Towards a digital future

With building information modelling (BIM) on the rise in Queensland and the state government releasing a new implementation policy, Roads & infrastructure Magazine finds out what this means for the local sector. With building information modelling (BIM) on the rise in Queensland and the state government releasing a new implementation policy, Roads & infrastructure Magazine finds out what this means for the local sector. 

For Queensland, the uptake of building information modelling (BIM) within the wider construction sector, including linear infrastructure, has been on the rise in recent years.

Steve Abson, CEO of Infrastructure Association of Queensland (IAQ), says there has been a surprising amount of BIM uptake in Queensland, particularly in Brisbane and the south-east of the state. He partly attributes the region’s rise in uptake, collaboration and knowledge sharing over the past few years to an active group of professionals joining with academia to further the application of BIM in the state – BrisBIM.

“It’s now a very strong cohort of professionals from public and private sectors coming together to explore and get talking about BIM in the right context,” Mr. Abson says.

The non-profit group is now in its sixth year and has helped provide an avenue for asset owners, practitioners, contractors and others to come together and discuss, learn and share about BIM in the region.

Likewise, IAQ has been active in the field by way of its digital taskforce, working with government and contractors and promoting the benefits of mandating and benchmarking BIM practices with local agencies.

“People are seeing the benefits of BIM beyond design, particularly the benefits in construction and operation of linear assets, which has been a really strong feature of Queensland in last few years,” he adds.

The Cross River Rail Delivery Authority (CRRDA), the organisation tasked with delivering the state’s 10.2-kilometre-long Cross River Rail project, identified and pursued the opportunities presented by BIM early on. Through its “Project DNA”, which stands for “Digital Network Approach”, CRRDA made a commitment to put BIM and digital modelling at the centre of everything it does.

“The CRRDA was the first to really take the step of implementing BIM as part of its tender process for the tunnel and stations design. They asked tenderers to submit project proposals in BIM using a common data environment (CDE). They’ve really done that ahead of policy because they could see the benefits.”

While the conversation around BIM in infrastructure has been bubbling away in the background, Mr. Abson says the next step to increase the uptake and development of BIM in Queensland has really been in the hands of the Queensland Government, which has now acknowledged the need to focus on BIM workflows in infrastructure projects and taken action.

In November last year, the state government announced the introduction of a new policy that aims to bring BIM to the forefront in government infrastructure projects, and is putting Queensland in a practical position for BIM implementation.

With building information modelling (BIM) on the rise in Queensland and the state government releasing a new implementation policy, Roads & infrastructure Magazine finds out what this means for the local sector. 
Steve Abson.

The Digital Enablement for Queensland Infrastructure – Principles for BIM Implementation policy has been produced for use by officers within the state government, including departments, agencies and statutory authorities and apply to those involved in any part of the lifecycle of new major construction assets. This includes planning, procurement, design contract management, construction, operation or maintenance.

The principles – under the subsections of ‘Open’, ‘Managed’, ‘Effective’ and ‘Supported – are intended to provide a framework that enables the use of BIM on the full lifecycle of government infrastructure projects and deliver measurable benefits.

The policy also outlines that the use of BIM will be required on all new government construction projects with an estimated capital cost of $50 million or more by 2023.

At the time of the announcement, Queensland Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said BIM is a “win-win” for designers, builders, asset managers and stakeholders delivering government infrastructure.

“It’s a collaborative and productive way of working that will help us to better design, construct, manage and operate the assets that we built,” Minister Dick said. “This will ultimately de-risk projects by improving their on-time and on-budget delivery, as well as reduce workplace heath and safety issues.”

Mr. Abson calls the announcement of the principles the first step towards the use of digital engineering in major Queensland infrastructure projects.

“It’s really creating potential. Companies have been a bit reluctant to invest in BIM training and intelligence and this provides a lot more certainty and will start to shape the future,” he explains.

Mr. Abson says some organisations have managed to build a strong business case for investing in BIM internally, but it has always needed a certainty in standards to create wider investment, which can only really come from government.

Importantly, the principles are also intended to provide industry with a level of confidence in the state’s staged adoption of BIM over the next five years towards the 2023 target.

“It’s an achievable target and it means each government agency needs to develop particular steps for BIM implementation in their respective portfolios, which also come under the government’s overarching control of those standards,” he says.

“What value would BIM add to a new hospital, for instance? The benefits it would add to a linear project would be different to that.”

“The value created by BIM should ideally pull through each stage of project planning, design and delivery and come back to the delivery agency and final asset owner. While planning and concept design activities are starting to unlock value through BIM, this isn’t flowing strongly into the major project delivery stages yet.”

Those delivering the infrastructure – the designers and contractors – are then the ones that Mr. Abson sees as playing a key role here and who can benefit from the flow-on effects of the Queensland Government’s move towards BIM implementation, if they embrace it.

“Contractors have been using digital ‘serious games’ to simulate critical work sequences, de-risk activities and assist them in winning work for a number of years, so there is an appetite out there,” he says.

“But, to really embed this technology, an industry growth centre is required to provide support and education. Companies out there are either at the high end of the BIM spectrum or have zero capability – and it will often all be construct-only contractors at zero and sophisticated design houses at the high end. But it’s important everyone gets up to the same standard,” he explains.

“Things have got to start to change in that delivery environment to really unlock the full benefits. There are a lot of things that have got to change for that to happen.”

He emphasises the need for collaboration in industry in taking the steps made from the release of the state’s implementation policy further – a move that is not without its challenges.

“The extent of any collaboration through BIM is currently reliant on the terms of the project deeds, which is one of the barriers looking forward,” Mr. Abson says.

He cites an example of a major design and construct road project in NSW where the contractor is required to use BIM but has to submit 2D drawings to the independent verifier to achieve sign-off of each individual drawing in a 21-day cycle time.

“The bigger the project, the more collaboration you need. With more end users you will create far more benefits if your supply chain is equipped and using a CDE well.”

Mr. Abson believes industry is starting to understand the immense benefits of working with BIM, but it’s still very patchy. The challenge, he says, revolves about certainty and educating people on the benefits.

“Cross River Rail is already a bit of a pilot for BIM in Queensland. But trialling different BIM platforms on smaller projects will also help iron out any issues,” he says.

“Consultation with organised groups like BrisBIM, the private sector and other experienced stakeholders overseas needs to continue. There are all kinds of key decisions to make over next couple of years and I think it’s critical that the hard work starts now and that collaboration on this critical initiative continues.”


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