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Time to change BIM for Infrastructure to IIM – Infrastructure Information Modelling


In a recent development, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities’ Smart ICT in Australia recommended; that as part of its infrastructure procurement processes it requires BIM to LOD500 on all major infrastructure projects. These projects include the ones that are exceeding $50 million in cost, or receiving Australian Government funding, or the projects partially funded by Federal Government in partnership with state, territory and local governments.

BIM has several uses in the civil engineering construction. However; it would not be wrong to say that currently BIM companies use 3D models to coordinate design inputs from across various disciplines – that’s it. The current application of BIM is yet to give out any independently measured or bench marked productivity. There of course is a lot of potential, but let’s not forget that BIM does, only and exactly those things, which a competent designer thinks or does. Though the progression it has showed in terms of integrating the entire documentation suite is commendable, it still is unable to give the clients a single point of accountability which fits for tenders and for construction as well.

The application is still opaque, and does not give that universal access and acceptance to supply chain stakeholders across the project. It will be a tough time for BIM and DFMA – Design for Manufacture and Assembly, to attain the goals unless and until there is a detailed and evolved approach towards procurement by industry clients and consultants, who as of now are happy with the slow progress or the results they are furnished with. BIM’s worth can and will be proved only once it gives measurable improvement to on site workflows which are independently benchmarked with peers.

The opinion might have formed, because the industry has been pushing BIM adoption and its applications really hard, but mainly in the “vertical BIM – buildings”, whereas adoption of horizontal or the “linear BIM- infrastructure” is reluctant.

When it comes to infrastructure and of course the client base as well, the reasons for being reluctant in adopting BIM for Infrastructural projects is mostly the time that goes in raising funds and procurements through public bodies including federal, state and even local. We also cannot deny the hang-ups posed by the current arrangement of contractual frameworks viz. a viz. the protracted delivery timelines of gigantic infrastructure projects.

For enumerating other challenges we can include:

  • Lack of technical expertise
  • Soft and Hard implementation costs
  • Lack of industry standards, and many more

All this culminate to one thing, clients are unaware and industry so far has done a poor job when it comes to communicating the benefits of migrating to BIM from “traditional” client outcome delivery methods.

The G20 meetings across year 2014, made Year 2015 witness the creation of the Global Infrastructure HUB in Sydney. Also countries in the Asia Pacific region are planning to spend around $700 billion year on year for the next three decades on infrastructure projects. Australia and New Zealand governments have planned infrastructure spending on airports, rail, roads, bridges & dam, tunnels, ports etc., in coming years.

Considering these motivational drivers, to club with the learnings from successful adoption & implementation of BIM across the UK and USA, and several successfully completed rail infrastructure projects in Australia, things seem quite positive as we are about to start climbing the BIM for infrastructure stairway. No doubts that it’s a large wheel that we need to turn, but it has now started gathering momentum, and hopefully is likely to see enhanced understanding by client organizations, increasing concrete savings and productivity.

More effective data management pre and post construction tends to vary across building construction sectors. Water and sewerage and roads are woeful examples. Adopting BIM approach in these areas is good, but convincing clients and stakeholders might be a bigger challenge.

The future of BIM for infrastructure looks really bright in coming years, and personally are equipping ourselves to adopt common robust methodologies that provide both productivity for companies and also for those sustainable outcomes for infrastructure client organization and their clients, the public, as well.

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