30 October 2019
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As global building information modelling (BIM) adoption becomes the norm within the workflow of construction professionals, it’s important to understand why BIM is essential to the development of the construction industry in Australia and New Zealand, and how and where the pockets of excellence reside. 
 

A crucial turning point

There is a major market drive for the adoption of BIM and digital engineering in general across Australia and New Zealand – not only due to the forthcoming strategic guidance delivered by a variety of State government initiatives but also due to the fact that, as a region, we are well versed in BIM technologies and processes. What we lack in this region is the consolidation of the consistent approach, all due to the fact that we have had little to no guidance when it comes to BIM adoption in this sector.
 
As BIM and digital engineering have become the primary considerations for project teams globally, the Australian and New Zealand market is rapidly beginning to understand this impact, and we are seeing a greater need for the consolidation of processes across both public and private sector initiatives. This has been the case for the last few years, and continues to evolve as state government (as well as private sector clients) begin to understand the impacts of digital across the built environment. 
 
We’re at a crucial turning point at present in Australia and New Zealand, as the principles of digital adoption (as well as the strategic guidance developed) are now available, and there is therefore much to be excited about. The Australian and New Zealand Governments have been looking to the UK, where we have seen much in terms of detailed justification when it comes to government BIM implementation.
 
The reutilisation of BIM for Design and Construction information, for BIM for Lifecycle, creating a Digital Twin.

Government mandate: A driver to innovation and productivity in the UK

In a report from March 2016 led by the Cabinet Office, UK BIM supported the delivery of £3bn in capital project delivery savings, leading to the Government actively implementing BIM on a ‘business as usual’ basis. Now, and over the coming years, we continue to see benefits from the UK, proving that the policy implemented has been successfully delivered. The UK BIM mandate has been a driver to construction innovation and productivity since the release of the Government Construction Strategy in 2011, and continues to be a driving force and justification for other regions of the world looking to implement policies relating to BIM and digital engineering. Industry standards designed to enable a consistent approach and delivery of a BIM project were created and developed to support industry. Even templates and guidelines were delivered to enable the UK Government to adopt its BIM mandate of using fully collaborative 3D BIM on all centrally procured projects, and to apply this method across the portfolio of assets owned and managed by the Government.
 
The use of these British Standards developed for BIM across Australia and New Zealand has been a strong indication that the UK policy, standards and approach to BIM and digital engineering are a success in the UK– driving innovation and export for the UK economy. It was also a way for this region of the world to develop skills in line with best practice methodologies. This is in part due to the development of these standards in the UK, but also due the fact that we in Australia/ New Zealand required a tested framework to deliver on, led by example in order to enforce consistency across a disjointed industry.
 

Consolidating an approach

More recently, this has proved successful as the release of the International Standard ISO 19650 has allowed industry to be up to speed with UK-tested methodologies. The ISO is heavily based on the UK BIM methodologies, and therefore with its release brings forward many opportunities to those parties in Australia and New Zealand who have already looked to adopt the framework governed by UK Standards such as PAS 1192-2 and -3. Those who have begun to implement the framework developed within these UK standards across their projects will see benefits, as this framework had a strong influence on the newly released ISO 19650-1 and -2.  
 
The construction industry in Australia is just over a third of the size of that in the UK, employing approximately 1.1 million people. In New Zealand, the industry is again much smaller, and therefore the opportunity to implement a consolidated solution is enormous. It would stand to reason that we could use the lessons from the UK to implement a similar policy across these nations. However, we have issues with our jurisdiction, and passing mandates federally, which has caused a series of independent state government strategic initiatives to be developed. Although there are varied initiatives, the principles set out are aligning to the International Standard ISO 19650, so there are now opportunities to consolidate the approach toward BIM and digital engineering across Australia and New Zealand. 
 

There must be a more extensive adoption of BIM and digital engineering across Australia, which will address some of the other policies already in place across the world to support productivity. This could present a huge opportunity for this area of the world, and although we have come a long way in the last few years, there is still much more work to do. Another concern for Australia and New Zealand’s adoption of BIM is the industry’s lack of appreciation of the value of training and education – things which are sorely needed in order to achieve a successful adoption of BIM and meet the needs of a growing population, against a backdrop of inconsistency. Training should not only focus on the technology, but also the implementation of the standards, and a common approach toward information management and project delivery. 

We have started to see some strong initiatives come out of Australia and New Zealand, however, which are hopefully a sign of things to come in the future. This is promising for industry as there are now a number of opportunities present across this region to support the application of ISO 19650, as well as other UK BIM initiatives such as Uniclass 2015.

