The Australian House of Representatives Infrastructure Committee has urged the federal government to look at more innovative practices and promote building information modelling technology (BIM) to improve the country’s infrastructure procurement.
It’s a great step forward in the push for the broader adoption of BIM within the local industry, but we need to go further. As both the federal and state governments seek to address the growing costs and inefficiencies delaying new and existing projects, it’s a good time to reflect on not just how these new technologies and practices will shape the future of the industry, but also why we need them to.
As our population grows, mass urbanisation continues; and as our economy builds strength, Australia will experience unprecedented levels of infrastructure development, which will need to be constructed using sustainable practices and materials. These developments create further demand for industrial infrastructure to deliver the required resources — gas, coal, metals, electricity and water.
Major cities are already feeling the strain on their transport infrastructure. A recent survey conducted by Autodesk found that Australians believed traffic congestion was the major issue facing the country’s rapidly growing cities and that 77 per cent of respondents prioritised a world-class public transport system as the future improvement they would be most excited to see.
The ability to meet the infrastructure demands of a growing population will depend on our ability to take the connection between the physical and digital world to a more advanced level than ever before and to improve and encourage the use of BIM practices, big data, cloud computing and analytics within the industry. We are entering what is arguably the most significant change in infrastructure thinking since the industrial revolution, which we call the ‘Era of Connection.’
The potential for this technology to improve the planning and development of infrastructure projects throughout the country cannot be ignored. We are at a stage now where we have the once-unfathomable skills and software necessary to build data rich models of anything from roads and work sites to neighbourhoods, or even entire cities, and to access and share unparalleled amounts of information from any device, anywhere, at any time. Collaboration has never been easier or more important.
These new demands being placed on the industry will require a rewiring in the way we think. We can no longer consider specific projects in isolation, but must consider the whole picture. It’s not enough to use technology to make the production as efficient and cost-effective as possible, the industry also needs to evaluate how these projects will benefit the population and our cities in the long-term.
The sustainability of local infrastructure will (and should) only grow more important to industry professionals, and has proven to be a genuine concern for the Australian public. Sustainable building will generate new business practices that we will all need to adapt to as Australians’ expectations for their cities change. When it comes to planning new infrastructure projects, the source of the materials, the energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of the end product will be important questions asked.
Given that both state and federal governments own and operate a significant proportion of infrastructure around the country, it is these governments that will have to answer to these demands. The wider implementation of BIM practices will reduce costs, and increase efficiencies and the sustainability of vital infrastructure projects. The technology is here, and so is the demand.
Hopefully this year will see leadership from the federal government in following the examples of other countries such as the UK and South Korea in introducing a mandated BIM policy that will benefit not just today’s Australians, but future populations for years to come.
Rob Malkin, Autodesk