Deakin University lecturer, Dr M Reza Hosseini, explains why Australia needs to introduce a common tertiary education strategy to meet industry demand for expertise in digital engineering or as its more commonly known as, Building Information Modelling (BIM).

BIM goes beyond 3D design and serves as a tool that connects architects, building contractors and owners which is critical to improving building efficiency.

BIM is the digital modelling of buildings or infrastructure to provide an intelligent system that connects everyone involved in the development, and can be used as a reliable basis for decisions during a building’s life-cycle – from construction all the way through to the end of life.

A large proportion of Australian companies today are using BIM and this trend is steadily so demand for associated skilled professionals is predicted to increase substantially.

Despite this there is no integrated plan across Australia’s tertiary sector to guide a universal curriculum in the core knowledge, skills and abilities relating to BIM.

At Deakin, two new units focusing on BIM were introduced last year into construction management courses – Introduction to Building Information Modelling for undergraduate students, and Principles of Building Information Modelling for postgraduates.

The School of Architecture and Built Environment is also developing a “BIM at Deakin” online resource with information for staff and students in this field.

While several other Australian universities are introducing similar units, they varied in content across institutions, and therefore did not provide consistent student learning outcomes beneficial for industry.

An overarching framework is needed to make sure the units and curriculum align across institutions, which is what is already the case for other construction units, with relevant course accreditation through bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors.

Last year the Australasian Procurement and Construction Council and the Australian Construction Industry Forum released a BIM Knowledge and Skills Framework for industry, and it needs to be extended to the tertiary sector.

The community of BIM practitioners, educators and service users in Australia need to address the disparity in BIM education and converge towards a consistent policy approach.

I am hoping this can be done by bringing together a group of academics from different Australian universities to develop such a framework – a project I am already a part of developing in the US, and something that’s also being established in the UK.

Embracing BIM is a crucial way Australia’s construction industry can make the important efficiency gains needed to reduce a reported 30 per cent wastage, due to issues like poor communication between architects, engineers and contractors; changes to budgets and timelines; and fixing defective work.

The value of the work done in the Australian construction industry will be around $203 billion in 2019-2020, making it a significant contributor to Australia’s GDP. With our cities set to double in size over the next 50 years, and with government increasingly committed to infrastructure investment, this would be good news for construction.

Right now construction in Australia is only as efficient as it can be under current conditions. Over the last decade profit margins have been declining, and the construction industry experiences the highest proportion of firms going into liquidation, at 18 per cent.

All this points to the fact that the way we build must be made more efficient. Modern methods such as off-site construction offer a way forward, but whatever the process improvement adopted, BIM will lie at the heart of the efficiency gains.

BIM has the potential to revolutionise the Australian construction sector.

About the Author: Dr M Reza Hosseini is a lecturer in construction at Deakin University's School of Architecture and Built Environment. He is a civil engineer and has a Msc in construction management. 

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