How Building Information Modelling Can Change Construction


Helen Bell[/caption]

Ahead of the 6th Annual Modular Construction and Prefabrication Australia 2015 conference caught up with Helen Bell, director of research at the Green Building Council of Australia, to get an update on their research and use of Business Information Modelling.

What areas of research are you pursuing at the moment and how advanced is the research sector for sustainable property in Australia?

At the moment I’m looking at the uses of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in modular construction, in preparation for the 6th Annual Modular Construction conference, which is being held in Sydney on the 25th and 26th of August. I’ve been speaking to Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) members about their use of BIM and digital engineering.

I’m also looking at the financial benefits of Green Star certification across the industry: Green Star office, retail, education, multi-unit residential and communities. They’re different in each sector. Initially, the benefit of Green Star certification was the ability to demonstrate industry leadership. That’s still a driver, however we’re now seeing tenants demand Green Star certified office space, as well as companies using Green Star to verify their sustainability credentials as part of their annual reporting. We’re also seeing it used as a way of independently verifying the long term sustainability credentials of developments. The transformation of the built environment is extending to the consumer market, with Green Star being used in the retail sector as well as in multi-unit residential developments and in the development of communities.

Can you give a brief overview of what Building Information Modelling (BIM) is all about?
BIM is digital technology allowing industry to document and share information, improve productivity and increase safety and efficiency throughout the planning, design, construction and usBIMe of buildings and infrastructure. In the past, architects and engineers have used 2D CAD (computer-aided design) modelling for building design, construction and/or management. Many now also use 3D, 4D (3D with time and/or schedule information) or 5D (4D with cost data). These models are shared across the disciplines and updated (often in real time) as the project progresses.

The benefits of BIM are increased collaboration, reduced errors and omissions (particularly in clash detection), improved safety (as more work can be done off site, so there are fewer people on the worksite and there’s less call for people to be hanging in a duct eight floors off the ground installing fans), reduced construction times, with less down time due to clashes, more prefabrication such as concrete tables with MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) installed being delivered to the site, and the ability to identify and plan around delays.

Is Building Information Modelling becoming more accepted in the industry? What hurdles are there to overcome?
The GBCA conducted research in 2013 into the uptake of BIM in Australia, assessing the uptake, drivers and barriers. Back then, transition and behavioural costs (including business process change) was identified as the largest barrier across the industry. This was followed by the need for greater maturity in the supply chain and the administration and start up costs. Among those already using BIM, maturity in the supply chain was cited as the biggest barrier. From conversations I’ve had with industry leaders over the last few months, this still seems to be the main barrier.

McGraw Hill has conducted research more recently that confirmed that BIM is still not being used to its full potential.
Interoperability, that is, the ability of different systems or software programs to communicate, is essential to the successful use of BIM. Different applications, supplied by different vendors, are used at different stages of the buildings’ design, construction and management, by different disciplines. The benefits of BIM are apparent when it’s used across a project. The time and cost of establishing and updating BIM for an individual discipline aren’t always recovered through savings – there is a split incentive – as the benefits accrue to other players.

To increase the success of BIM, it needs to be specified at the tender stage, with clear definitions, ownership of the model and responsibilities for updates. This approach is being used in the UK and in Singapore, where the governments have specified the use of BIM.

In Australia we’re pushing for the development of standards. Building Smart is doing a great job here across the industry. We’re also educating the market about the benefits of BIM, as increased awareness and recognition of the benefits will lead to an increased take up in projects where it’s economically viable. The BIM-MEPAUS initiative is promoting the use of BIM and educating our trades contractors, where trades are seeing immediate benefits of its uptake.

The development of BIM Standards and Conformance are central to BIM. The GBCA has been working with APEC to develop guidelines for these standards. Last August the GBCA presented on BIM at APEC SMO3 in Beijing. The Guide on Performance Metrics and BIM to Support Green Building Objectives was released in July. The guide illustrates a systematic approach leading from green building vision to policy and practical implementation steps that we’ll be able to use here in Australia in promoting the use of BIM.

What’s one of the main messages you’d like to get across to attendees at the forthcoming Modular Construction & Prefabrication Summit?

The GBCA has a role in increasing awareness of the benefits of BIM, not least because BIM promotes efficiency. It also promotes sustainable design, providing a framework and language for interdisciplinary cooperation from the beginning of each project.

I’d like people to walk away from the summit thinking “BIM is something our organisation should start looking into and learn a bit more about, because it really could make us more competitive in the future.”


