The release of ACIF and APCC’s document ‘A Framework for the Adoption of Project Team Integration & BIM’ in early December last year gave us a solid background of the BIM landscape in Australia and New Zealand, pointing out the problems and challenges within the industry, such as government agenda versus supplier agenda. However, what it lacked were solutions for the entire industry to move forward with BIM take up and a meaningful commitment to change the way we work on a large scale in Australia.
On the 26th June 2015, the ACIF and APCC jointly released their most recent companion document to the Framework, entitled Building and Construction Procurement Guide: Project Team Integration and Building Information Modelling (BIM). The aim of the guide is to assist industry stakeholders in their adoption and implementation of PTI and BIM through comprehensive instructions and guiding principles for each procurement model, how to tender and select the right BIM team and how to manage the project using BIM at the outset.
The Procurement Guide addresses many of the standard questions that clients and project teams, with limited BIM knowledge, are looking for, via a step by step and encyclopaedia-like format.
The guide provides some considerations for project team collaboration and how BIM impacts this process across the different delivery models. What’s needed, however, particularly in relation to scheduling of contributions, is a change in the methodology where construction can be rehearsed over and over (i.e brief, act, debrief, brief, act, debrief, etc.) The current process undervalues this opportunity and briefing documents continue to involve maps, models and explanations of the plan rather than opportunities to virtually test and revisit and re-brief prior to physical construction.
Leadership is also a key component that is missing in the BIM campaign to improve building projects in Australia.
Peter Barda, executive director for ACIF, who facilitated the accompanying webinar that launched the guide, highlighted the fact that governments have been slow to adopt BIM as a tool and the reluctance may stem from a need to see some completed BIM projects to demonstrate the benefits. Teresa Scott, executive director for APCC concurred, saying governments are reluctant to push BIM onto contractors and are looking for the industry to demonstrate its BIM readiness.
Barda advised that ACIF will shortly be approaching all jurisdictions around Australia with a plan to phase in BIM as part of a longer term opportunity to mandate BIM for projects over a given value. ACIF is keen to work with University and the Vocational Education and Training sectors to “turn out” people who are appropriately skilled to use BIM and who understand how to use the integration process.
The guide doesn’t focus enough on the true benefits of BIM in terms of relationship management throughout a project. Barda did, however, close the webinar by focusing on BIM success not being about 3D design but being very much about harnessing project team integration and around all consultants, trade contractors and project sponsors having a role in “deciding if BIM is useful or not and deciding how well the team is put together and managed.”
Until, as an industry, we get this depth of understanding across all jurisdictions and the training to support it, we cannot achieve better team work through BIM. A project-based industry must do things that benefit the project.
The guide alone will not make the impact on industry that is needed to push Australia toward a BIM ready environment. What is clear from this most recent guide release is that until companies can see the immediate personal benefits of committing to BIM as a technology resource, take up here will continue to be slow unless mandated. Herein lies the problem – the vicious cycle. Industry is busy, there is a lot of work going on, and approvals are at an all-time high.
Countries that are mandating BIM are upskilling their workforce at a significant rate – a workforce that is now eyeing up overseas opportunities. Competition in this space will become fierce and local Australian companies will not be ready or capable to react because of a lack of action today that leverages our high labour costs. Perhaps this is where the government needs to take the lead to recognise that the industry is BIM ready and capable and to provide that stimulus for Australian companies to invest in the technology to sustain our local industry in 10, 20 and 30 years. This will at the very least put us on an equal footing with those shaping global construction.
We look forward to ACIF’s round of consultations with industry in late July and early August on the development of their Education and Training Skills Sets. This will be a good next step and welcome addition to BIM readiness in Australia.