Ineight Model Feature

Infrastructure projects, whether they are new construction or retrofitting existing infrastructure, can give rise to a range of issues, including structural safety concerns and unique design considerations. Using a virtual 3D modelling system like Building Information Modelling (BIM) can mitigate these concerns and enable an in-depth understanding of the feasibility and impact of various designs and materials.

Australia’s investment in major public infrastructure is at an all-time high. Infrastructure Australia predicted in 2021 that investment over the next five years will exceed $218 billion. The nation’s strong project pipeline encompasses major rail, road, port, airport, energy, water, and social infrastructure construction projects.

While there is no shortage of new construction, new innovations and changes in policies and investment help pave the way for extensive refurbishing, and in some cases reimagining, of existing assets, from highways to bridges and more. 

Bringing existing structures up to current standards is no easy feat, which is where BIM can help meet that challenge.

The strengths of BIM

Overhauling aging infrastructure will uncover structural safety concerns which will need to be corrected and brought up to code, whether before or during retrofitting. Many of the structures earmarked for repair may have gotten to this point because it was impossible to know the future ramifications of decisions made during the original design and construction phases. 

Unique design considerations can emerge in these kinds of projects, especially if there’s a risk of jeopardising what may be an already-compromised structure. Managing this risk means preventing potential planning and design errors and miscalculations that could inadvertently cause further instability.

This is what makes BIM ideal for projects of this complexity. BIM’s virtual 3D modelling environment allows you to explore the feasibility and impact of assorted designs and materials. 

This provides different construction disciplines an opportunity to collaborate and interact with the model. They can evaluate and share their perspectives so they can agree collectively on the best, most viable options.

BIM helps answer the more pressing questions for these kinds of projects, such as: 

  • Does the model show how modifying the structure in any way compromises the durability of its current materials? 
  • How will it affect existing structural integrity? 
  • Does any retrofit design introduce unintended hazards or clashes?
  • Is there any risk of harming the surrounding area? 
  • What will the proposed resource costs be? 
  • What about ongoing maintenance, post-retrofit?

Questions about maintenance are especially important, as modernising structures does not end after the last nail has been hammered. Beyond the retrofitting phase, BIM helps extend the long-term structural and operational health of infrastructure. 

Among the various kinds of data linked to each element in the model, information about the manufacturer, repair history, part number, and warranty should be available. This data serves as a valuable reference to perform preventive maintenance or to gauge ongoing system efficiency levels for structures retrofitted with energy-efficient equipment.

Overcoming potential BIM limitations 

It’s important to remember that despite its many benefits, BIM isn’t an infrastructure panacea. 

Many older structures were built well before 1980, which was when BIM began gaining acceptance within the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries. As a result of this, retrofitting older structures comes with hurdles that can test BIM’s capabilities.

In many cases, original 2D drawings are the only records available of this older infrastructure — if they even still exist — and they may not be entirely accurate. Additionally, it can be impossible to uncover what repairs or updates crews may have made after the creation of the original blueprints, or what modifications they made that aren’t recorded anywhere.

Producing 3D models with these limitations may require additional technological capabilities, including laser technology, to scan the actual structure.

Project intelligence is often lacking because structure, materials and cost details are decentralised, if they’re even known at all. 

An interactive BIM model that provides insights requires linked data. Not just the operational variety mentioned above, but information such as cost, material composition, dimensions and quantities. You need meticulous upfront research and time to input it into the model to achieve the accuracy that BIM depends on. 

The resulting benefits realised from BIM’s capabilities far outweigh this initial front-end effort for the design, construction and post-retrofit operational phases.

Using BIM to evaluate if you should rebuild 

While some structures may be slated for retrofitting, it’s often difficult to know for sure if it’s the best option. This is something BIM can assist with. 

For several decades, BIM has helped answer the standard ‘what-if’ questions about design, materials and costs. It can also help determine whether it is financially and environmentally better to retrofit the existing structure or to simply demolish it and start over. 

This could be the key question in the initial evaluation of infrastructure projects. With a little extra effort, you can use BIM to determine impact on costs, surrounding buildings and environment, and what materials you might have to swap out for a retrofit. With government funding on the line, this approach can ensure you’re making the most appropriate, cost-effective decisions.

While one cannot yet fully realise BIM’s potential in this area, the momentum to build could represent an opportunity to use BIM in this exciting and evolutionary way. 

InEight’s virtual modelling can help you better plan new capital projects or assess retrofitting existing structures. Visit to request a demo and explore how it can help in your future capital projects.

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by InEight. For more information, please visit

Related articles

Leave a reply

©2024 Infrastructure Magazine. All rights reserved


We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.


Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?