Why BIM has only just begun.


PDT’s BIM strategist John Coglan explains how initiatives associated with BIM are changing the industry and he predicts some monumental benefits that wider integration of BIM into urban environment modelling could bring in the near future.

To understand how initiatives associated with BIM are influencing the industry we only need to look at Singapore. The Singaporean Government was one of the first to mandate BIM models and in particular IFC (International Foundation Classifications) models as part of any development submission made to the Singapore Government. IFC models are a global standard capable of viewing or sharing on multiple platforms.

This has allowed Singapore to develop their own “Google Earth” style repository of all developments in Singapore – existing and proposed. It not only provides for rapid visual assessment of how a development fits into the neighbouring environment, from any angle, but also provides an intuitively obvious platform for community and industry engagement. It further provides for advanced technical assessment of a proposal based on known below-ground conditions, location of services, even impacts on vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Brisbane is following suit. While Brisbane City Council are not mandating models, they have built a virtual “3D” model of the CBD and are slowly expanding on this model. This will allow the Council to determine all underground services and shadow casts from proposed new structures to aid in the impact assessment on the surrounding environment and for assessment against the relevant Town Planning regulations. It’s likely that in the not too distant future we will follow the lead of Singapore mandating that all major submissions for assessment contain BIM information-rich models for all Councils and relevant government agencies.

The impact of a government holding a BIM model of the entire area of its jurisdiction, with existing infrastructure and buildings and also proposed ones, being modelled with the correct manufacturer’s specifications and materials, is potentially huge. Imagine, for example, if in the future a particular material was found to be carcinogenic. Governments could respond quickly through immediate identification of material locations and be proactive by assessing or requiring replacement of these materials to minimise risk to the public. The speed, efficiency and accuracy of the response in this sort of scenario is where taxpayer dollars will be saved, and potentially lives also. Responses to emergency or natural disaster situations would also be much improved in terms of time taken to gather accurate information, and the efficiency of targeted responses.

The reduction in errors on site and the improvement of communications through the collaborative processes that BIM imposes are predominantly its major benefit. The rectification of omissions and clashes prior to construction will also save expensive rectification work. In 2006 a study was completed in these inefficiencies: it found that they contributed to between 10% to 15% of the cost of construction in Australia - which at the time amounted to $12 billion nationally. Our clients will see major benefits through larger construction projects and government projects when the realization of Integrated Project Delivery and Facility Management and the benefits these have to offer are recognized.

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) will reduce costs associated with any construction project. This philosophy engages all design disciplines with the builder and their subcontractors and puts them into one project office from the master planning stage through to the hand-over of facility management systems. The benefits will flow because the builders and subcontractors who are responsible for physically constructing the building will also be involved in producing the detailed documentation needed to deliver it cost effectively and also in terms of long term operational efficiency.

Another major benefit of BIM to our clients is in facility management. Effective systems and accurate BIM models help in extending the overall lifespan of a building. The ability to know and be reminded that certain maintenance is required on either equipment or construction systems translates into savings on expensive repairs or replacement costs.

Over the last 20 years BIM and the technology that makes it possible has created a massive paradigm shift for the industry. The construction industry is notorious for being one of the slowest industries to adopt technologies and it is now facing a steep incline as it endeavours to embrace these new and emerging technologies. Keeping up with the readily available technological platform is hard enough for many. The challenge of keeping on top of emerging innovations such as 3D printing of building components, hologram technology, 3D virtual reality glasses connected to BIM models or more requires a special effort, such is the speed of innovation.

Gone are the days of an architect just having good design and drawing skills. In addition, today it helps to have the abilities of a cinematographer and the skills of a sound technician. This is just to move you through sketch design and presentation stages - not to mention the technologies associated with these skills.

I believe that the next evolution of BIM for the construction industry will be the demise of contract documentation and the migration to construction modelling. We will be modelling with more information-rich content that will allow architects and engineers models to be connected into manufacturing equipment. This is already evident from the use of CNC machines in steel fabrication, or with mining plant equipment that works with GPS and BIM models to determine position and depth of pipes that need to have a fall over vast distances.

Currently however the industry at large is not making the most of BIM and its full potential. A report from McGraw Hill Construction in 2013 has Australia and New Zealand with 29% of the industry heavily using BIM compared to North America with 39%. The industry perception seems to be that if you are using a 3D software then you are using BIM, but this isn’t correct. BIM is more of a process model than a series of tools and technology. The technology plays a very important role in developing a smart system but the true values of BIM are within the collaboration and the uniformity of construction process as an integrated system. BIM stands for Building Information Modelling: what most firms and consultants miss is the “I” in BIM - the information.

From my initial exposure to PDT and the team I was pleasantly impressed with the range of skills already existing within the organization and I was more encouraged by the endorsement of BIM physiologies and the acceptance of change. With PDT’s new direction of BIM processes we will have the potential to enhance current capacities, reduce site variations, integrate analysis capabilities, increases profits, lower costs, and improve scheduling times.

All of these benefits will be seen through time and through collaboration of our project teams and the correct utilization of BIM tools and their associated processes.

John Coglan has worked with closely BIM since 2004 and was instrumental in the push to lead BIM initiatives within the Queensland government. He co-authored the National Guidelines for Digital Modelling, the National Guidelines for Digital Modelling Case Studies and the Interoperable Standards Development. He received a Queensland State Recognition of Excellence Award for Innovation & Creativity and the Excellence Awards Business Initiative of the Year for his efforts.


 For further information contact johncoglan@pdt.com.au

11th Mar 2015


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