The BIM discussion the Construction industry has to have!

What is our vision of the construction industry in 2030, what are the key areas of development and what is the path to achieving this goal?

I’m sure “innovation and greater productivity” would be a key ingredient.  From reading many American construction reports; I have always understood the industry was one of the least productive industries.  However, recent Treasury figures suggest Australian construction’s labor productivity is twice the US figure. An Australian federal commissioned report in 2014 (Productivity in theconstruction industry Technical Brief No. 33 ISSN 1836-9014) states;  The Australian Construction Industry currently has a turnover of $327 billion, and its value add contribution is 7.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Productivity is the quantitative relationship between industry output, compared to the labor and capital inputs.

Room for improvement:
Despite this report, as an industry participant, I believe construction is one of the few industries where there is considerable room for efficiency gains.  Construction will ultimately be one of the key industries to bring Australia out of its current deficit problem, and thus looking for efficiencies and business development is vital to everyone’s future.

Information Structure and Data Exchange:
The scope for improvement is enormous, so let’s just focus on: the Information / Data utilized across the building lifecycle and its exchange between parties.  This is still an immense scope, from business cases to decommissioning, to building codes and standards to the legal basis around data sharing. To date, Australia Construction has had very limited data “framework”, to provides a “common defined language” (such as; Uniclass & BS 1192). Many existing Australian Standards for common language are not Government deliverables (such as; AS 1100: Australian Standard for the technical drawing for;  Architectural, Surveying, Mechanical and Structural drawings).  We even have situations, where some State and Local Governments have their own unique standards as a deliverable. So, as we move forward into the current “BIMosphere” age;

Are we seeking a future where every public and private client have their “own unique” BIM protocols and all project participants are obliged to deliver within them? 
If so, how would that be a simple and productive outcome delivering growth…….?

Agreed Framework:
The private sector is generally very good at coming up with ideas, and self-generating inefficiencies and productivity gains.  Yet, agreeing on a common framework across the private sector can be very difficult. Containerization, as an example; It took the shipping industry around 35 years of debate before it was able to agree on a standardized shipping container.  The formation of 1968: ISO 668 “freight containers - Classification, dimensions and ratings” revolutionized the shipping and freight industry.  We now have container ships, on average carrying 3500 containers, ships 400 meters long, in every corner of the world enabling cheaper products.
We still need to remember without the Public Sector’s investment in Ports, Rail, and Road Network Infrastructure; the Shipping industry would not be the success it is today.  This investment has been so successful; the Victorian Government is now privatizing its ports, to generate funds to enable further infrastructure development.
This example really shows the strength and weaknesses of the private sector and acknowledges Government involvement can be a key aspect of business confidence and success. Across large and complex industries, the Public Sector is far better at leading infrastructure and frameworks standards.  The Private Sector can then utilize this standard approach to maximizing output.

Legal Reform:
After attending a recent event focusing on BIM and the legal landscape, it became very evident that where a Level 2 BIM outcome is achievable within the current legal framework, trying to achieve a Level 3 BIM outcome would be a legal minefield, and “may” not even be achievable without substantial contractual legal reform.

2030 Vision:
A simple, structured information gathering and exchange framework with relevant legal reform, enabling a “lean” and clear process to leverage data project participants currently develop in isolation.  It would enable each profession and discipline to just focus on their tasks at hand.  Nobody has to start from scratch or spend considerable time understanding and defining scope. We would have a common language (i.e. the construction “Babelfish”).  Relevant standards and precedent legacy data would be at easily accessible and understood.

Digital Built Britain:
The above vision is not as far-fetched as you may think. The UK Government in 2011 started the process of overhauling their construction industry, for the primary purpose: “reducing capital cost and the carbon burden from the construction and operation of the built environment by 20%”.  A four-year plan to develop a framework, educate and tool the construction industry is well underway with a goal of a 2016 “Level 2 BIM” deliverable for public sector projects.  For those in the UK Private Sector who embrace this framework, it will open up enormous business and efficiency opportunities.

In Australia, we are at crossroads:

The private sector can hold back from Government assistance and tap away for the next few decades trying to create an agreed data framework, while complying with ever-growing cumbersome client BIM data deliverables and protocols, and never reaching a Level 3 BIM outcome due to legal restrictions.


The public and private sector can partnership, to develop a 15-year vision if a “Digital Built Australia”, followed by progressive roll-out (including funding) for an; industry-wide data and legal framework,  education and open source software tooling, enabling business growth and greater prosperity for all involved.

Australia is in the great position to start from a clean slate, gain valuable lessons learned from the UK initiative deployment and strive for a “lean” construction sector which will exceed our expectations. What is clear; without Federal Government leadership, we may be sitting on the fence for a long time.