Should Government Teach About BIM Instead of Mandate It? 3

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Monday, July 27th, 2015
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Despite regular complaints about the laggard state of BIM uptake in Australia, the country’s peak green building body contends that usage of the new technology by domestic industry is seeing a healthy increase.

According to Helen Bell, research director for the Green Building Council of Australia, recent studies show that local members of industry are anything but late adopters when it comes to effective BIM uptake.

“In 2012 McGraw Hill did a study looking at the uptake of BIM in Australia, and projected that growth would be huge over the upcoming five years,” said Bell. “In 2014, they published a global study looking at our uptake of BIM and found that Australia was comparable to other regions.”

Bell noted that the perception Australia is behind the bell curve in BIM adoption has arisen primarily as a result of the lack of statutory requirements that are implemented by other countries.

“When you talk about Australia lagging in this area, it’s more about how government hasn’t mandated usage of BIM or isn’t working towards mandated use of BIM,” she said. “It’s Singapore and the UK that people tend to use as examples of leadership in BIM, because in those countries, government has mandated the use of BIM for states projects.

According to Bell, the introduction of BIM requirements may not be the most effective policy tool for expediting cost-effective usage by industry, particularly given that the benefits it provides can vary significantly depending upon the nature of the project.

“I think there are more effective ways of achieving BIM growth than having governments mandate something that isn’t cost effective – that’s not necessarily the best way to achieve BIM growth in Australia,” she said.

Bell pointed to the effective use of BIM by the Australian Department of Defense, where it’s not required across the board but only provided to those areas where it will deliver the best returns.

“They’re trialling it in areas where it makes economic sense to use it, rather than demanding it across all projects, because it’s not always going to be cost-effective,” she said. “It’s going to cost you money to develop, design and maintain your BIM model in construction but also operation. It then becomes a matter of whether or not that investment is going to pay off for your project.”

Given that BIM benefits and outcomes can vary considerably depending upon project type, Bell said the most effective role for government lies in the provision of sound and impartial information to members of industry.

“The best thing that our government can do is education and communication – increasing the awareness of BIM,” she said. “And this is what our government has been doing, as opposed to mandating usage.”

Bell said education should be implemented at two levels – the first level being contractors who are responsible for application of the technology at the outset, and the second being the client-side of projects.

“At the contractor level, educating sub-contractors about the benefits of BIM is particularly important – getting their skills up so that they can work on site,” she said. “Our government has been doing this – in Victoria the Box Hill TAFE recently built their own facilities for training people in BIM, and in Western Australia the Green Skills Training Centre is a world leader in the area.”

Educating clients is also of critical importance, as it can enable them to make more informed choices about tenderers and lead to more effective and economical BIM usage.

“The government can play a major role in educating clients and trying to generate demand,” said Bell. “This can mean that when clients are given various tenders they can differentiate between them, and attribute real to value to those that make the best use of BIM, as well as identify the benefits involved.”

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3
  1. David Chandler

    Bell's BIM advocacy continues the appalling lack of evidence based reasoning that sits behind this subject. BIM is just a tool. While it is a step on from hand drawing it has not done much to modernise construction practices down stream or lift the industry's productivity. I was asked last week to join another mindless lobby to the Federal Government in support of mandating BIM on all government projects. I declined and stated that I would resist this until there was some independently measured justification to support BIM as tool that will contribute to modernising construction.
    My observations of projects that claim to have used BIM pre construction is that they still scrap the ground the same way, the cranes lift sub-optimal loads or just hang around, the rubbish coming of the site is just as much and while token bits of prefab are used such as bathroom pods I am not sure how the built outcome is better. Are pods easier to maintain? Are they easy to adapt? Who knows? I have just attended a major research conference. Over a third of the papers were about BIM by academics that had mostly never built anything. The papers mostly supported by very thin and often qualitative opinion.

    • Bilal Succar

      Hi David. There has been enough evidence of the benefits of model-based collaboration (aka BIM) for many years now. I suspect that even if I point these out to you, you still won’t change your position so I won’t waste your time and mine. What bothers me greatly is that such comments reflect the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in here in Australia. We not only lack innovation (these ‘tools’ are developed in the US and Europe), but some of us seem intent on shutting down the discussion about innovation (yes, model-based tools and workflows are the current manifestation of process innovation in construction). Whether BIM is a tool, a process or a combination of both is a moot point. Even if you consider BIM as just a tool (wrong), it is certainly an improvement on previous tools. So, why don’t we encourage and even incentivise its use? Do you know that, in addition to the UK and Singapore, a number of countries (and the EU) are in the process of mandating the use of BIM tools and workflows on certain types of projects by 2017? Why aren’t they also waiting for the missing evidence?

  2. Margaret

    The issue with BIM is the complete lack of FM capability to read and alter even Autocad drawings among most of our major commercial property trust owners and maintainers, almost all government departments [even in the Australian Dept of "Defense" ?Defence] due to the lack of nexus between FM funding and capital development funding. Even in the very complex healthcare area, few health networks can afford the luxury of a competent CAD /Revit/BIM draftsperson to maintain and update drawings for the health network. Most just have a pile of rolled up prints! Whilst engineering consultancies are documenting in BIM and Revit, the builder is the only beneficiary, and they mostly use it to complain about clash detection at the sub 5mm level. The average country builder doing a project out of his ute, with a dog and mobile phone doesn't have the capability to deal with more than drawings printed as PDFs.
    Until there is a critical mass of post construction FM usage of Autocad, Revit or BIM throughout the industry in both private and government sectors, the benefits of BIM will not be realised, and the cost will remain inhibitive.