May 16, 2012


While almost all of us in the development and construction industry are aware of the potential benefits of new digital design technologies (including Building Information Modeling), there are many who have found that collaborative consultant teams working on their projects are yet to live up to their expectations.

It’s not surprising when you think about it. We are asking companies who have no vested interest in each other to work together to achieve what? Transformation of the design, construction and operation of buildings? Can they even see the day when this will happen and they will play their role in this? Some are still not sure what the benefits are to them, and their firms. But here at Ellivo we’ve developed a healthy respect for what BIM can do for our clients, our service, and us. One we want to share with you.

We are starting to see two parallel worlds emerging in BIM. One where some clients and development managers are reaping the benefits of quicker delivery times, improved design resolution, accurate cost estimates and coordinated documents – and yes, in some cases lower consultant fees. And in the other, world, some are experiencing exactly the opposite.

We understand that some consultants are even seeking additional fees to use modern 3d+ technology in their designs! Why would this be so? Surely it is part of our job to evolve and leverage these tools for our clients and our own business efficiency.

Over the coming three weeks we are going to provide a detailed insight into the BIM minefield, a pragmatic “users guide”, offering practical suggestions to developers and development managers to benefit from this new technology revolution, and not be saddled with consultant teams that still have their “L” plates on.

Firstly, it’s important to understand why there is such a disparity in consultant uptake and performance, so we offer a snapshot of the industry is at and provide some insights into why there is such parallel and polar experiences in an otherwise fairly similar industry:

 · We’re seeing increased efficiency - Selected Architecture, Engineering and Quantity Surveying firms that have been early adopters have now successfully completed implementation of new technologies, and are achieving increased efficiencies within their companies – quicker time responses and increasingly sophisticated models at earlier design stages provides greater value for clients and stakeholders.

 · Cost savings in consulting fees are now possible –We are aware of selected Structural Engineers and Quantity Surveyors that will offer an alternative ‘discounted fee’ when a suitably constructed and compatible architectural model is available and saves them time.

 · But some are struggling and disappointing developers - Late or recent adopters are struggling to fully implement the required systems, training and software, resulting in patchy delivery of service, particularly when working in a collaborative team environment. Many clients that have experienced this have been underwhelmed. Sadly these types of experiences set BIM back in the eyes of developers, and can cost them on several fronts. We encourage developers to do their research on who they are selecting for their teams to attempt to overcome this risk of disappointment.

 · BIM is changing the way consulting teams work together – No longer are we independent players managing our own process and delivering each component to the developer for them to amalgamate. Increasingly we require key participants in the consulting teams to formally collaborate, buy in to the principle of information sharing and also to put in place firm standards, protocols and approach. Putting the right team together, and ensuring they have strong positive leadership and structured management is certainly one of the critical elements.

 · Projects using collaborative BIM on the rise -While the number of collaborative BIM projects is slowly increasing, successful projects are a reflection of the consultants selected and management approach, not the project size or complexity. Bigger is not necessarily better.

 · Facilities Management is becoming an increasing driver for adoption- There is a growing Industry awareness of the value of digital models for ongoing Facility Management. Asset owners can create an FM database directly from their project model giving them the ability to cost facility management and procurement and use the tool in lifecycle management of assets.

 · Queensland is leading the way - Generally, Queensland is ahead of the rest of Australia in terms of implementation and BIM teams collaborating. Perhaps this is because the development industry is less patchy here post GFC, or perhaps it is because of our cowboy-like confidence to have a go.

Why has the BIM uptake been slower than anticipated?

 · Implementation is both expensive and time - consuming, and requires long-term commitment from business owners. Both the GFC (and possibly the retirement plans of directors) have dampened enthusiasm for expensive long-term investment within some consultant companies.

 · The software is still developing – It has come a long way to get this far, but there is new elements coming with architectural, structural and estimating ahead of MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing).

 · There has been less demand from clients for BIM than anticipated - This is probably due to the decreased appetite for risk, and the capital concerns raised during the GFC and post-GFC period. But we are slowing seeing this improve with Developers looking to reap the range of benefits BIM offers.

 This article is part of a three part series on BIM that we will offer weekly:

 1. Where is BIM Now?: A snapshot where BIM is at in Australia

 2. Considering BIM?: What you as a client need to know

 3. Looking forward 5 years: What will BIM do to our development and property landscape?