Part 2 – Captains of BIM in South Africa

part-2-Captains-of-BIMBIM Champion is a buzzword that is increasingly heard amongst the company’s in South Africa and my research indicates that this may be because more companies are starting to engage with BIM projects. But who are the BIM Champions and why are they needed?

A BIM Champion is the person who has the technical skills, theoretical knowledge and the motivation to lead and guide teams improving their BIM implementation. The levels of BIM Champion’s involvement within the BIM utilisation process differs across companies and varies sometimes within the same company across different projects.

The BIM Institute has published a further five BIM champions in our industry that support the BIM utilisation across different provinces. Many work for national and international companies.


Nick Erasmus
Nick Erasmus

Technical Director, BIMGAMES
Specialist BIM Management Consulting

Nick Erasmus represents BIMGAMES, a leading, African BIM management consulting firm. It deals with various local and international clients, and it is with this insight on how the industry perceives BIM and are approaching its implementation that he sits on the Institute’s steering committee.

He has been most actively BIM-Ming for six years.

“The biggest factor that drew me to BIM is the ability to virtually build a complete, functional building. Our years of experience in VR and game engines (the GAME in BIMGAMES) has proven a well-built 3D model has the capabilities to become the real world replica in a digital environment, now add rich metadata (the “I” in BIM) and you have a digital real world functioning building that you can virtually experience before you have even broken ground. The benefits of this are massive.”

The biggest advantage of implementing the correct BIM process is providing a clear vision of what the project can be in its real world state, Erasmus continues.

“It should support the project teams to deliver their objectives in line with the BIM goals and uses of the project. Without the correct process, BIM will fail 100% every time.”

Erasmus points out that there should be no unexpected consequences in a BIM project.

“If it is unexpected you did not plan properly or implemented the correct processes, so you are failing at implementing BIM.”


hein-welmanHein Welman
Multi-disciplinary BIM Manager for Industry and Building
Royal HaskoningDHV

Hein Welman is a huge proponent for training and education in the BIM-osphere. He encourages his colleagues at RHDHV, and other professionals he works with to take the courses that the BIM Institute has to offer, and has himself done his Masters in BIM and Integrated Design at the University of Salford in the UK, where he studied long distance and has gained valuable international exposure to the cutting edge of BIM processes.

“It’s a much wider concept than what we see in South Africa. It’s amazing to see what they are aiming to do to make the processes leaner,” says Welman.

He manages the implementation and application for RHDHV for South Africa and Mozambique, and some implementation it was. After working with the company on a project in Gaborone, RHDVH bought out the small architectural firm he worked at.

“We brought this new technology with us and it changed this entire engineering firm – we were all working in Revit within 3 months.”

He cut his teeth on BIM 11 years ago, working collaboratively with the models for around eight years and in a more multi-disciplinary approach for six years.

Welman’s career started as an architect, but he moved “drastically” to energy modelling and building performance as he progressed. This is where he was introduced to the parametric tools that underline BIM, and he was hooked. He explored the linked information in the parametric models he produced and found himself drawn to the processes that are necessary to manage the vast amounts of information involved in the models.

“It’s not just a tool to pull drawings out of, it is a process that ties the project together. I decided that this was what I wanted to specialize in,” he explains.

And Welman vouches for the results, both measurable and immeasurable.

“You see the collaboration, team spirit and trust that forms around the project. Although this is not something one can measure, we see it all the time. Instead of an ad hoc production, by working within the BIM processes, a team is formed. You see the workforce gain in self-esteem as they feel like they are a part of something. It’s a big deal.”

The measurable advantages include the clash detection tools, the increase in the quality of the building you are constructing and the streamlining of teams.

“This is a service that we offer our clients. It saves money on labour and timelines are much better managed. We show the client how the system will help them when used fully and not just as a visual aid.”

He says that two people – a draughts person and a technologist – can now produce the same amount of work that it used to take a team of six to eight people to do. The roles are much more defined. Quantity surveying too has become an inhouse function as it now takes a day to do what used to take a week.

“You almost can’t justify the costs of not using BIM now.”


Craig HowieCraig Howie
BIM Manager, AECOM

Craig Howie represents AECOM on the BIM Steering Committee, regularly providing industry specialists from its multidisciplinary teams to speak at BIM Institute affiliated events (and non-affiliated BIM Institute events nationally for that matter.) These events help increase awareness in the industry about BIM (which is greatly needed) and he is happy to be involved by sharing his and AECOM’s experience.
Howie’s interest in BIM peaked in his second year at university, back in 2004 – making this his fourteenth year active in the BIM-osphere.

