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.”