The how-to of Australian Building Information Modelling (BIM) and what can we learn from overseas

The process of creating a virtual digital model of a building and infrastructure facility, known as Building Information Modelling (BIM), is now firmly established in Australia’s design, architecture and construction industries.

“BIM technology has been used for decades in the aerospace and shipbuilding industry,” says NATSPEC, Manager, Digital Technologies, Neil Greenstreet.

NATSPEC is a not-for- profit organisation owned by the government and industry in the design, build, construct property sector. Its objective is to improve the construction quality and productivity of the built environment through information leadership.

How BIM can progress a building project

Greenstreet is responsible for the NATSPEC BIM Portal, which provides standardised Australian practices for digital building information exchange. He ran his own architecture firm before joining NATSPEC 10 years ago, as Senior Architect.

“There is virtually an unlimited number of uses for BIM,” Greenstreet says. “In fact, one of the things that the construction industry is grappling with, is that it can mean different things to different people.

“It is one of the main reasons NATSPEC developed the National BIM Guide and the Project BIM Brief. So together, clients, consultants and contractors could clearly define at the beginning of a project, how BIM will be used in order to avoid misunderstandings and problems later.”

He explains that these documents describe 23 broad uses of BIM that can be implemented on projects.

BIM software is used by the project team to create virtual models of the building or infrastructure, that consist of 3D representations linked to a database of non- graphical data. This integration of graphical and non-graphical data makes it much easier to coordinate them and is less error-prone than manual methods.

“This is particularly important on construction projects because of the large number of individuals sharing this information and the extent to which it changes over the project’s life cycle,” Greenstreet says.

“During the design phase, this information is changing all the time. In construction and operation phases, this information still needs to be continually modified and updated. Managing this digitally offers many advantages for collaboration.”

Is BIM required Australia-wide?

Greenstreet says that all state governments, except Tasmania, require BIM deliverables — such as models or data on their projects — particularly the more complex or expensive ones. Most health agencies nationally have BIM requirements on their projects.

“Several recent government projects, such as the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the new Perth Stadium made extensive use of BIM,” he says.

“We are seeing BIM being applied more to infrastructure projects as well. Transport for NSW has piloted its use on a number of projects. It has also created a comprehensive policy and suite of supporting documents for consultants and contractors working on their projects.”

The Australasian BIM Advisory Board (ABAB) has been established to promote a more consistent approach to BIM requirements and standards nationally.

The new Royal Adelaide Hospital, one of the largest BIM case studies in the Southern Hemisphere

What can we learn from overseas?

Luckily, Australia benefits from overseas BIM advancements, too. Australia participates in the activities of the following organisations, which support global cooperation for the development and implementation of BIM standards, guidance and best practice:

  • The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO);
  • BuildingSMART, (the international home of open BIM);
  • The International Construction Information Society (ICIS) and
  • The China BIM Union.

Greenstreet is also the Chair of Standards Australia BD-104 Building Information Modelling Committee. This is the Australian mirror committee of the international committee, ISO TC59/SC13, which is developing international standardisation for the organisation and digitisation of information about buildings and civil engineering works, including BIM.

The NATSPEC BIM portal hosts a range of handy BIM guidelines from Australia, UK, USA, Singapore, Finland, Denmark and Norway.

International footsteps Global news on BIM

Ishveena Singh reported on BIM adoption and implementation around the world: Initiatives by major nations, in Geospatial World last April. Interesting initiatives in the USA,UK, Scandinavia, Germany, France, China and South Korea were discussed.

Among the global BIM initiatives Singh refers to in his article are:

  • A 2014 McGraw Hill Construction Report on BIM, which reveals that 90 percent of project owners in Germany either often, or always demand BIM.
  • Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are amongst the earliest BIM technologies adopters, with public standards and requirements already in place.
  • The French Government decided in 2014 to develop 500,000 houses using BIM by 2017. This was part of the French Government’s Digital Transition Plan, aimed to achieve sustainability and cost reduction. A € 20 million-fund was also allocated to digitise the building industry. The project’s benefits are still to be evaluated and Singh suggests that there is a good possibility that BIM will be made mandatory in France’s public procurement.

How SMEs can start out with BIM

The Western Australian Government’s Department of Treasury recently ran a series of case studies on BIM, interviewing several SMEs to gauge their level of success in implementing the management tool.

The final report stated that: “virtually all the interviewees believed that the introduction of BIM has been a positive step”.

The SMEs surveyed found that the unlimited potential compared to 2D drawings was a huge positive, while model accessibility was also viewed favourably.

Major entities like the Perth Children’s Hospital and the Sydney Opera House have already implemented BIM to improve their project management. But smaller enterprises can easily get started with implementing the software through the NATSPEC BIM Portal.

This provides guidance documents like Getting Started with BIM and video guides to help walk SMEs through the process of getting started.

There are also generator tools and benchmarking applications that can give SMEs an idea on what to expect should they introduce BIM to their operations.

BIM at DesignBUILD

DesignBUILD is always on the lookout for innovators in the Building Information Modelling field. If you have a BIM product that you are looking to showcase to an audience of architecture and construction professionals, contact the team today to discuss opportunities.

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