“In those early days, as an architectural student, the benefits of working in a parametric 3D environment and having access to ongoing 3D visuals sold me on the idea of BIM, as I understood it at the time,” states Howie.

He now works as a BIM Manager for AECOM.

“When you break away from single discipline silos and begin to work in more integrated ways to deliver projects the advantages of BIM, and the potential of BIM increases exponentially.”

He says that the biggest advantages of BIM (locally) are its potential to improve collaboration, parametric working, rendering, clash analysis, construction phase planning, project data management, quantity takeoff, sustainability and energy analysis.

“Within the virtual environment you can now build your building and interrogate aspects of the building before ground is even broken on site – this is still the core advantage of BIM.”

Practically though, the BIM process requires a lot more work upfront when compared to traditional project delivery.

“This is not always optimal for the dynamics of certain projects and we have seen certain companies battle to overcome this with the type of work, project delivery methods (contracts) and clients they work with.”

Implementing BIM within a company – or on projects – is an ongoing effort with standards, workflows and technologies continually evolving.

Working with a more integrated approach means that the project team needs to make sure that they are even more in-sync with each other’s requirements and needs related to LOD’s, coordinate systems and milestones than with traditional approaches.


lourens-henningLourens Henning
Qualified Architect
Revit Specialist
BIM Integration Specialist

The BIM Institute relies on a number of key influences to obtain a broad perspective on the BIM adoption in South Africa. Lourens Henning works closely with the BIM Institute’s steering committee, delivering BIM training and presentations on specific aspects of BIM at seminars or to companies in the construction industry.

Henning first got involved in BIM in 2009 in Dublin, Ireland. He actively studied BIM processes to increase his understanding and technical abilities, eventually joining a BIM Consulting company (ArcDox) where he provided training and support services. He now consults on BIM in South Africa and in Ghana, and expects to be working in other African countries shortly.

The concept of working smarter and not harder was what first hooked Henning. This produces more reliable information on buildings, resulting in more efficient facilities.

“It just made sense. The focus of design intent moves from a 2D world, riddled with inaccurate human interpretation and error, to a 3D environment where the design intent is clear with no ambiguity. It is visual, changeable, controllable, measurable, can be analyzed and it is transparent,” states Henning.

He goes on to say every stakeholder benefits from the BIM process in some way. Designers enjoy much more accurate and reliable information. They are obliged to produce buildings that are fully resolved as BIM models, and this will point out any poorly resolved or unresolved areas of the design.

The biggest winner is the facilities management team that services and manages the facility through its life-cycle.


kobus-devilliersKobus de Villiers
Head of Technology and Innovation, Africa WSP
Parsons Brinckerhoff, Africa

Kobus de Villiers brings his experience in a consulting engineering environment, with years spent in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) build industry to the BIM Institute’s steering committee. A self-confessed BIM evangelist in his business, he has a wealth of knowledge in driving the transition to BIM in larger organisations. De Villiers is keen to share success stories, build excitement and momentum.

“In our team there is huge enthusiasm, and an almost contagious drive to maximise the BIM opportunity. If we can spread some of that Mojo, it will be great for the industry as a whole.”

An early adopter, De Villiers has been active in the BIM-osphere since 2009, when it was all but unknown in South Africa. He says he vividly remembers doggedly motivating for, and eventually purchasing the first AutoDesk Revit license for office.

“All the wrong stuff sold me on it,” admits De Villiers, “The fact that you can see a 3D model, auto-routing and not needing to set up elevations from scratch. It became worse, with us focusing in on detail in the ‘pretty picture.’ It was only later that we realized the value of the various BIM uses, such as scheduling, and analytical models. Once the 3D model became a mere representation of the data, we started to make real, tangible progress.”

The biggest advantage of using BIM, he says, is that it significantly reduces risk.

“With the data and workflows set out correctly there the team stops creating separate ‘dead sets’ of data.”

‘Dead data’, he explains, are all the unlinked schedules and PDF’s that sit around on paper, or in PDF format. This creates risk, as you need to check that the data represented on the drawings matches the data in the schedules, and if that in turn is correctly captured on the documents.

“Once we link the data, there is less opportunity for mistakes. We are all looking at the same data – even if we are using different interfaces and programs. But there is still a single point of truth. Then by representing the data in the shared model, clear coordination and reduced site risk is simply a symptom.”

And on the ground, he says that he is always amazed to see how this technology encourages people to talk more.

“A big bug bear for me is email. I simply don’t believe that effective actions or collaboration transpire through it vs the original written documentation intent.”

But De Villiers loves the fact that, when sharing the same model space or analytical set, the teams coordinate so much more, and clarification discussions happen earlier in the process.

“The use of cloud-based tools makes this even more effective. A wonderful result,” he applauds.