Local engineering firms could miss out on the benefits of the Coalition government's infrastructure splurge due to a lack of BIM expertise.

While the Coalition’s $40 billion infrastructure budget should come as a massive windfall to Australian engineering and construction companies, overseas firms could make off with much of the lavish spending due to the lag in Building information Modelling (BIM) expertise within local industry.

That was the warning issued by Rob Malkin, director of Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Infrastructure for Asia-Pacific at Autodesk, one of the world’s pioneering BIM developers. According to Malkin, overseas engineering firms, particularly those hailing from countries where BIM has already been made mandatory, enjoy a significant edge over local firms.

“Infrastructure companies in these countries are sometimes maybe three to seven years ahead in using technologies to improve workflows, so as people bid on projects down here they can demonstrate things that local firms may not have start to think about yet,” said Malkin to The Australian.

In a number of countries, BIM usage is strongly encouraged or even mandatory for certain types of construction projects due to its ability to raise efficiency and improve coordination between various stakeholders. These countries include Singapore, the UK, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

From 2016 onwards, BIM will be compulsory for all public infrastructure projects in the UK, where it has already been deployed to remarkable effect with the massive Crossrail project in the south of England.

Japan is giving serious consideration to a mandate for BIM in the run up to the 2020 Olympics, while the Singaporean government already offers tax incentives to adopters of the technology.

In comparison, Malkin said that the attitude toward government infrastructure in Australia was “not nearly as mature or advanced as other parts of the world.”

“Australians work harder; they don’t necessarily work smarter,” he said. “They have to work smart going forward or all infrastructure spending will be from global companies, not local companies.”

Malkin points out that BIM adoption can result in a three to five per cent return on investment from the outset, as well as achieve further efficiencies and cut reduction as infrastructure projects develop, as a result of its ability to plan “99.9 per cent of everything you need,” including materials, labour and space utilisation.