Building information modelling (BIM) is currently one of the hottest topics in construction, and with increasing numbers of residential projects adopting it in Australia, there is a strong argument for its potential use in strata management.
Commonly used in the design of major high-rise office towers, bridges, power plants and other complex projects with long time frames, BIM delivers the ability to keep all information relevant to a building project in one place, acting as a repository for information created during a project’s design, build, and operations. A complete digital description of the project is constructed, with all data relevant to a project connected.
The real benefit of BIM comes from its ability to facilitate effective communication among all of the parties involved in a project. The architects, engineers, builders and contractors all incorporate information from all stages of a project’s life cycle. This easy access to reliable data allows for better decision making throughout the life of a facility.
With recent upgrades of BIM systems making them better suited to residential building, the development industry is embracing BIM.
Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the most successful investors in history, is bullish on BIM and its application. He bought software developer and BIM service provider Simpad/Blackpoint Builder Services and is promoting it to home building companies.
Buffett argues that the benefit comes from cost savings, that the quality and accuracy of design and the construction process will be better than ever before and delivered in a much shorter period of time.
There is no doubt that when it is implemented properly, BIM can substantially improve outcomes, facilitating better project coordination and scheduling, increased use of pre-fabricated materials and more accurate cost estimations.
As an example, a design error, such as where a window intersects with a roof line, is a guaranteed formula for leaks, and a common mistake in the building industry. An error like this eats into a builder’s profits, but BIM can easily make such design errors a thing of the past.
But BIM delivers much more than picking up errors. The designer can attach data including the size, type of glass and the window brand to the 3D description and the information can be fed into an estimating component to obtain the unit price. Analysing all the windows in this way, you can get the total cost of all the windows. If you repeat the process with all the elements of the building, you can come up with a reliable estimate of all materials to be used in the project.
These profiles can inform owners as to whether the costs are affordable, or if the design needs to be modified to help reduce costs.
During the design phase, BIM provides a more accurate realisation of the project with the opportunity to have a virtual walkthrough as the building progresses to ensure that the progressing design is what was envisaged.
Australia’s largest wooden building project, The Gardens, being developed by affordable housing provider BlueCHP and now under construction at Campbelltown in Sydney's west, is benefiting from BIM. The 101-apartment affordable housing project across three towers of six, seven and eight storeys is being built with three thousand cubic metres of pre-fabricated timber panels which have been shipped from Austria.
The material and methodology has been used in Europe for more than 10 years. Now being used for the first time in Australia, it is delivering faster and more cost-efficient construction.
Strongbuild, the company constructing The Gardens, said using BIM ensures that the client and their architect’s brief is accurately met and invariably results in minimal change through the project dramatically reducing time and cost variations.
Marcelo Steimbeisser, head of property services for BlueCHP, said BIM was very useful during the document phase of the project.
“We were able to see greater detail in the model we usually don’t see; we got a feel for the rooms, the spaces, the detail of the locations of the power points and light switches, the bathroom fitouts, and we have never experienced that before,” he said.
Owners are seeing the benefits of using BIM once construction is complete, as it can assist in managing buildings with asset management and maintenance.
Steimbeisser said BlueCHP would be looking at using it for the ongoing management of the building.
The strata management industry would benefit if owners opted to use BIM for their completed projects.
The current approach by strata managers is not efficient, largely based on the effectiveness and proactivity of an individual strata management group. Understanding the materials used during construction and their likely "use by" date means a building maintenance plan can be generated and implemented efficiently and effectively.
Another potential use of BIM is for building owner to track and manage spaces in buildings.
With those benefit on the table, the strata management industry needs to get up to speed with BIM and proactively lobby to be brought into the tent.