As the Australian construction industry continues to look for ways to become safer, more efficient and more innovative, the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is gaining traction.
The industry’s peak bodies are backing the digital transformation. In January this year, the Australasian Procurement and Construction Council (APCC) and Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) announced they had hosted the inaugural meeting of the Australasian Building Information Modelling Advisory Board.
The Board has been established by the APCC and ACIF, together with key standard setting bodies NATSPEC, buildingSMART and Standards Australia.
It involves a partnership between the building industry, government and academia, with the aim of providing national leadership to improve productivity and project outcomes through the adoption of Project Team Integration and BIM.
Shannon Thomas, Executive Manager of the BIM-MEPAUS Initiative says that with BIM taking off in Australia, the Air Conditioning and Mechanical Contractors’ Association (AMCA) together with its members and other industry stakeholders, recognised some years ago there was an opportunity to create a best practice standard methodology for sharing BIM-derived information within the mechanical, electrical and plumbing services (MEP) space.
BIM is a 3D model-based digital design and documentation process that gives architecture, engineering and construction professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently construct and manage buildings.
The BIM-MEPAUS methodology allows consistent, standardised design and documentation information shared between the design team and contractors to flow down to suppliers, which ultimately results in a much more collaborative, repeatable and efficient design workflow and procurement process.
'Through the members of the AMCA, we’ve found there is a real benefit for the supply chain when BIM design, performance and quality information is shared in a standardised format', Thomas explains.
The fabrication aspect of the HVAC delivery method also benefits when 3D geometry, associated technical data and construction standards related to specific services is all shared directly with fabricators––reducing the chance of error and helping to eliminate rework and waste.
Further, through the BIM-MEPAUS Initiative, the established 'Design to Commissioned As-Built' workflow allows for an 'As Built' BIM model to be delivered to the client with a standardised data set, able to be utilised in facility and asset management operations.
'The on-site trades also directly benefit from the digital transformation affecting the construction industry', Thomas says.
BIM positively affects on-site operations through enhanced communications between the entire project team resulting in improved coordination, safety and reduced time spent on rework or dealing with detail design changes at the 11th hour.
More and more, consultants, contractors and trades are using technology on site with access to BIM models, enabling more efficient visual communication of design intent, assembly sequence plus the ability to measure progress through completed work.
BIM is offering many benefits over traditional methods of 2D drawings.
'It’s all about efficient communication via access to and sharing of information', Thomas says.
Plumbing consultants Aqualogical are among the early adopters of BIM approaches.
Owner of the Queensland-based company, Anthony Freeman, says that more and more of the major projects the company works on have been moving into the BIM space.
What it means for the consultants and relevant subcontractors is an ability to more effectively coordinate everything, Freeman says.
Everything is virtually built off-site, before teams hit the ground, which means savings on time and waste.
Freeman says that in terms of plumbing, BIM can have its challenges, as the geometry of pipes and their shapes can be difficult to model, for example, pipes being laid at grade.
But using the technology still does pay off on-site, he says.
Where projects are moving to BIM, something that is often instigated either by the architect or the head contractor, trades need to have an understanding of the technology.
It is a different approach working from 3D models instead of traditional plans.
For example, when a change is made to a design on paper, that change then has to be manually translated across to every other relevant drawing. When a change is made within a BIM model, the software automatically changes every other relevant part of the design.
This not only saves time in terms of the drawing board, it also vastly reduces opportunities for error.
Freeman says BIM also means project managers and others are taking a model on a tablet or other device to site––not drawings.
While drawings are still able to be produced by BIM software in a format similar to AutoCAD, they are no longer essential for managing the build.
One of the big advantages for the subtrades is being able to quote and tender more accurately, as it is possible to get a print out of the bill of quantities for exactly what elements are in the project.
'That is an advantage in terms of winning projects'.
It also means less waste, as instead of the business-as-usual assumption of 10 per cent waste added to any estimate of materials, a more accurate picture is gained in the first place. This means less need to err on the side of caution in terms of over-ordering.
Trades do not necessarily need to have their own BIM software in-house. Freeman says that architects using BIM for projects can export the relevant details as a CAD file for the relevant trades.
Thomas says that with the inevitable wave of digital transformation blanketing the construction sector, the mission for the industry and trades is one of awareness, understanding and education to assist in effective implementation of BIM.
The AMCA is highly active with awareness and broader, widespread adoption of BIM through the BIM-MEPAUS Construction Innovation Forum.
Freeman says the Forum is unique in that it brings together thought leaders and best practice case studies by leading firms from around the globe, to share the direct benefits of BIM and how it can be applied on a practical level.