Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a 3D model-based process that helps create a database of everything in a construction project, allowing for more informed decision making and the reduction of errors. This saves significant time and money, and is one of the reasons BIM is becoming the next big technology for the construction and urban development industries.

BIM is a process that creates and manages all the data involved in a project, and can involve generating digital representations of a project’s components.

In its 15-year plan, released in 2016, Infrastructure Australia urged the sector to capitalise on technologies such as BIM to improve the planning, delivery and maintenance of infrastructure.

The plan stated, “Governments should make the use of Building Information Modelling – which enables the generation of three-dimensional models of buildings, infrastructure and places – mandatory for the design and delivery of large-scale, complex projects.”

Alastair MacColl, 3D Modelling and BIM Manager at Taylors – one of the early adopters of BIM- said having all data in a central, easily accessed location, equips architects, engineers, and contractors with the insight to more efficiently plan, design and construct infrastructure, and can save money during a building’s operation and management.

Benefits of BIM to the construction process

BIM is more than 3D models – it provides invaluable data that drive efficiencies throughout a project, even after completion. Generally, during the design phase, all the different parties involved work on their part of the development, and it’s only when it comes to construction that problems appear.

Mr MacColl said the idea with BIM is that from the design phase to the construction phase, everyone is working on a common platform, and all the data is collected in one spot, which means problems can be detected before the build starts.

“For example, during a project you might find that an air-conditioning duct clashes with a structural beam. Before BIM, you wouldn’t know this was a problem until you go to build it, and at this point, it will cost a lot of money and time to redesign and fix.

“You can do clash detection, programming, and planning, as well as cost analysis for variations and rectification works.”

Mr MacColl said that one of the biggest advantages of BIM comes after construction, when the data is transferred over to the facility’s managers for operation.

“From a management point of view, you’ve got all the information that belongs to that building and how it operates, in one spot, making it easy to manage. Then with the right data, you can start asking questions of the database to run the facility more efficiently.

“For example, conducting BIM for a shopping centre would create a digital database for all the components of that centre. For one object there might be a photo, user manual, maintenance records, material, when it was installed, and when it needs to be updated etc. This makes operation and maintenance much easier.”

BIM is only just starting to gain traction in the industry, but Mr MacColl said Taylors is an early adopter and has been using the process in many projects, including recently at Melbourne’s iconic Palais Theatre.

Taylors was engaged to create a BIM model of the theatre complex and took more than 500 laser scans and approximately 15 billion points in the point cloud.

The Palais Theatre project was one of Australia’s first government funded projects in which it was mandated that a BIM delivery had to be part of the works, further cementing Taylors as innovators in the BIM survey sector.

Overcoming industry barriers

Mr MacColl said the biggest challenges facing the uptake of BIM are education and government mandates. Australia does not currently have a government mandate that says all government funded projects must be designed and delivered using a BIM environment like the UK does.

“When the State or Federal Government mandates that, we’ll see a real uptake of BIM. It’s in the pipeline, but it’s still probably a number of years away,” Mr MacColl said.

“What Taylors is trying to do is be a part of the education around the benefits of BIM, by showing our clients the power of a 3D model versus a 2D CAD plan.

“A typical surveyor’s output would be a 2D plan in CAD but we are outputting 3D models with intelligent objects. Our software and data will record what a certain object is, its dimensions, what it’s made of, and there might be an image of it as well. It’s a lot more information and a lot more intelligent.

“It also ties in well with our virtual reality offering, because the 3D models look really great in virtual reality and augmented reality.”

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