BIM in South Africa 2019 Global report


In January 2014 NATSPEC issued the first version of a report summarising the status of BIM education in a number of countries across the globe. The report has been updated and reissued each year since, with this report being version 6.0 of what is now an annual update to the original report.

Each year the countries included in previous versions of the report are given the opportunity to update their section to reflect the current status of BIM education in their respective countries. In the updated versions since the original 2014 report, additional countries have provided input, expanding the scope of the original report. This sixth edition of the report includes information for 17 countries.


BIM in South Africa 2019



The BIM Academy Africa has engaged with 16 tertiary universities and only successfully managed to  supply a handful with different curricula BIM courses at university level. With Wits University in Johannesburg being the most active in driving with BIM education to date within the Building and Economics Faculty under the guidance of Professor David Root.

Changing South African (RSA) university curricula is a fraught and time-consuming activity and thus the introduction into the mainstream coursework will still take many years to action. However, some universities have introduced BIM from a software perspective in the form of REVIT or ARCHICAD courses. The majority of these are stand-alone or short courses, completely divorced from the university’s core curriculum.

RSA lecturers and university staff generally lack the knowledge of and exposure to BIM education, so to comprehend (much less lecture) the nuance and complexity of BIM processes is a challenge, and as such, the topic is therefore glossed over or ignored completely. This is further exacerbated by traditional educator’s reluctance (or out and out refusal) to share information across different departments within the AEC educational spaces and therefore stunt the development of collaborative courses for students and any short learning courses offered by the universities.

Upskilling within the workplace is looking better though. The end of 2018 saw the BIM Academy Africa (in partnership with Ideate Technologies and  UK Whitefrog establish the first African strategic implementation of BIM for the Ethiopian Government Ministries under the Ethiopian Construction Project Management Institute (ECPMI). The BIM Academy Africa also trained and internationally accredited 478 professionals in various BIM courses in 2018, while simultaneously providing hundreds of SA students (Wits, TUT, UCT and DUT) online learning access to NavBIM.com (Africa’s largest learning portal for BIM education).


Despite a lack of any private or public funding, the BIM Institute to date founded by Vaughan Harris has been drafting the South African National BIM Guide for designers and operators in a bid to align itself with international standards. There is still a battle with certain technology vendors hell-bent on creating a monopoly in BIM software solutions.


A new local online book, BIM – It’s your move authored by Vaughan Harris, has been published. The book gives the reader a “no holds barred” view of the current state of BIM in Africa. It encourages professionals to reinvent themselves, and the sector that they work in, through an honest and insightful guiding hand (and sometimes a kick) in the right direction. The book has already reached over 2000 downloads.


In 2018, and in collaboration with the South African Quantity Surveyor Association (ASAQS), the BIM Institute challenged Quantity Surveyors in the 5D BIM Estimating Competition 2018. The results were announced at the 4th ASAQS Conference 2018. The winners were selected from an impressive 48 entries. The competition sparked new concepts and communication solutions for estimating professionals. It focused not just on quantifying the models provided, it tested the candidate’s understanding of the principles of the Common Data Environment (CDE) and ability to identify and correct some errors within the architect’s model geometry.

Entrants stated their chosen estimating software used to produce an elemental estimate (using the newly released estimating classification system developed by the BIM Institute). It showcased the innovators embracing the digital tools at hand – the future leaders of the RSA construction sector and the potential stars that will lead the country in its digitisation push.



The tipping point for BIM adoption in RSA requires a fundamental shift in building standards and education at the tertiary and institutional level.

Many traditional architects and engineers are caught up in the details (the fee structure changes that require clients to invest more to develop a “digital twin”), losing sight of the bigger picture related to the improved efficiencies the technology will bring to their daily operations.

This has created an inertia that spills over to the architect and engineering associations, leaving them unwilling to promote BIM within their ranks.

Contractors have not embraced the technology as a means to better deliver their projects, with government tenders in particular reinforcing manual processes as part of a wider policy on increasing jobs growth.

Design professionals within the RSA AEC industry still largely consider BIM solely as a software tool, failing to fully understand the often-overlooked improvement in productivity a more holistic implementation would facilitate.

However, BIM adoption is gaining momentum within the African continent. The BIM Academy Africa and AfricaBIM   have led the charge in skills and resource development. African countries are increasingly being educated in BIM (often to meet international investors requirements) and the demand for this skill set will keep increasing. Graduates and professionals that lack these skills are starting to feel their disadvantage already and will be marginalised more and more both locally and internationally.

RSA businesses continue to battle with slow economic growth, a diminishing pool of construction professionals leaving the African shores, a lack of foreign investment and pressure by the South African government to transform the sector faster and more drastically.

With these pressures, we see the motivation of South African companies to keep pace with first world countries diminish directly proportionately to the stress that “business as usual” in this environment places on the sector.

The billions of Rands recently proposed for investment into the infrastructure development and smart city  pipeline is great news, but  in a country afflicted by serious and complex political problems, it should be a government priority. Unfortunately, the Smart City idea in RSA sits on the border of imaginary ideas and more desirable than possible. It will always be a utopian space always represented by technology experts. An inability to replenish this pool of professionals with young, skilled workers with digital skills is putting at risk the country’s ability to ensure these projects are completed in line with early adopter countries new digital construction concepts. This despite sporting one of the worst youth unemployment rates in the world and with Industry 4.0 having become a global government focused initiative. This risk is also becoming clearer to foreign investors looking for opportunities in the country.

As a reaction to some of governments other policy decisions, we see RSA companies failing to invest the necessary time and resources to ensure their skills pools are future-proofed and skilled enough in current and future technologies designed specifically to ensure their own success. This short sightedness is lessening RSA’s lead on competing African countries – some of whom have already started the digital standardisation process that RSA still fails to address.

This conservative thinking (and naivety) leaves many local companies with undelivered value. The greatest failure sits with central ANC government (or influential agencies) that have yet to put their metaphorical foot down and prescribe digital adoption as a catalyst for growth. A case in point is the National Building Regulations which still require submitted drawings for council planning approval to be a 2D Paper submission only (under SANS10400 Part A) and for quantity surveyors, who still need to work on the Standard Method of Measurement that is not yet classified with a digital coded structure.

In closing

Vaughan Harris, President of the BIM Institute says,” Building Information Modelling is the foundation to any smart infrastructure, by keeping it simple, we believe there’s a better way to plan, design and construct buildings and still maintain certain traditional methods that have proven successful in the past. South Africa still has many talented young and aging professionals and with the right foundation and policies supported by government agencies, there is no reason why South Africa can’t change the way projects are planned, designed and built; redefining what it means to be a contractor without too much disruption; and allowing  government to deliver on its brand promise to “transform Smart City planning and development within South Africa.


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