Do we need a BIM Mandate in Australia?

In Australia

There is some debate within the Australian BIM fraternity on the merits of a UK style approach. i.e a BIM ‘mandate’ for all government projects.

My reading of the industry sentiment is:

  • Many are pro-mandate (particularly in the software sales & BIM consulting fields) since: BIM mandate=greater software sales and consulting services.
  • practitioners (such as myself) are less certain, since there is the potential for BIM to become a bureaucratic quagmire, even if it does bring some much needed consistency.

The free marketeer in me says surely, if the benefits were so compelling it wouldn’t be necessary to have a mandate. Natural industry competitiveness would drive change including government projects.

However, having a uniform approach across all government departments and jurisdictions has obvious benefits for both government and the delivery chain.

UK BIM strategy- has it been successful ?

The first step in determining if Australia should emulate the UK approach would be an honest & objective evaluation of the UK experience.

The goal of the UK BIM ‘Digital Built Britain’ strategy is twofold:

  • reduce capital cost
  • reduce carbon emissions

The target for ‘level 2’ was 20%, and 33% for level 3 (whole life costs)

Designing and constructing using BIM does not automatically do that. It can be demonstrated that waste and rework can be reduced using BIM- but does this really add up to 20% ??

Transferring BIM data into an FM system might be beneficial- but isn’t going to necessarily save 20% either.

There must be some hard metrics on the UK BIM strategy i.e quantifiable measures against the above targets, although I haven’t found anything compelling yet. If anyone can point me in the right direction, I would appreciate it. However, I guess it must be proving itself, as the move to Level 3 is now underway. Maybe the Brits have other things to worry about right now.

Pluses & minuses

Considering the benefits to industry (primarily designers & constructors) rather than to owners or operators (including government), the benefit of a BIM mandate is that consistency & predictability is increased. It also levels the playing field and could neutralise both the more outrageous claimed benefits and unrealistic contract requirements of BIM.

The BIM standards & protocols established for government projects would flow through into the rest of industry and possibly improve delivery in private sector projects. We really need decent BIM standards to work from- despite the high quality & gallant (but Revit centric) efforts  of ANZRS & BIM-MEPAUS this will get worse the longer it is left.

However, on the downside, a BIM mandate could bring an onerous layer of ‘red tape’ to industry. Whilst many are quite happy to milk this for all it is worth, at some point you have to pay the piper. In other words, the promise of expected benefits can only be sustained for so long.

Just healthy skepticism

Don’t get me wrong- I’m a firm believer in the benefits of technology if it is properly applied. I’m certainly not saying that BIM can’t have significant benefits.

Whilst I find the construction industry frustratingly conservative and slow moving, I must admit I wonder if the UK policy makers have had the wool pulled over their eyes by some clever BIM marketing.

The poll

I’ll sit on the fence

Without wanting to influence the results of my poll, my view is:

  • Yes: if in the form of practical & sensible strategy (say a trimmed down UK one) along with readable documents (à la Building Code of Australia or Australian Standards)
  • No: if in the style of a NATSPEC or BuildingSmart document (a morass of unintelligible jargon)