Globally there are a variety of BIM implementation policies that are driving and promoting change throughout the built environment. It is imperative for global trade and working within the context of an international stage that Australia acknowledge, utilises and addresses these changes to enable greater integration with other regions in this sector. This will aid in the growth of our economy and also provide a strong opportunity for export of trade and skill to other regions, boosting our reputation and acknowledgement of Australia as a global leader in BIM related processes and procedures.
Unfortunately, in the context of BIM we are seeing a disjointed, varied and somewhat naïve approach toward implementation within the sector both nationally and locally. With each independent government department promoting, acknowledge or creating an opportunity for BIM, it seems a wasted resource to enable growth in our sector when our approach is disjointed and fragmented. A federal mandate may come about, but currently there is no real driver for this to occur.
The above indicates that the cultural variations in regions such as Australia are ultimately driving our industry even further from a unified solution in regard to BIM. With rapidly developing international standards driving a BIM approach globally, it seems a shame that within Australia we are not driving the approach through tried and tested methods such as the rapidly advanced UK and Scottish BIM implementation. There is also a resistance to using ‘standards’ to drive a consistent approach in Australia, and we are seeing a varied level of disjointed methods on projects of different types and scale.
As a relatively small industry there is huge potential to drive efficiencies and better managed processes in Australia as we are agile and equipped for change. Influencing and changing the future of an industry the third of the size of the UK seems a no brainer. However, as a small nation, and geographically isolated the cultural approach toward this is that ‘why do we need to?’. Having lived and worked in both geographies, it is safe to say that we must be looking outward, not inward in our approach to innovation. The built environment is a sector with huge global growth opportunities and the opportunity to grow local business within the context of international opportunities is huge.
As much as the UK has driven a consistent approach to BIM adoption, the challenge is the need to educate, in essence, almost 3 million people who reside in construction related employment. The approach and strategy has been achieved in the UK (and is currently on its journey), yet the skills, the knowledge, and the required processes to deliver on this incentive has not yet been utilised. This is where we can look at driving huge export opportunities within larger and economically stronger regions throughout the world. The focus on export within the UK is also driven by the government, exporting skills and expertise will ultimately lead to opportunities. The UK have driven this approach not only via the release of the Government Construction Strategy in 2011 which ultimately focused on mandating a variety of solutions to enable a greater industry, but also subsequent reports were written which focused on the softer elements for BIM integration such as enabling skills, driving export and education at a young age.
These drivers are documented in the report ‘Construction 2025’ which was released in the UK in 2013, focusing on how government and industry can support the future growth and employment of the sector. The areas of focus included (and not only BIM) but overall strategies which would positively affect the future of the industry (having said this, 2025 is not far away!). Areas such as incentivising people, utilising smart technologies and sustainable methods, growth across the economy and a strong leadership within government were all key priorities which were documented to ultimately support BIM and a greater digitisation of the built environment.
As explained, the sectors’ strategy and vision, although advanced in its approach, lacked the hands on and practical implementation of these drivers and skills and therefore the UK have been focused on ensuring that the industry are equipped with the relevant skills and capabilities to work in this context. More recently this was driven by the formation of groups such as the UKBIM Alliance and WomeninBIM who were formed in the UK and now work globally to support growing a more diverse sector in regard to its people and technologies.
Australia has the opportunity to benefit from the drivers forcing the UK to ultimately change and review the way the Construction industry functions as the skills shortages are at critical levels (and minus the Brexit conundrum) they will need to source these skills somewhere else! The opportunity to source them from regions such as Australia are great as we are not filtered by our own approach and need to be pushed to work within the context of a unified solution within BIM and digital construction. A prime example of this is the development of the international standard (now almost at completion) driving BIM adoption, ISO19650. This standard will aid in a globally unified solution toward working in the context of BIM and is being developed to ensure a level of consistency can be achieved across the built environment globally in regard to BIM.
Australians are agile, young and technology savvy and it would be a shame if our geography hindered us to work on a global stage. The time is now, to change, influence and grow our economy, whilst acknowledging how to ensure our sector stands as a leader.
Rebecca De Cicco
Digital Node Ltd / UK & Australia