KZN sets the pace for BIM

BIM-Post-Event-image-DBNBy Jenni McCann

Last week (22 and 23 February) – at the KZN Construction Expo – the BIM Institute hosted a two day BIM BAM BOOM Workshop, highlighting the current BIM processes in South Africa and which organisations are leading the charge by adopting the international BIM framework of standards.

It is interesting to attend these events, not only for the undeniably valuable content of the speakers, but also to see the interest and engagement from the audience. BIM is one of those topics that stimulates debate and discussion, and the energy that emanates from these dialogues is tangible.

Feedback from attendees confirmed this, with one audience member stating, “It is refreshing not to have design product software rammed down your throat.”

Some topics (such as BIM workflows, Execution Plans, Common Data Environments setup, data formats) kept cropping up throughout the two days of presentations, reiterating their importance. The local case studies of companies that have made the move (and reaped the rewards) were of particular interest, expressed with refreshing candour when addressing the difficulties that the clients and service providers faced.

Founding member and Executive Director of BIM Institute, Vaughan Harris said that this open engagement was one of the key considerations when inviting speakers to this (and other BIM Institute) events, “The majority of presenters are from commercial organisations, but we actively encourage honest engagement from our speakers, and we are delighted that our speakers pointed to where software worked best and where more work was required.”Vaughan Harris

During the event Harris hammered home how companies should start embracing BIM methodology as a crucial process first, assisted by technology already being used, and later applying BIM formats such as IFCs (Industry Foundation Classes.)“These should be in addition to the other formats used to generate plans, sections and elevations. The main focus for companies now is to start building on sets of standards around Common Data Environment protocols and focus our attention on the collaborative side that leads towards better information modelling,” stated Harris.

For those that missed the event but want to get some up to speed on the next event, click here.

What you missed:

Day 1

Opening keynote: BIM utilisation in all projects and organisations

The event was opened by keynote speaker Christopher Allen – Director A3D and Lecturer: Construction Management Building Science, BIM and Planning Specialist. Allen pointed to the importance of including professional consultants in the process of adopting BIM standards in Southern Africa, as the construction industry moves from traditional processes and technologies to a “smarter” future. He looked at the positive and negative aspects of digital design BIM and stated that it is just as important to stamp out “Silo BIM.”

Allen went on to say that the UK had firmly delivered on its promise of a mandated Level 2 BIM, and this will be included in ISO standards in 2017.

He concluded by stating that the by no means should we only understand the lessons learned from local commercial streams already practicing BIM standards, but also prepare for the digital transformation – with or without fully understanding BIM.

Keynote address

BIM Institute’s Vaughan Harris followed on by outlining how his institute supports the local industry, and how its steering commission has worked to develop a recognised entity and is currently working on creating an even wider “task force” in future. He looked at how companies and software vendors need to prepare and implement Level 1 BIM – Common Data Environment (CDE) policies. This is a critical step to nurture public client interest and further BIM awareness in South Africa.

Harris expanded on how the BIM Institute has worked through various BIM protocols offered by international associations that work closely with the Institute in its mission to create a recognisable and readable path defining best practice methodology for the region. He welcomed more involvement from institutions and academia.

Always outspoken, Harris said to the room full of delegates (and press contingent,) “It’s always the M&E engineers who have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the BIM table, and the lack of interest from Quantity Surveyors and Contractors in BIM is a telling concern. More practitioners need to be engaged in the process if they want to be a part of this global transformation.”

He also pointed to the need to increase the general understanding of the many facets and tools that BIM offers contractors, many of whom still see it as merely a 3D modelling exercise.

Workshop 1: Managing a BIM project

workflow complexLourens Henning, a professional architect turned BIM specialist then explained his experience in Ireland where he implemented BIM Execution Plans (BEP) on various projects. He highlighted that he preferred the RIAI BIM Execution Plan to the other BEP he had worked with in the past.

“There are lots of BEP templates operating across the globe, but it is important for South Africa to start simple and look at the AEC (UK) BIM protocols as a starting block.”

Henning detailed the features and importance of the Employers Information Requirements (EIR) documents on a BIM project.

“With countries adopting the UK BIM standards in their entirety, it is important to progress with a similar standard, with a view toward the formation of an ISO BIM standard.”


Panel discussion: Implementing an Information Exchange Policy on a project




Harris looked at the advantages and the shortfalls of a company setting up a Common Data Environment (CDE) on a project in the following panel discussion. What came across very clearly in this session, both from the panel and the interaction on the floor, is that a lack of client/ developer understanding is still the biggest problem by far, with shortfalls in BIM education and training also featuring as a roadblock in the BIM rollout.

Workshop 2:  Defining the BIM goals for the project

OpenBIM workflows using IFCNick Erasmus, Founder of BIMGAMES  shared his extensive experience on the technical and implementation side, garnered from helping companies with BIM implementations across Africa.

Erasmus spoke about BIM Execution Plans, and detailed the implementation process required. He also touched on the standards and levels of geometry and information that a model should contain when following the execution plan. He was frank in his evaluation of the many positive and negative encounters he’d had when discussing BIM Execution Plans, noting a need for a step by step guide to help companies and end users implement processes around 3D Modelling.

Workshop 3:  Working with BIM objects and sharing data

Last session of the day was delivered by Shawn Hopkins, Founder of AtLarge Architects, later described to me as “a true BIM Curator and evangelist who has spent much of his time and efforts BIM-bakery_imageconveying the OpenBIM message to his clients and the industry.”

Hopkins was particularly vocal about the issues and concerns going forward, saying, “progress still needs to be made in the development of digital object identifiers for the South African manufactures and supply chain.”

He demonstrated the importance for products to be plugged directly into architectural workflows, and how connecting your product data to intelligent geometry was fundamental to the whole BIM process.

Day 2

AECOM case study:

Local BIM is lekker, Multidisciplinary projects by AECOM Africa

aecom2Craig Howie, AECOM BIM Manager and Marc de Vries, Structures BIM Lead AECOM Africa made the case for AECOM, focussing on local Automotive / Industrial sector projects. As “one of the leading commercial streams locally and globally in driving BIM adoption,” AECOM has invested in BIM for a number of reasons, and Howie and de Vries shared insights into the company’s adoption and implementation of the system, and what persuaded the team to make the investment and the results that the company has seen after the switch.

“For AECOM, BIM has meant a change in process, in production, the up-skilling of staff, specialised training for managers and new internal process requirements. As a result of a significant investment its clients get an increased insight into their various designs.”

Osmond Lange Case Study:

Managing BIM data in conjunction with healthcare sector

osmand_lange_logoPhillip Rutkiewics, Senior Associate, Osmond Lange spoke on the benefits of BIM in Healthcare sector. He explained that although its clients in the Healthcare sector may not entirely understand the benefits of BIM on projects, from a design perspective the design team feedback was ‘largely positive’, indicating that there is still a lot of education needed within the healthcare sector on the benefits of 3D Modelling.

Philip went on to explain how Osmand Lange is also in the process of formalising its own internal standards, and figuring out what to do with all of the accumulated BIM data on the projects that it has been involved in.

He concluded by saying that there are barriers to BIM for most companies; the investment required can be significant, but the outcome is both rewarding, and ultimately profitable.