Building Information Modelling (BIM): A construction revolution

10 July 2013

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is transforming how large projects are being constructed the world over. With its unparalleled capacity to improve coordination between design teams, construction contractors and operators, BIM offers better results at a lower cost.

Advanced countries in North America, Europe and Asia are already benefiting from BIM in both project delivery as well as ongoing asset management. In contrast, countries that are slow to embrace the BIM revolution are at risk of falling further behind in the global construction industry.

BIM has been identified by governments globally as a more co-ordinated and cost-efficient way to build and manage assets over their lifecycle.

BIM brings together all parties early in the project and connects them into a virtual ‘design’ forum to review the simulated structure, share information and raise issues. The virtual information model is handed from the design team (architects, surveyors, engineers, etc) to the main contractor and subcontractors and then on to the owner/operator. Each professional adds their own data to the single, shared model.

This improves coordination among the various stakeholders (whether they are designers, contractors, fabricators) and allows for scheduling or design clashes to be detected early.  It also reduces information losses that can occur when a new team takes 'ownership' of the project, and means fewer costly misunderstandings between the design and the construction participants, and the facilities managers.

BIM is evolving rapidly. While the current use of BIM is generally limited to a 3D virtual walkthrough of a project as it is built, new dimensions will soon be added such as time-construction sequencing (fourth dimension), cost information (fifth dimension) and facility management (sixth dimension). Each additional dimension integrates more information about the project, boosting the model’s overall completeness and efficacy.

As more information or ‘intelligence’ is added, the data can be “mined” to identify and monitor the project’s performance. Close tracking of performance means that intervention can happen earlier if a project element is falling behind the design specifications.

Data ‘mining’ of the model can also play a valuable role in identifying the most efficient way to operate and maintain the asset going forward.  

However, BIM is not without challenges. A particular issue is the preparedness of owner clients (whether public or private sector) to appreciate how BIM affects project delivery structure and the associated risks for project stakeholders. BIM demands a more collaborative approach in contracts for projects. 

A consistent approach towards contracting for and utilising BIM is critical to generating the productivity and performance gains that the modelling can achieve. In the United States (widely recognised as the leader of the BIM movement) and Scandinavian countries, governments are implementing national standards to improve consistency and make it easier to use BIM in the construction industry. 

Similarly, governments in the United Kingdom and some other parts of Europe have issued requirements for BIM on public projects. The Building and Construction Authority in Singapore has released the Singapore BIM Guide which provides a common BIM standard to accelerate the technology’s use and development.  Its use is also being promoted in China and Korea.

In Australia, the Australian Government (through the Built Environment Innovation Council and Building SMART) released the National Building Information Modelling Initiative (NBI) Report which sets out the strategy for the adoption of BIM, and related digital technologies and processes for the Australian built environment.

This widespread implementation demonstrates that BIM is not merely the latest trend in the construction industry but is a fundamental tool transforming the way we develop new infrastructure. Those who fail to embrace its capabilities risk being unable to compete effectively in the global construction market.  

For countries that are yet to develop BIM practices, the experience of global leaders offers fertile ground to learn from and tailor standards to suit the specific circumstances of their own domestic construction industries.  

A detailed paper on the state of the use of BIM globally and legal and commercial considerations and some of the challenges in its use in Australia has been published in the International Construction Law Review July 2013 edition, click here to view.

The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.


Andrew Chew

Partner. Sydney
+61 2 9210 6607