 

Government BIM strategy in Australia 

Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW), for example, has been implementing digital engineering rapidly in its digital engineering framework, and creating an opportunity for the infrastructure sector in NSW. In September 2018, TfNSW produced a digital engineering strategy, which has been rolled out in a number of key infrastructure and pilot projects over two key releases of documentation. It has procured resources from industry to help it initiate this strategy, and hopes to roll out the framework across the transport cluster. There is also a quite promising application of education and training, both supporting the strategy but also aiming to upskill government and industry in this approach. 
 
The Digital Engineering Framework Interim Approach: image courtesy of Transport for NSW

TfNSW has recognized digital engineering as a key part of enabling its commitment to implementing best practice data and information management. Using the strategy, it has been able to structure data more consistently so that it can be readily used by stakeholders to make informed management decisions.

TfNSW has also been instrumental in adopting the principles of PAS1192-2 and subsequently ISO 19650, as well as applying the UK classification system Uniclass 2015 across the transport asset management solution. This is promising, and the group is well underway in its implementation of these policies, and the documentation and the technologies to drive digital across this sector. 

Similarly, the Victorian Government released a digital asset strategy (VDAS) to aid the adoption of BIM, aiming to improve the value and utilization of both physical and digital assets. Whilst this is not quite a mandate, the strategy is tailored to the UK’s BIM Level 2 – and it does lay the foundations for a clear system and templates to standardize how BIM and digital are to be implemented across government. The document itself is 50 pages long, and sets out a timeline for the creation and release of more detailed templates and technical guidance for industry to adopt and follow. 

The VDAS aims to implement BIM and digital engineering in line with ISO 19650, and therefore again presents a huge opportunity to the construction sector in Victoria to keep up to speed with NSW government initiatives. We have also more recently seen the release of a BIM policy for the Queensland Government across all departments. Again, although not yet implemented, this is now driving the industry with an urgency not present 12 months ago. 

 

Progress in New Zealand

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, we’ve seen the inception of the BIM Acceleration Committee (BAC) since 2014 – a nationwide alliance of industry and government aiming to coordinate efforts to increase the use of BIM in the country, and attempting to use BIM Maturity Level 2 as a framework for adoption – relying heavily on documents created in the UK. We’re seeing a trend that many countries are looking to the UK for support and guidance regarding the processes around BIM maturity, and the standards supporting BIM Level 2, including the creation of ISO 19650. 

In New Zealand, not only has there been a much more consolidated approach across industry, but the creation of industry groups such as BIMinNZ has seen industry documents being released and updated regularly to keep up to speed with local and International Standards. 
 

The BIM in NZ initiative’s inaugural conference was hosted in 2019 to support BIM and digital engineering implementation in New Zealand.

The interest and ambition for BIM adoption is certainly more palpable in New Zealand’s small-but-agile market. The Government may not have adopted BIM to the same level as the UK yet, but both industry and the Government are keen to see accelerated adoption.

The BAC developed a website for the BIMinNZ group to support a framework for adoption – again, relying heavily on the documents created in the UK. One of the first documents created was the NZ BIM Handbook. This was initially developed by NATSPEC in Australia in 2013. However, following an industry review, it was revised by industry before being published in 2014. It was updated once more in 2016 to highlight the benefits of BIM to all industry. More recently, the BIM Handbook was further updated to reflect the release of the International standard ISO 19650. 

The website now hosts a plethora of information, including case studies, BIM tools, education, training and opinion pieces to promote BIM – all with the aim of improving ‘New Zealand for all through safer, healthier and more affordable homes and buildings’.

 

Concluding thoughts

Adequate BIM training is imperative for the success of any BIM adoption plan, and the hitherto inconsistent use of standards and terminology has proven detrimental to progress. However, as both Australia and New Zealand are now well on their way in terms of BIM and digital engineering adoption, there is much to be excited about in this region of the world. 
 
The continued push from government and the private sector in Australia and New Zealand has certainly produced greater uptake of BIM, and digital engineering principles and methodologies, in these regions. With the drive from industry toward innovation, it’s fair to conclude that New Zealand and Australia are certainly on the right path. The challenges they face are similar to those of most regions, and while progress to date is good, there is always more to do. The way in which the policies discussed will drive innovation, skills and the use of technology will be a game changer for industry in this region, and will continue to drive the development of the skills we need to support industry. I look forward to the future of digital in the construction industry in Australia and New Zealand, and I hope to see development, an uptake in implementation and rapidly increasing skills in this area.