Bentley Systems’ chief operating officer Malcolm Walter

30 October 2013 — Conference, London: Bentley’s Year In Infrastructure 2013 Conference kicked off this week in London. The city was the perfect place for the conference, said editor of New Civil Engineering Antony Oliver, because London was “the home of infrastructure right now”, with a rush of large projects, including the £15 billion Crossrail project, which he said had breathed life into the infrastructure aspirations of the country.

Mr Oliver noted that “low profile” figure Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, was a key figure in progressing these huge projects as he understood the importance of infrastructure to the UK’s economy.

The city had so many new buildings and infrastructure projects going on that Bentley chief operating officer Malcolm Walter noted there were currently “more cranes in London than there are in Beijing”.

It was testament to the UK government and its relationship with the private sector, Mr Walter said.

“The UK is leading the world,” he told a media conference, and was home to some of the best building information modelling projects in the world.

And to a large extent, The Year In Infrastructure conference aims to celebrate the advanced use of BIM in a range of settings, from buildings to rail, power delivery, bridges and roads.

BIM to manadatory in UK government projects and good for sustainability

David Philp, head of BIM for international construction and consultancy firm Mace, told an Innovations for Buildings summit that a UK government mandate to have Level 2 BIM mandatory on all public sector contracts by 2016 was driving the UK’s adoption of BIM and having tangible outcomes on productivity, as well as sustainability.

Level 2 BIM can be defined as a series of domain specific models (for example, architectural, structural, services) with the provision of a single environment to store shared data and information.

For individual projects there was a proven 20 per cent reduction

in capital expenditure

The government was seeing around £90 billion a year in savings through the use of BIM and associated efficiency gains and waste reduction. For individual projects there was a proven 20 per cent reduction in capital expenditure.

It was a no-brainer. “The national economy just can’t afford the waste,” he said.

Projects using BIM were seeing a 20 per cent reduction in capital costs as well as a steep decrease in “carbon burden”, he told the summit.

The government now had 20-plus projects in the pipeline using Level 2 BIM.

“We’ve come a heck of a long way in two years,” Mr Philp said.

“We’re helping to reshape a better industry.”

Alan Savin

Australia needs to get on board

In conversation with The FIfth Estate, Bentley Systems vice president – southeast Asia Pacific Alan Savin said that Australia was “absolutely” behind the eight ball in terms of BIM adoption.

“In some sectors – oil and gas – they’re absolutely up there with the rest of the world, because they have to be,” he said.

The mining sectors were doing well too, with both BHP and Rio Tinto using BIM routinely in their operations. All Rio Tinto’s projects would now use the same software the UK’s Crossrail project was using, he said.

Mr Savin said Australia was in generally “good shape” regarding buildings but it was for infrastructure projects like roads, rail and water plants that there was “nothing there”.

World class engineering but old paper PDF’s

at handover  – not good enough

While he wouldn’t name names, Mr Savin said he was disappointed that a few big projects just completed had world class engineering, but at handover, the operators were provided with old paper PDFs, which would have ramifications for efficiency in operations.

“What a shame,” he said. The road authorities needed to accelerate and get their acts together, he said.

Mr Savin said a government mandate would help Australia progress and realise the savings associated with BIM (estimated at up to $7.6 billion a year).

He said like the UK, Singapore had mandated BIM but also set aside funds for smaller engineering firms so they could have a tax offset against purchasing the technology and receiving training.

“The big boys – the AECOMS – can do it no problem, but for smaller organisations they start to be squeezed out of the value chain, which is not good,” Mr Savin said.

“If we could learn some lessons from Singapore that would be good.

The federal government in Australia was by no means a small owner of infrastructure assets either. The Commonwealth ranked as the number 16 owner on the recently released Bentley Infrastructure 500 list, a collection of the top owners of infrastructure assets across the world, with just over $US113 billion of infrastructure value.

Mandating BIM federally could have a huge effect on the local market, much like has been seen in the UK.

“But if government can’t mandate, all it takes is four or five key owners.”

  • See separate article on LAB architects in running for Bentley’s Be Inspired Awards

Cameron Jewell travelled to London as guest of Bentley Systems