SA BIM Survey reveals local industry as technology laggard

bim-surveyblog-imageA cursory glance at construction projects in our major cities would give the impression that the construction industry is widening its vision and raising its game. Buildings are more innovative, our search for natural resources is taking us deeper and one would think that the pace of change is such that construction projects are abreast with digital technology and processes.

Few would doubt that technology plays an integral part in helping the industry realize these goals by enabling enhanced design, procurement and construction. But one only needs to scratch the surface to see it is struggling to reap the full benefits of design software, data and analytics, 3D scanning, mobile solutions and  automation in South Africa.

As some construction companies attempt to improve governance, health and safety, project controls and upskilling, the fundamentals of traditional engineering, construction and project management processes still appear stagnant. We can all agree that digital technology inevitably brings disruption in its wake, at a speed that is likely to increase, but many architectural companies still remain ignorant when it comes to new and improved digital design technology. The current downturn in the construction industry also doesn’t encourage investment in upgrading systems and cash strapped businesses continue to use their current software systems.

In this year’s first South African BIM survey, we’ve surveyed owners, architects, engineers and construction companies on a number of current issues to understand whether their views on BIM are aligned or whether there are obvious differences.

The quicker they can embrace the exciting potential of design technology, the greater will be their collective contribution to business owners and to industry.

“The survey responses reflect the industry’s  conservatism towards Building Information Modelling technologies, with many survey respondents preferring to follow trends rather than to take the lead. Many who have adopted a BIM technology strategy have done so in a silo approach.” says Vaughan Harris, Executive Director, BIM Institute.

The BIM survey shows that only four construction companies responded to the survey, even though invitations were sent out to over seven of the largest construction firms in SA.
Can this disappointing response from contractors be attributed to that they are already at the sharp end of technology, are too busy keeping head above water or that they failed to participate for some other reason?

This report is based on 132 completed surveys and 85 incomplete surveys between September 12, 2016 and October 31, 2016. The majority of surveys submitted were from professionals and senior industrywide executives, with 39% of them working for major organisations with over 200 employees.

Respondents comprised:bim-sector-usage

4 Contractors, 17 Quantity Surveyors, 4 Planners, 4 Contracts Managers, 22 BIM Managers, 22 Architects, 9 Draughtsman, 15 technical Experts,11 Engineers, 11 Project Managers, 10 Government, one Asset Manager and four from IT Services.

The sector response split was:

  • construction 66%,
  • infrastructure 14%,
  • energy 2%, and
  • residential 0%.

Demographic responses

The survey was conducted online and respondents were primarily recruited through email invitations in the BIM members newsletter, a Zoho campaign, and links in social media.

Considering that respondents were invited through digital media, it is unsurprising that many invites tend to be ignored. This report should therefore be read with the understanding that it is not a representative survey of the entire  industry, but rather a glimpse at how leading organizations in South Africa are using technology in construction and in the built environment. The majority of respondents came from Gauteng (45%), followed by Western Cape (31%), Kwa-Zulu Natal (8%) and ‘other’ (15%).

Software preferences

The software findings reveal that 34% of designers chose to work with Autocad, with 28% designing in Revit, 9% ArchiCad, 4% Trimble, Tekla 4% and Bentley 6%. Despite brand loyalty, the survey found larger firms were more likely to use more than one of the above systems mentioned including systems such as Navisworks, Lumion, BIM360, Primavera, Civil3D, Sketchup, Vector Works, WinQS and Candy. (View Full list)

Of respondents, 55% also said they used cloud based document management systems such as, Synergy Docwize, Asite and Key360 while some smaller firms were still using cloud-based storage tools like Dropbox and Google Drive.

Cloud solutions vary widely in their capabilities and while the latter two are free they may not be as secure and BIM specific as more proprietor brands.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools are aimed at supporting BIM processes, multidisciplinary project-focused teams and are more commonly deployed by clients and large contractors.

It was noted by 16% of respondents  that the use of cloud based document management systems is hampered due to poor internet connectivity.

Even so, poor connectivity cannot be blamed for the lack of technical advancement by senior executives in South Africa as highlighted by 53% of respondents. While 28% blamed the high cost of design software tools, 89% responded to the lack of international BIM certification courses available in South Africa.

Of the asset management tools used, Archibus was the most popular – deployed mostly within the government sector. Of the 132 respondents, 66% preferred to see the IFC (Industry Foundation Class) format being used on joint venture projects.

The report, unsurprisingly noted: 81% agreed that BIM in SA requires a mandate by National Department of Public Works in order to be successful, while 5% said ‘no’ to a BIM mandate. (see respondents comments)

bim-knowledge-in-saLittle interest

To understand the lack of BIM in construction in South Africa you only need look at the volume of projects that are doing some form of Building Information Modelling or 3D rendering.

The only case studies publically available to date have been found on the BIM Institute and in the Construction Software & IT Journal.

The survey also looked at future software intentions and identified the lack of interest from international vendors – which stunts interest in BIM.

The global interest in BIM within the construction industry over the past five years has become one of the most ardently debated and encouraged processes. Everywhere you look you are bombarded by software vendors and BIM evangelists but not so within South Africa where very little interest is shown by international vendors. Will mandating BIM turn the tide?

“It is not just a technology shift. BIM is also going to involve major changes in industry structures and processes and in the roles and skills required of the people involved. There will not be a return to traditional business practices afterwards; if anything, the initial changes due to BIM will seem modest compared to some of the shake-outs that will occur as wider industry trends take effect” says Paul Wilkinson, from Extranet Evolution, UK.

Download Full SA BIM Survey report 2016 (PDF)



Global Construction Survey

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