While Australian infrastructure developers have been advance adopters of BIM, both local and federal governments could follow the lead set by other countries such as the UK, Singapore and New Zealand in fostering a shift toward the new paradigm within industry.

Steve Cockerell, Bentley Systems marketing director for EMEA and Asia says major Australian infrastructure projects have taken the initiative in the usage of BIM.

"A good example is the Brisbane Airport Link Road - the new link into the city that was a Bentley Be Inspired award winner a couple of years ago," he said. "They were doing BIM right there and the in the early days - using BS1192, which is the UK standard, as well as Projectwise and the collaboration tools that it provided three or four years ago."

According to Cockerell, Australian industry has proven well aware of the benefits conferred by BIM beyond just the design and construction with which the new technology is still most often associated.

"Australia is ahead of the curve in employing BIM as a tool for the entire lifecycle of an asset, and improvements to the operation and maintenance phase in particular," he said. "This includes the digitisation of assets that were completed long in the past, in order to enhance operation and maintenance in the present and future."

He pointed to Transport for NSW and the Sydney train system as a prime example of how organisations are taking a lead role.

"They're looking at the other end, where they've got this thing called a virtual plan room, where they take all their legacy information, all the drawings and designs for their existing rail network, digitise it, and are now able to provide convenient access to that information," he said. "It's all part of the wider BIM definition."

Australian industry's precocious usage of BIM's full functionality has been achieved despite what some say is a need for greater leadership on the matter from government.

"We have no mandated policies to drive the effective usage of BIM across the whole of the infrastructure asset lifecycle in Australia," said Bentley Systems industry solutions director John Taylor.

"Given the focus on government infrastructure delivery in Australia, particularly in the transport sector, the federal and state governments need to provide leadership requiring their requirements for BIM to deliver and manage infrastructure more effectively and efficiently."

Taylor pointed to the benefits of BIM for government budgets, given the immense size of its infrastructure portfolio in Australia.

"Government in Australia owns the vast majority of infrastructure in the country and they bear the responsibility for managing their infrastructure in the most cost-effective way, while maintaining service levels demanded by our citizens," he said. "Effective BIM strategies for major infrastructure have been proven to reduce whole of life infrastructure costs enhance project delivery."

According to Taylor, Australia is already falling behind other countries in the region when it comes to the adoption of policies to foster BIM usage for the development and management of key infrastructure assets.

"Both the New Zealand and Singapore governments have a mandated BIM policy for major infrastructure projects, which is expected to deliver significant cost savings," he said. "The UK government has a BIM Taskforce and mandated policies for fully collaborative 3D BIM  by 2016, and this is already delivering tangible cost savings and timely project delivery for some of the largest construction projects in Europe.

"It is time for Australia to mandate similar commonwealth and state policies for BIM, as the benefits of doing so will deliver real value to the Australian public."

  • Of course system providers will claim we are behind the rest of the world; they have sales quotas to meet. As for Europe who wants to live in a society that regulates everything you do in minute detail with a plethora of Directives.
    In NSW, the government and utilities are developing such systems as part of the asset process. They just don’t make it the most important goal in a project, or divert funding from the real work. Roads, rail, health, power are just a few areas that prove we are well in the game. Indeed our company is currently giving advice to NZ and USA companies and utilities as well as local corporations. At this very moment our MD is giving a paper on the matter in London.

    Let's celebrate Oz, and not wrongly criticise.

    • Peter, no doubt you're right about marketers pushing product. Perhaps 'mandate' is the wrong word. It is now beyond dispute that well executed BIM reduces costs and time throughout the property cycle (from planning to decommission). Increasingly it is also delivering better outcomes through improved stakeholder engagement. But nothing comes for free. Adoption of BIM takes time and effort. Documents and Processes must be changed and People Trained – some in the use of the new software, and everyone in the new way of working. This will happen over time regardless.

      However, given the enormous infrastructure challenge and budget constraints it is encumbent on government to accelerate the shift to BIM.

      All we want is every government to put BIM at the forefront of their thinking. To formalise adoption of BIM in their own procurement… across the board. This is what I think is meant by 'mandate'. The purpose is not to 'regulate' but simply to achieve better outcomes for less money in shorter timeframes… giving us the taxpayers better value for our money.

  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) software has been around for several years, and frankly I don't think we are behind the "eight-ball" at all. The problem is in not transferring a conceptual model from an Architect to the Client Contract Manager and team (over the Project Manager), before it gets to the Building Contractors.

    Senior Executives / Directors are always astounded when building costs balloon out after they (incorrectly) hand out a contract to builders, without having initially engaged a Client Contract Manager and team to go over the plan with a fine toothed comb (including total modelling of the building to nail down specifications and iron out all irregularities) well before building contractors are involved.