12 June 2013 — A recently released report from AECOM has labelled the Australian buildings market as the most adversarial construction market in the world.

Sustainability was also earmarked as an area for improvement, with a more holistic approach taking into account social, cultural and environmental elements needed.

According to the publication, business was keen to improve the adversarial environment, but the two greatest barriers to increased collaboration were culture and awareness of alternative strategies.

“There’s a clear desire by business to leverage new forms of project delivery, such as integrated project delivery, to enhance performance and profitability,” said AECOM chief executive Michael Batchelor.

“That said, the two greatest barriers to collaboration driving efficiency gains in Australia and New Zealand’s building and construction sectors are the nations’ respective cultures and awareness of alternatives.”

Mr Batchelor said the research indicated that availability of technology wasn’t the issue, and that opportunities for more efficient ways of working were not being capitalised on through proper process and information management.

Building information modelling was flagged as a key tool to increase collaboration and reduce conflict. BIM is the use of virtual modelling of a building’s physical and functional characteristics for application in design, construction and facilities management. It is seen as a key driver for the achievement of integrated project delivery in the construction sector.

“Building information modelling is providing supporting processes and technology that improves collaboration,” Mr Batchelor said.

The report said that the rate of BIM adoption had continued to escalate in Australia, and that there were promising signs this trend would continue “constituting a significant market transformation well beyond achievements to date”.

However, the quality of BIM used in Australia was low. For Australia, the industry average level of adoption was very low, falling into Level 1, which stood for “managed computer-aided design in 2 or 3D with a collaborative data environment”. Industry leaders in the country, however, were at Level 3 – “fully-open process with a single project model and data exchange using Industry Foundation Classes standards”. The gap between common practice and best practice was the largest of the markets studied, pointing to a real need for standards within the industry.

Educating the market on BIM was still a large hurdle, the report said, and industry needed to work towards a more coherent definition of BIM so clients were not confused.

The report projected that by 2016, 60 per cent of construction projects would be using BIM and it would become mandated by the government. It also projected that prefabrication and modularisation would become standard practice for many buildings.

The AECOM report also found that the Australian construction industry tended not to place a high level of consideration regarding sustainability principles on projects compared with countries like China and North America. Australian companies prioritised economic elements such as asset performance and whole-of-life costs twice as much as environmental concerns.

The report said this pointed to room for improvement in our approach to sustainability, taking into consideration social, cultural and environmental elements.

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  1. One of the greatest reasons for an “adversarial” construction industry in the tender process and the payments process. In the last 18 months we have seen the demise of at least four major builders, including Kell and Rigby, Reed, St Hillers and Southern Cross, not to mention Engineering firms Hastie and a plethora of SME contractors.

    BIM is a useful tool in terms of delivery and implementation, but if a builder wins a job below what the job will cost, BIM is not going to save it, or the follow on effects upon the quality of construction and the trades cost cutting further down the food chain to get paid and get out.

    If the consultants can ensure the Tender process will conserve the integrity of any BIM and ensure the quality of construction via the tender process then perhaps there is an opportunity.

  2. I agree Andrew.
    To achieve productivity benefits of digital technologies for Australian construction we need to look critically at supply chain issues and how they’re influenced by procurement strategy (especially for public clients) and business capability/skills which impact on the uptake of BIM.

  3. Mixed messages here – is it the case that the biggest barriers are “culture and the awareness of alternatives” and “technology was not the issue” or is BIM (technology) a “key driver”? I believe the former.