BIM adoption: Why can’t it just be about best practice?

Release of the McGraw Hill SmartMarket Report on the ôBusiness Value of BIM in Australia and New Zealandö calls for greater BIM education and for Australian and New Zealand advocates to demand better content and shared data (p. 6)

In late 2013, McGraw Hill conducted 435 online surveys with Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Consultants and Building Owners from across Australia and New Zealand’s construction industry.

The Australia and New Zealand Business Value of BIM SmartMarket Report released today analyses the full range of data received and, in relation to BIM adoption, the levels of experience and collaboration, expected and estimated return on investment and likely future importance and adoption rates of BIM in five years in Australia and New Zealand.

On reading the report and listening to the speakers at today’s Consult Australia Technology Symposium, it is clear that greater sharing of models and data will provide the best incentive to improve the BIM and engage all project team members to return the benefits.

What the client wants:

Over two thirds of respondents reported that working with team members who have BIM expertise improves project outcomes and increases quality (P11).

What we are seeing on the ground is a need to shift the thinking from mandatory BIM implementation (ie. UK model) to best practice design and construction.

The ANZ SmartMarket Report data also suggests that building owners within both the public and private sectors are likely to have the greatest influence on BIM adoption (P7).

Clients will always expect better design and properly coordinated delivery of the project – on time and within budget. BIM is a tool that assists in delivering what the client wants. The technology facilitates the improvement in best practice. The project team should apply BIM because it makes business sense to do so. It generates savings through efficiencies like the development and implementation of any new technology or process should.

What the designer wants:

Canada reports that 89% of contractors æalways or often’ receive models from designers (P6). When it comes to expectations in receiving models from designers in Australia and New Zealand, just 9% hold this view. We rank at the lowest end, well below all other regions. In comparison to the US (44%), South Korea (50%), Brazil (50%) and UK (29%) our real BIM adoption rate falls far short of what we think is happening in relation to BIM take up and real project collaboration.

According to the report, over two thirds of Architects and Engineers are requesting ômore 3D Building Product manufacturer-specific contentö (P6). With the ground swell of take up amongst Architects and Engineers, the report highlights the need for this group particularly to demand content that is searchable and that can be indexed.

When working closely with designers across a range of large and small project, our 5DQS team at Mitchell Brandtman find that the greatest benefit to everyone is reliable data that can be revisioned quickly and accurately as the design develops. The technology allows for this. What is critical to the process is the understanding of the power of this data across the consultancy team and that everyone is aware of its usefulness up and down the chain of supply. Inevitable data anomalies are then able to be identified and rectified collectively and quickly.

What the Contractor wants

According to McGraw Hill’s report, Australian and New Zealand contractors are more likely to focus on whole of project team benefits through improved BIM processes (P21). Contractors rated more highly (in comparison to architects and engineers), better data integration, functionality and interoperability of the software as the factors most likely to increase the BIM benefits for users.

Contractors in Australia and New Zealand also seem to be leading the way in their plans to invest/upgrade IT infrastructure expressing high to very high importance for BIM (P42). More than half of the contractors who responded also plan to invest in developing collaborative BIM processes which McGraw Hill reports is outpacing the average of all other global regions.

What is also evident from the statistics overall is the role of the Contractors. The data supports the view that this group is most likely to be the key drivers of BIM adoption in Australia and New Zealand in the next few years given their calls for greater functionality of the software and more clearly defined deliverables to support BIM (P21).

In our experience when working with Contractors, particularly on large scale commercial and public sector projects, they are focused on IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) and VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) as the means to successfully deliver a project on time and on budget. IPD provides contractors with a softer way to contract. VDC allows contractors to rehearse the build which reduces waste and delivers a leaner project more likely to be on time and within budget.

Contractors want to derisk the project through accurate and fast, updatable documentation. All parties participating in BIM achieve this. Efficiency should be the driver for increased adoption and this is only going to come from greater sharing of project successes, knowledge sharing of work-arounds and software developments and full collaboration across the project team from preliminary design through construction and post construction.

Trades Take Up Fast

Contractors are reporting high proficiency use amongst Mechanical/Sheet Metal/Plumber trade contractors in Australia and New Zealand (P12). It is most likely that these trades can more readily see the immediate financial benefits and process improvements, particularly where they are moving to greater prefabrication (P14).

Given that on a typical building project trades make up approximately 83% of construction costs it is expected that BIM will most likely bring about the most immediate savings and benefits to the subcontractors. This is certainly what we are seeing on our 5D projects.

Engaging Non-Users

When we look more closely at the non-users responses more than two thirds believe that their competitors are using BIM but over 40% of them feel that it is at a low implementation level, of less than 15% of projects (P46). The report points specifically to this being more commonly thought within companies working domestically only.

By contrast, all large Contractors (revenues of $250million+) perceive that their competitors are using BIM and half of those believe it is at a high implementation level.

The top benefit that would influence take up for both non-user Contractors and Architects/Engineers is more accurate construction documents followed closely by improved communication (P47). What is surprising is that amongst the early BIM adopters these are both generally considered as immediate and achievable deliverables when implementing BIM across the project team.

It’s always about industry best practice

The report makes a strong case for greater education amongst domestically focused and small companies in Australia and New Zealand yet to adopt BIM or who are still at a very low level of implementation.

Whilst the strength of the advocacy of BIM in Australia and the number of organisations collaborating and conversing on how to improve it is essential, developing sound business strategy at the individual level to improve ROI is imperative. This can be achieved through better design and model data management and is likely to have a greater impact on adoption rates and encourage best industry practice. Historically this has always remained the greatest incentive for adoption of any new process or technology.

Whilst the industry debates the need for a national standard, what may serve us better is focusing on standardising the elements that can report the ROI coming out of better design and model integration of 4D and 5D.

We also need industry wide education on the best practice benefits of project collaboration along the supply chain. We know early decisions have a high ability to influence time and costs. We need to look beyond the issues of where we should be on the BIM journey and focus efforts on who can influence best practice at the early stages of design. This may create far greater success in leveraging BIM’s benefits throughout the design, construction and post construction phases for those in the project team who choose to adopt.