BIM a transformative enabling technology

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been identified as an important emerging and transformative enabling technology, with the potential to streamline processes throughout the constructed facility lifecycle. The Australian Productivity Commission (2014)[i] highlighted that more widespread adoption of BIM could enhance productivity across the industry and have a significant positive impact on the cost of infrastructure.

The Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre (SBEnrc) is nearing completion of a project focusing on Integrated Project Environments and BIM which will contribute to realising productivity benefits of digital modelling and integrated project delivery BIM in the delivery of transport infrastructure projects. This project addresses procurement, process improvement and technology required to improve uptake of more collaborative models.

In the context of this project, BIM can be described as a set of interacting policies, processes and technologies generating a “methodology to manage the essential building design and project data in digital format throughout the building's life-cycle”.[ii] In this sense, BIM can be seen as more than a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility.[iii]

Mature BIM is a socio-technical system that can be used to improve team communication throughout the project life cycle, produce better outcomes, reduce rework, lower risk, provide better predictability of outcomes and improve operation and maintenance of an asset. These are some of the benefits identified by the US infrastructure sector[iv].

A common concern among new adopters, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), is the initial cost of implementing BIM and its applicability to small infrastructure projects. A survey carried out in the USiv found that, due to their shorter duration, small projects present more opportunities to introduce the use of BIM and the smaller size of organisations is advantageous in driving higher levels of implementation. This survey showed that 67% of all BIM users report a positive return on investment (ROI) for BIM use in infrastructure projects and 38% of those firms measuring ROI considered sustainability as an important contribution to higher ROIiv. In Australia, over half of the firms that focus on infrastructure projects reported over 25% ROI from implementing BIM[v].

This project is coming to a close in July 2014 and will deliver the following outcomes: (i) recommendations for policy makers to achieve a nationally consistent strategy; (ii) recommendations for modifications of current procurement and contractual frameworks to allow more collaborative and BIM-enabled project environments; and (iii) a dissemination strategy that includes providing informative material to different levels of the supply chain through work with organisations such as CCF and EA, as well as through SBEnrc’s partner organisations and media resources (e.g. YouTube channel and industry publications).

By collaborating with other Australian industry peak bodies, SBEnrc aims to help bring research into practice that will facilitated the long-term uptake of more integrated project environments.

Project partners include: Government of Western Australia, Queensland Transport and Main Roads, New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services, and John Holland.

Article: Adriana Sanchez, Research Associate

Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre (SBEnrc)

[i] Australian Government Productivity Commission, 2014. Volume 1 - Public infrastructure - Draft report, Canberra: Australian Government.

[ii] B. Succar, 2009, “Building information modelling framework: A research and delivery foundation for industry stakeholders”, Automation in Construction, vol. 18, pp. 357-375.

[iii] K. Barlish and K. Sullivan, 2012, “How to measure the benefits of BIM — A case study approach”, Automation in Construction, vol. 24, pp. 149–159.

[iv] McGraw-Hill Construction, 2012, “The business value of BIM for infrastructure: Addressing America’s infrastructure challenges with collaboration and technology SmartMarket report”, Bedford, MA: McGraw-Hill Construction.

[v] McGraw Hill Construction, 2014, “The business value of BIM in Australia and New Zealand: How building information modeling is transforming the design and construction industry SmartMarket Report, Bedford, MA: McGraw Hill Construction.