The UK’s excellence in building information modelling will see it “rebuild its empire” if other countries don’t quickly lift their game, Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure conference has heard.
Through the use of BIM and green building innovation, the UK’s Construction 2025 strategy aims to cut construction capital expenditure by 33 per cent, delivery time by 50 per cent, carbon emissions by 50 per cent, and also reduce “the trade gap between total exports and total imports for construction products and materials” by 50 per cent.
It’s this last point that other countries should pay attention to, Bentley chief operating officer Malcolm Walter told the conference crowd.
“When I’m in a country that isn’t the UK, I like to say, ‘It’s the intent of the Brits to come back and rebuild their empire… You better adopt these practices or the Brits will come and build your infrastructure,’” Mr Walter said.
Central to the Brit’s leadership is a government mandate that BIM be used for all centrally procured government contracts from 2016. Not just any BIM, but level 2 BIM, which necessitates a managed 3D environment held in separate discipline BIM tools with data attached, and could involve 4D construction sequencing and/or 5D cost information. The mandate is driving the uptake of BIM in the UK, with 94 per cent of firms using BIM in some form – 56 per cent at level 2 and 38 per cent at level 1.
Savings in capital expenditure are already estimated as being up to 20 per cent, and engineers and consultants on such projects as the 2012 Olympics and London Crossrail are now popping up on projects across the world thanks to their BIM expertise, the conference heard.
For Australia, things sadly haven’t moved anywhere in the past year. According to one Bentley executive, Australia had a lack of political leadership in the area, and a lack of push in the industry to get the government to act. This is despite a report showing benefits of close to $8 billion a year to the economy.
A key problem, some Australian attendees said, was confusion over what BIM was. Common belief was it was simply a 3D software program or an addition where you could “just slap on three coats of BIM”, rather than a process necessitating cultural change.
However, David Philp, head of BIM at consultancy Mace, said it wasn’t a matter of if, but when firms will implement BIM – though those who don’t move quickly enough face extinction.
The digital economy, he said, was transforming the way we live and work, and the construction industry – often seen as slow to innovate and change – would not be immune.
Those who resisted BIM, Mr Philp said, faced a “digital Darwinism”, where laggard incumbents would drop off, replaced by those firms able to leverage BIM for the savings in capital expenditure, carbon emissions and delivery time.
The Fifth Estate travelled to London as a guest of Bentley Systems