Warwick Stannus

11 July 2013 — Building information modelling is a game-changer for the Australian construction industry, with the potential to cut cost and waste, and significantly increase productivity – and it’s on track to become business as usual within three years, according to A.G. Coombs’ Warwick Stannus.

BIM – how do we define it?

A recent AECOM report said that industry needed to work towards a more coherent definition of BIM so clients were not confused.

Many people think BIM is simply a fancy way of describing 3D modelling software but it is much more than that.

Warwick Stannus is group engineering manager at A.G. Coombs and engineering director for the BIM-MEPAUS initiative, which is aiming to establish standards for services in building information modelling. He says that BIM is primarily a process.

Construction industry body buildingSMART defines BIM as a process of representing building and infrastructure over its whole life cycle from planning, design, construction, operations, maintenance and recycling. It says BIM provides a framework for collaboration – a multidisciplinary environment that brings together all the parties that design, construct and operate a facility.

What’s the state of play?

Recent US reports show that the number of firms offering BIM services has increased by 400 per cent by 2007, and is still climbing rapidly.

Stannus says that most major construction projects are now using BIM, and that it has moved swiftly in the last two to three years.

“Australia has been late in adoption but is making rapid progress,” he says. “People are surprised at how far we’ve progressed in a relatively quick period.”

He thinks it is on track to be business as usual industry wide within three years.

The uptake of BIM in the Australian construction industry still has many barriers, however.

The Australian government and buildingSMART came together last year to release a strategic report on how to drive uptake of BIM in Australia.

buildingSMART said that the Australian construction industry lagged behind the rest of the world in the uptake of IT technology, leading to an industry lacking direction and innovation.

The general view is that while other industries, such as manufacturing, have undergone massive transformations and innovations, the construction industry has lacked any real substantive change.

buildingSMART chair John Mitchell said that it was important Australia did not get left behind in the global BIM race.

“It is essential that Australia takes a proactive role in contributing to this work to derive a truly national economic benefit,” he said.

The National BIM Initiative Report stated that accelerating the adoption of BIM in Australia would result in an increase in GDP between $4.8 billion and $7.6 billion, and improve productivity by between six to nine per cent.

Six priority areas the report found to accelerate BIM adoption were:

  • Procurement and legal issues – new collaborative contracts and how to manage risk
  • BIM guidelines – clear standards for Australian BIM users
  • Education – a new multi-disciplinary approach to educating building professionals is required
  • Product information libraries – the building supply chain needs to get involved and start digitising their components for inclusion in intelligent building models
  • Business process change – there are insufficient accepted universal standards in place for exchange of BIM data for collaboration
  • Compliance and certification issues – planners, local government and other regulatory bodies need guidance on assessing and approving BIM-based projects

The report recommended the federal government set a date of 1 July 2016 from which procurement for all its buildings would require full collaborative BIM based on open standards for information exchange.

The UK Government has recently announced it will require fully collaborative 3D BIM as a minimum by this date, and is expecting it will deliver a 20 per cent reduction in procurement costs.

Even though BIM is yet to be mandated federally in Australia, many state governments are taking initiative and implementing it in their projects. AECOM says there are at least eight state-funded hospital projects, for example, that are using BIM to provide efficiency gains.

BIM and sustainability

Stannus says that the sustainability benefits of BIM are massive at all stages of the project lifecycle, from design to construction and long-term facility management.

The key driver of BIM, he says, is addressing construction waste and improving design. He said that removal of waste and improving efficiency equalled dollars to the bottom line so sustainability and economic drivers were fundamentally linked.

BIM allows for better design, including visualisation/thermal studies that can effect sustainability. It also allows sustainability of various design techniques to be compared and integrated into the decision making process.

For construction, it allows for complex energy and material use analysis, facilitates more efficient supply chain coordination and reduces the need for reworks.

“Every time there’s an issue on site, you need resources to fix it,” Stannus says. “Currently around 30 per cent of materials used during construction end up as waste.

“There are studies that suggest BIM could be used to reduce construction waste by around 50 to 80 per cent.

“And anything that’s not wasted is a good outcome for sustainability.

“The other thing we’re trying to do is get the supply chain on board to create virtual models of products before we build it,” Stannus says.

For facility management, BIM’s benefits include efficient access to information.