What is one of your most favoured green buildings in Australia and why?

I like the Commonwealth Bank building Lend Lease built at Darling Quarter (main picture - top). It connects Darling Harbour to the city and the adventure playground they’ve built on the Western side is a fabulous place to take kids for an afternoon of water play. It also has the ‘quadrella’ of 6 Star Green Star ratings for its design, construction, interior and operational performance.

One Central Park (pictured right), on Sydney’s Broadway, has had a similar transformative impact. It’s a 5 Star Green Star – Multi Unit Residential Design v1 rated building that has turned the old Carlton United Brewery site into a thriving community. It has brought people into the precinct and created a street level vibrancy, right across the site. It’s also a beautiful building to live in – I was there when it was still being painted and there was no odour, as they were using paint with no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). There is so much natural light, not only in the apartments but also reflected into the grassed public spaces. And the green wall is beautiful as well as functional.

I also like 1 Bligh Street in Sydney (pictured below). It was awarded a 6 Star Green Star – Office As Built v2 rating back in 2012. It makes me proud to be Australian when I see it held up as a global example of the use of BIM.

1 Bligh Street, Sydney[/caption]In Canberra, I like the Frank Fenner Building at the ANU that Hindmarsh built. It has a 6 Star Green Star – As Built v3 rating. The project team used a lot of recycled timber and the interior is beautiful. They also built a series of ponds to treat the storm water, which I admire regularly as they’re on my running route. There’s also the Nishi Building in Canberra’s NewActon. This precinct is a new hub within the city – with bars, restaurants, a movie theatre and markets and the Nishi Building is a central part of that. The distinctive lumbar façade and the branching sculpture made from recycled tyres on the Eastern side are features you can point to as easily identifiably green. There’s also the Abode hotel project in Woden, which retrofitted an office building to make a beautiful hotel.

Frank Fenner Building, Australian National University[/caption]

How is Australia comparing to the rest of the world in adoption of green building practices?

Australians can be proud of our leadership in green building. Our green building council was one of the first to be established, and is one of the largest and most influential in the world. The top sustainability indices – such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey – are overrun with Australian companies. In fact, GRESB finds Australia/New Zealand leads the world in terms of green building.

We have 39 6 Star Green Star As Built buildings; a 6 Star Green Star rating is awarded to projects demonstrating world leadership. So green building is strong in Australia – in the CBD office market Green Star certification has become business as usual.

Mandatory disclosure of energy ratings has also helped to drive green building here. I presented on energy efficiency in Australia’s green buildings at APEC in Beijing last year and the audience was surprised to learn we have mandatory disclosure, which has certainly encouraged the uptake of NABERS Energy ratings.

Are there any trends you’re noticing overseas that are starting to become adopted here?

We now have global environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) reporting. REITs are reporting on their sustainability credentials. Six years ago I undertook some research into the role of sustainability managers and they said sustainability would be integrated within their organisations and they’d be able to turn their attention to their supply chains. That’s happening now. Some of our biggest consumer brands are looking at their ESG performance and their supply chains. This will have an impact on the space they occupy for their corporate headquarters, but also for their retail outlets.

There has been a huge increase in collaboration between firms, disciplines and across locations. Architecture and engineering firms can now bring together global teams to pitch for projects. The uptake of BIM will continue to contribute to the ease of this collaboration.

Who are some of the inspiring industry leaders that you look up to and why?

Sumit Oberi is doing a great job leading the BIM MEP Aus initiative. He and his team are upskilling our trades teams and suppliers, addressing one of the industry’s biggest barriers to the uptake of BIM.

Ian Hardcastle

, at Laing O’Rourke, is part of one of Australia’s most advanced digital engineering teams. He’s passionate about the current and potential uses for BIM and is also training hundreds of people each year to get them up to speed. They build everything twice – once digitally and once physically.

Marshall Strabala

, Chief Architect of Shanghai Tower, has been incorporating sustainable features into skyscrapers around the globe. The Shanghai Tower is amazing! It has been dubbed the world’s tallest green building. There are myriad sustainability features. Two of the biggest are the spiraling double glass façade, reducing wind resistance and reducing the amount of material required, and the stacked design. The core comprises nine sections, each with its own HVAC system. There should be significant operational savings. Shanghai Tower is also a global example of the use of BIM!

Shanghai Tower. Picture supplied by Marshall Strabala. Photographer Nicky Almasy.[/caption]

Shanghai Tower. Picture supplied by Marshall Strabala. Photographer Nicky Almasy.[/caption]

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