What you need to know about BIM in Australia

By intouch * posted 02-08-2016 12:41


Building information modelling, or BIM, has become increasingly popular in the Australian construction industry. Projects that have used BIM have seen substantial benefits including cost savings, time savings and improved asset management.


Here, Goran Gelic, Ren Neimann and Adam Wallwork from McCullough Robertson lawyers outline the latest BIM updates at both state and federal levels. 


wireframe-buildings-534644127_1294x813.jpegThe BIM revolution – where is the Australian Government up to?

BIM can be described as the digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility. BIM is much more than 3D design. BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its lifecycle. With BIM, each project participant contributes its discipline-specific data to a single shared project model. 

Although the construction market has demonstrated increasing enthusiasm for the use of BIM, the majority of the market is using BIM in its most basic form, rather than the more complex and integrated form.

The Federal Government, as well as various state government departments, are intensifying their efforts to promote and adopt BIM, with a view to take advantage of the various benefits that BIM can offer in the procurement of infrastructure.

Why BIM?

The Australian construction industry is increasing its use of BIM to create savings and efficiencies and drive greater collaboration on projects. BIM has the potential to create time and cost efficiencies across the design, construction and maintenance phases of a project.

Successful Australian projects that have used elements of BIM include:

  • Royal Adelaide Hospital Project;
  • Moorebank Intermodal Terminal Project;
  • Barangaroo development, including Wynyard Walk;
  • North West Rail Link;
  • Southern Freight Link; Figure 1: BIM and its participants
  • Regional Rail Link Victoria;
  • South West Rail Link;
  • Auburn Stabling Yard;
  • New Generation Rolling Stock Stabling, Ipswich;
  • Sydney CBD light rail early works;
  • Perth Children’s Hospital;
  • Perth Stadium; and
  • Perth Museum.

The UK Cabinet Office BIM Strategy Paper (2011) sets out some of the main benefits of using BIM in the procurement of infrastructure:

  • 20% reduction in build costs;
  • 33% reduction in costs over the lifetime of the asset;
  • 47% to 65% reduction in conflicts and re-work during construction;
  • 44% to 59% increase in overall project quality;
  • 35% to 43% reduction in risk, improved predictability;
  • 34% to 40% better performing completed infrastructure; and
  • 32% to 38% improvement in review and approval cycles.

State of play for the Australian Government

Following a report by the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities released in March 2016 (Report), the Australian Government has become a driving force for change and a promoter of BIM within the construction industry.

The Report makes ten recommendations, based on the premise that new technologies are transformational and have the capacity to increase productivity in our economy.

BIM-specific recommendations of the Report include:

  • Recommendation 6 – The Australian Government to form a smart infrastructure task force led by Infrastructure Australia (modelled on the UK BIM Task Group) to act as a coordinator and conduit for the development and implementation of BIM policy nationally. This would include development of industry and product standards, as well as training and education on BIM.
  • Recommendation 7 – The Australian Government require BIM to LOD500 on all infrastructure projects exceeding $50 million in cost receiving Australian Government funding, focusing on tendering mechanisms to facilitate this outcome with an eventual goal of establishing BIM as a procurement standard.

Despite the enthusiasm for BIM implementation, the Australian Government has elected not to mandate the use of BIM in Commonwealth funded infrastructure projects. According to the report, a gradual approach to BIM implementation is preferred. State governments across Australia have adopted a similar position. However, the Australian Department of Defence has emerged at the forefront of efforts to incorporate BIM at the Federal procurement level, using BIM to enhance the development and operation
of its vast portfolio of assets.

State governments are intensifying their efforts in BIM research and adoption. The Queensland Government is actively exploring BIM development through research partnerships with a number of institutions. In particular, the Department of Transport and Main Roads is undertaking research to investigate potential whole of life improvements with the use of BIM. A case study undertaken as part of this research was the New Generation Rollingstock Depot, a project awarded by the Department of
Transport and Main Roads to Laing O’Rourke. This project identified 25 benefits stemming from the use of BIM over the life of the project, including improved outcomes and higher customer satisfaction. The Queensland Government is increasingly looking at using BIM in the procurement of state based infrastructure.

In New South Wales, Transport for NSW (TfNSW) has developed a strategy for implementing BIM. An initial step in the process is the development of a Digital Engineering Task Group to investigate possible strategies for the implementation of BIM in TfNSW projects. TfNSW has also been responsible for  implementing Australia’s first 5D BIM pilot project, trialling technology such as mobile laser scanning, augmented reality and 3D printing to assess the advantages it offers.

The Victorian Government, in its 2015/16 Budget, provided for the development of a process of selecting key projects to participate in a BIM pilot study. The Victorian Government will then use the results of the pilot study to inform a staged plan for BIM implementation across infrastructure projects in the state.

As for Western Australia, the Western Australian Government is starting to use BIM in some of its high profile infrastructure projects, including the $1.2 billion Perth Children’s Hospital project, which used BIM in the procurement stage.

Goran Gelic, McCullough Robertson, Senior Associate 
Goran is a construction, infrastructure and procurement specialist. He has recently acted on a number of significant infrastructure projects across Australia and overseas. He is experienced in a variety of contract structures and has extensive experience using standard form construction contracts. 

Ren Niemann, McCullough Robertson, Partner 
For more than 18 years, Ren has extensively provided all levels of government and the private sector with strategic advice on procurement, construction and infrastructure projects. Ren’s work spans all forms of procurement and major projects, including PPPs and project financed infrastructure, across all sectors and industries.

Adam Wallwork, McCullough Robertson, Partner 
Adam specialises in all aspects of procurement and construction law. He has had more than 20 years experience in the negotiation, documentation and administration of major construction, PPP infrastructure, civil engineering, residential, resources, power, facilities management and maintenance projects.