The usual state of affairs sees the construction manager delivering boxes of CDs full of PDFs to the facility manager after completion, Stannus says. The assumption it that the information will be used to assist maintain, operate and track building assets. But in reality, this information can be delivered months or years after the building has been occupied and may never be opened.

BIM allows the integration of disparate information, from construction, operation, finance and environment, leading to better operational outcomes, more accurate information and significant savings in managing facilities.

BIM-MEPAUS – you gotta have standards

BIM-MEPAUS is an industry initiative that seeks to address issues currently impeding the transition to building information modelling-based integrated project delivery.

The goal is to achieve a commercial framework for implementation of BIM through Australian industry-adopted software platforms, standards and services.

Stannus says the most significant barriers to the widespread adoption of BIM are setting up standards and dealing with a knowledge deficit, especially with the complex software typically used, but that it can be combated through industry training.

The BIM-MEPAUS initiative seeks to address barriers preventing the effective take-up and use of BIM within Australia, including:

  • Significant time and cost burdens involved in customising BIM modelling software to suit Australian design and construction requirements
  • Lack of industry standards around BIM-MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) documentation
  • Poor consideration of the requirements for integrated project delivery
  • Limited BIM project management and file management expertise within the industry

The BIM-MEPAUS initiative says the benefits of its work includes:

  • Enabling smarter integrated project delivery workflows within projects through industry level standards
  • Aligning the industry supply chain to support BIM
  • Improving collaboration through all phases of the project
  • Reducing costs and risks for all parties involved in the services supply chain
  • Delivering better client outcomes


The BIM-MEPAUS Construction Innovation 2013 Forum is happening on the 25-26 July in Melbourne, and hopes to address some of the issues in BIM adoption in the industry.

“Previous conferences focused solely on BIM and associated services, though this conference will be transforming from a BIM forum to a construction innovation forum,” Stannus says.

“BIM is at the heart of the innovation that’s occurring in this sector, and we’ll be hearing about a whole range of construction innovation initiatives.”

Stannus says there will be a line-up of strong international speakers as well as Australian leaders in BIM, with representation from big names like Lend Lease, GPT, Arup, AECOM and Probuild.

Ge Qing, chief engineer for Shanghai Tower Construction and Development will talk about how BIM is used in some of the massive skyscraper and infrastructure projects in China, including the 121-storey Shanghai Tower project, which on completion will be the tallest building in China.

Another key international speaker is Neil Thompson, principal BIM Integrator on Balfour Betty and deputy chair of the UK Construction Industry Council BIM 2050 Group.

Stephen Jones who as senior director leads McGraw-Hill Construction’s BIM initiatives, will also be speaking.

Locally, we’ll hear from Brian Welch from the Master Builders Association and Lend Lease’s head of business development and strategy Steve Trevenar, among others.

Stannus says the primary audience for the conference includes design professionals, construction professionals, project managers, facility managers and commercial property owners.

The event, Stannus says, will focus more on practical implementation rather than on software.

“The idea for the conference is to get people sharing what they’re doing and getting industry support for BIM standards,” he says.

“It’s about getting industry together to share ideas on current construction practices.”

The first day of the event will feature case studies from contractors, clients, owners, suppliers and facility managers, while the second day will feature presentations from software and technology experts, contractors, consultants and suppliers who have worked with the BIM-MEPAUS initiative.

The BIM-MEPAUS Construction Innovation Forum is on 25-26 July.

NATSPEC, a not-for-profit organisation with the objective of improving the construction quality and productivity of the built environment through leadership of information, has created a National BIM Guide to assist clients, consultants and stakeholders to clarify their BIM requirements in a nationally consistent manner.

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  1. in the last three years we have seen St Hillier s, Reed, Kell & Rigby, Southern Cross and Hastie disappear from the landscape. Although, I’m all for BIM, especially moving from DLP into operations, and to have BIM properly interfaced into BMS and EMS strategies, the additional cost to construction may tamper with it’s credibility.
    If a builder which is bidding on a job site and is running out of budget, I would imagine the BIM to be one of the first items sacrificed.
    I appreciate consultants selling there wares and BIM is an excellent long term product, but until the method of construction tendering changes or until the industry can ensure what the building owner pays for the building owner gets, I can’t see BIM becoming the “norm”.