I recently received a copy of the quarterly cidb newsletter, titled Concrete and was moved to read that government institutions are starting to push BIM too. [cidb Newsletter – Concrete, Issue 7]

There’s a catchy new acronym in town and it shouldn’t be long before it becomes synonymous with construction projects throughout South Africa, as it has done worldwide.

BIM or Building Information Modelling, has become part of the language of global construction projects. BIM is a process that allows software systems to connect effectively to the architectural model of a building with various other processes that play a role in completing the project, including structures surveying, measurements, costings, planning and energy efficiency. The coordination of these different activities of a project are made possible through cloud-based collaborative systems, which facilitate collaborative work and realtime updates between project participants throughout the project’s life cycle.

Now in its second year, the BIM Institute of South Africa has created a platform for an international framework of standards that can transform local project delivery methods and provide a foundation for a BIM environment, with all its benefits, says the institute’s executive director, Vaughan Harris. The vision, he adds, is to “promote the development and improvement of information technology processes in the construction industry”.

Among the several advantages BIM is billed to offer contractors design integration, improved tendering, fewer design information requests during the project, supply chain integration, and fewer clashes during the construction process, especially monitoring and evaluation.

But the primary focus of the institute is pushing not BIM, Vaughan continues, but digital construction or ‘internet of construction’ (IOC). The second digital construction expo will be held in May 2017 in Midrand, Gallagher Estate co-located with the African Construction Totally Concrete Expo, with a view to exploring solutions to optimise the effectiveness of digital design technologies in private and public infrastructure projects.

“If only one book were to be written about BIM, it might have “DON’T PANIC” printed in large, uppercase letters on the front cover.” Design technologist Pete Zyskowski

A key tenet to the Digital Construction Expo two day event is for software vendors to exhibit and promote technical knowledge exchange between, professionals, private and public sector participants in the built environment which will hopefully assist in closing the knowledge gap that exists between us and other first world countries

Preceding that event, however, is the very enticingly titled BIM BAM BOOM series of internationally accredited workshops starting in February 2017, which will offer training for industry design professionals, representatives of the Department of Public Works and other key decision-makers on all they need to know about implementing international BIM standards and processes on projects in Africa. cidb is keeping a close eye on the birth of BIM in South Africa and recognises the potential of its adoption to clients, architects, designers, contractors and operators of facilities, says cidb’s Programme Manager: Construction Industry Performance, Dr Rodney Milford, but notes that the uptake of BIM to date has been confined to large clients and contractors, and has centred on large projects.



“We are already in discussions with the BIM Institute, large clients and academics on the way forward for BIM,” he continues. “The possible role of cidb in mandating the introduction of BIM in large public sector projects has been raised, similar to the incremental mandatory requirements for the use of BIM being introduced in the United Kingdom, Singapore and other countries.” However, he adds, cidb believes strongly that BIM must not become an exclusionary factor or a cost penalty in the industry, which may happen if mandatory requirements outpace normal market uptake. It must initially be market- and client driven.

“Only when there is sufficient uptake will we reassess any mandatory role for BIM on projects or promote BIM as a best practice,” Rodney stresses. The BIM process, it is stated on the BIM Institute’s Wiki page, requires people, technology and collaboration. With South Africa’s talented people, leading-edge technology and proud record of collaboration on many levels, the country undoubtedly has what it takes to make BIM the next big built environment thing.

…Time will tell.

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