In a presentation to be delivered at the upcoming BILT event in Brisbane on May 24-26, John Holland Planning & Program Manager – Building QLD/NT Chris Pilcher and Design/BIM Manager Daniel Schaefer will explore opportunities for head contractors to use BIM to improve project management through their experience on the $100 million Autohaus project which the company is delivering for Mercedes-Benz Brisbane on the Breakfast Creek Wharf site in the Brisbane suburb of Newstead.

According to Pilcher and Schaefer, benefits of BIM for head contractors fall into several areas. These include developing greater clarity around project methodology, validating assumptions and removing elements of risk when tendering and greater clarity in communicating with the project team.

With Autohaus, the project was challenging because of differences in design across each individual floor along with a significant number of voids, atriums and changing floor plates. Adding to that, it was tendered over four weeks – a short time for a development of this complexity.

At the outset, the team had to understand the building in three dimensions and then develop a conception of how the project will be delivered from a time and sequencing perspective. Whilst the first aspect of this was delivered through a 3D model, the next was achieved by integrating the company’s own scheduling engine to the 3D model via a program called Synchro.

Such a process, Picher and Schaefer said, enabled the concept of space to be understood more easily than is the case with 2D drawings.

This is important, Schaefer said. Normally with a building of this complexity, getting your head around space could take anything from four weeks to three months. After spending a couple of days linking up the existing 3D model with a time program, John Holland was able to provide project team members an easy grasp of the building via the model in no more than one minute.

Pilcher says benefits from BIM revolve around communication and validation

“The two words I come back to are communication and validation,” he said.

“We can validate with ourselves that we have the correct solution and we can also communicate that solution to other people in our team and stakeholders in the project.”

According to Pilcher and Schaeffer, principal contractors can derive benefits out of BIM on complex projects irrespective of whether BIM files are requested by clients. In the case of Autohaus, John Holland adopted the technology on their own volition as a way of delivering greater efficiency and project certainty. As with construction programs, quality assurance systems, drawings and good record keeping, BIM is a tool to help deliver greater project control, Schaffer says. Furthermore, it helps to deliver a more efficient way of working with easier and more robust auditing, he adds.

Asked about suggested strategies in BIM adoption, Schaffer suggests head contractors the plunge and making changes as they go. BIM, he said, can seem overwhelming, and expectations of transforming from a traditional way of working to a complete BIM ethos in a single step were unrealistic.

Rather, he said, different contractors will adopt different approaches. Some will take a 3D model and add to that time planning and scheduling as the fourth dimension. Others will go further and adopt the full 5D BIM which includes cost planning as well. In John Holland’s case, the firm started with 4D programming and has been broadening its understanding from there.

The point is not how you start but simply that you act and evolve from there, he said.

Until BIM is embedded as part of natural operations, it is also important to have buy-in from people who will ‘champion’ BIM use throughout the organisation, he said.

Around Australia, adoption of BIM among designers is growing,

The technology’s beneficiaries, however, extend beyond designers and include head contractors on complex projects.