BIM Voice – David Mitchell: Fixing Australia’s “Broken Circle”

Credit: Mitchell Brandtman
Credit: Mitchell Brandtman

BIMcrunch has become a platform for a plethora of elite industry names to become guest writers on the site and share their thoughts and opinions with the #GlobalBIMCrew. Today, Partner and 5D Quantity Surveyor at Mitchell Brandtman, David Mitchell discusses whether a BIM mandate for Australia is not too far into the future, or a long way off.

With the recent release of the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) and Australian Procurement and Construction Council’s (APCC) “Framework for the Adoption of PTI and BIM”, are we still dancing around the inevitability of a BIM mandate?

Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) construction industry bodies and government must welcome the release of a focused framework for Project Team Integration and BIM which “raises the flag” and progresses the debate on collaborative and productive design, construction and building life cycle management.

ACIF and APCC’s Framework document provides an in depth analysis of the landscape of BIM adoption in ANZ, including reaffirming the 7 work programs that buildingSMART Australasia recommended in 2012. What it lacks however are tangible solutions, clear ownership of commitments to change and a timeline.

Industry needs leadership on BIM. It is heartening to see a clear understanding of the benefits for both government and industry but stronger recommendations on BIM adoption and jurisdictional responsibilities are required. In the framework, there is a hint of powerlessness on the part of industry by saying “industry is but a servant of those who commission new assets”. It seems service providers are still in a reactive space waiting for their customers to demand the change that is available through new technologies and approaches.

UK Mandate 2016

When Mark Bew, Chair of the UK Government BIM Working Group, Chairman of the UK Government BIM Task Group and buildingSMART UK, delivered the keynote speech at the buildingSMART Australasia conference in Sydney last year, three critical themes stood out for me:

1. A sense of urgency and a compelling reason for change was created via a deadline.

2. UK implementation would not have even started without the appointment of a Chief Constructor, currently Paul Morrell.

3. The concept that it’s okay for Government to tell industry what it wants as long as it stays away from telling industry how to do it.

What is interesting is that the latter point contrasts to how the Government here in Australia is approaching BIM – generally abstaining from the conversation for fear of interfering with the marketplace and creating red tape. What has been clear for some time and what the UK strategy demonstrates is a definitive need for leadership in order to achieve greater advancements and returns.

In Australia the latest statistics from the ABS tell us that the value of construction work within the Building and Engineering Construction Industry is $215 billion dollars, that construction (excluding its service industries) is 8.0% of GDP and employs 1.1M workers or 9.1% of the labour force. Given the comparative statistics that the UK knew at the time of creating the Government Construction Strategy in 2011 – the UK construction sector was 7.0% of GDP, it expended £110B and it employed 2.0M workers – shouldn’t we be placing a larger emphasis on improving our industry considering it is as large a contributor to our economy and our workforce as the UK’s is to theirs?

Should Australia Make a Date or Continue Organically?

In late 2014 Mitchell Brandtman 5D Quantity Surveyors conducted a straw poll of 137 industry stakeholders with varying degrees of BIM, posing the simple question, “Should the Australian Government mandate BIM?” The results showed that over 66% of all respondents said “Yes” to a Government mandate.

Designers generally agree with a mandate (68%) and Contractors agree even more so (83%). Owners unsurprisingly are more reluctant (only 36% agreeing). A breakdown of the results can be viewed here.

Clients will always expect better design within a well-coordinated project that is on time and within budget. BIM simply assists in delivering these outcomes and facilitates the improvement in best practice. The project team should apply BIM because it makes business sense to do so.

To read the article in full, click here.

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