peers.

  2. Chris Velovski

    I agree with the article there is much benefit in BIM however it should be mostly called IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) where all parties are able to collaboratively coordinate each others works in 1 place or be able to hand over a process for another specialised group to continue, however I see this being sideswiped by REVIT as it does not allow you to go to manufacture level easily and this I see is a major issue when we need to coordinate using ridiculous tools like IFC format (geometric shapes and that is if the design drafter has used the correct tool to enter the data), from a structural point of view this is critical and the best format is SDNF. Anyway this coordination does work and does save time and money if coordinated well between all consultants from engineering, architectural, services, and design detailing and manufacturing detailers. The idea is to hand down the item and also reuse the information not recreate it from the start… We have seen saving between 30-40% in time, when equated in dollars could be a lot.

  3. Paul King

    I would strongly urge anyone with an interest in BIM for Infrastructure to review what's been achieved on Crossrail (open standards, integrated supply chain working, asset management, business outcomes, etc) and what's planned for the High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) project in the UK. They are both acknowledged as global best practice BIM projects and you will hear very little discussion around "BIM application X versus BIM application Y". There is a great appetite for BIM in the supply chain on these projects because its implementation is based on business outcomes rather than trying to persuade everyone to use a particular piece of "BIM" software.

  4. Brett Martin

    Its use or more accurately the effective management of data pre and post construction varies considerably across sectors though. Water/sewerage and roads in particular are woeful. I'm keen to see a BIM type approach adopted in those areas but convincing clients (authorities) will take time. One of the biggest hurdles is convincing incumbent managers they don't have this information in an accessible manner already or the systems that they have are full of inadequacies and errors.

  5. Ian Childs

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if those installing, upgrading, servicing and repairing infrastructure and utilities could use an integrated BIM like Model inclusive of forward planning and yes, the name might need changing to IIM (Infrastructure Information Modelling).

    It would be great to not see the newly resurfaced roadway chopped within a few months by a utility doing upgrading and then waiting another 20 odd years before the lumps and bumps are remedied by the maintainer/repairer.

    • Andrew Smyrek

      Ian that would be wonderful!
      And might I suggest a more generic name of 'Asset Life Management.'
      I think we all know that an assets life cycle has two basic components.
      The much revered design and construction part, and the neglected maintenance part.
      Having dabbled in GIS, I know that it doesn't have to be so disjointed. Even companies could gain a lot from having uniform implementation of asset information, it's not just an inter organisation problem.

  6. Jeff Yoders

    Can we please start calling it BIMfrastructur, then?

  7. David Moloney

    BIM has many uses in Civil Engineering Construction.
    Presently 3D models are used to coordinate design inputs from the various disciplines.