BIM in Asia: The Game Changer Yet Unleashed

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Across the globe, constructions are taking place, and it seems the word “green” is still the buzz. Building Information Modeling or better known as BIM has now become the hot topic of technology solution to approach the green design. With a whole new paradigm in approaching design methods, it offers a massive set of features to amplify productivity and efficiency, better communication and collaboration, along with better risk and material management. To some extent, it also manages to simulate construction process. BIM enables designers to create a building in a detailed virtual environment before it takes place in reality; a prototype before we build the real thing. In short, with fewer waste, fewer revisions, faster delivery, less reworks, less errors and omissions, the greener it gets.

Given these benefits, BIM gets the attention and is accelerating powerfully. However, the adoption rate is somewhat fragmented across the world. A study conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction reveals some interesting key findings, giving a glimpse on how people will approach the design in the future. Worldwide, 56% of architects, 37% of engineers and 23% of contractors are now using BIM.

Adopting The Technology

Now, how well BIM is being adopted in Asia? Being the largest emerging market in the world, Asia becomes the hot spot for construction industry, where more than 60% of constructions all over the world are taking place. But apparently, the adoption rate is limited, with the exception of Japan and South Korea, 85% and 58% respectively. Singapore isalso a fast adopter with 65% adoption rate but limited to planning phase. In the Chinese market, only a small percentage of firms are currently using BIM, according to a survey conducted in 2012 and published in March 2013 by the China Construction Industry Association (CCIA). Li Fei, secretary general of the CCIA, explains that the survey revealed“actual BIM implementation is still in the early stages, with less than 15 % [of the 388 Chinese construction firms that participated in the research] indicating they have used BIM”. However, the study also showed that 55 % have heard of BIM. This awareness will be a crucial first step towards wider BIM adoption.

Within those numbers, globally, only less than 20% of adopters are using BIM on high-level engagement, which is to utilize the tool from the planning to analysis and execution. The other 20% are using BIM mainly as analysis tool in terms of building performance and energy efficiency tool. And more than half are still in a low level engagement, only using it as model creation tool, or practically as 3D-CAD. This is due to lack of experience as new adopters.

But despite all that, the findings are thrilling. Up to 97% of contractors in Japan reported a positive return of investment (ROI), while South Korea only reported 48% of positive ROI. Companies are also enjoying the direct impact: 41% reduce in errors and omissions, 31% reduce in reworks, 21% more accurate project estimation, 19% faster project duration, 23% better waste management.

What is Standing in the Way?

With all this benefits by a relatively low-level BIM engagement, people are excited to implement BIM further.However, barriers remain intact. “Adopting to BIM requires altering typical management processes, which frequently results in some level of resistance,” said Li Fei. “For projects in China, the RFP for design and construction is required to be separate – the law states that the design stage cannot involve contractors, so there is less opportunity of collaboration through BIM.”

He Xixing, general manager of Shanghai Jianke Engineering Consulting Company, Ltd., also stated in rhythm, “Finding adequately trained staff to support BIM processes is critical. First, team members operating BIM need to have the skills and capabilities of using the technology. Second, they must also have a good understanding of construction processes. Third, users of BIM need good project management capabilities to work well as a team. Very few candidates in the Chinese market today have this advanced set of capabilities.”

The similar tune is also heard from India. Unless BIM is adopted on a larger scale, costs will continue to rise, trained people will remain at a premium and the full potential of BIM technology for visualization and walk through developments will continue to lag. Uttam Sagar, CEO of Vasoo Builders, says that BIM is too complicated and has too much information for uncertain scenarios. “The inputs required for BIM feeding off structural and mechanical drawings are very difficult. We need works from separate agencies, mainly manufacturers. And that is another setback for our construction timeline.”

While some project negative sentiments, however, others are hyped. Gautam Suri, founder and director of Interarch Building Products is one to give testimony. “BIM aspect helps you model the building on time, especially for large projects. The sequence of delivery is essential and manufacturing follows a similar schedule. Being in the prefab industry, it is an important tool,” says Suri, “Many engineers don’t understand or know how to use the tool. On-the-job training is lacking and software-based fabrication engineers are just not clued in.”

The Future of BIM

Governments are starting to deploy new regulations regarding the building construction permit. Japan, South Korea, and Singapore have already included BIM documents as mandatory requirement, especially for public buildings, alongside with green certification related documents. On the other hand, Hong Kong, India and Malaysia are starting to evaluate and expected to issue the new regulations by 2015. Under that condition, other countries are expected to follow.

Tough as it may seem, the reactions from related parties are positive. Graphisoft, the global leader in BIM solutions for architects, announced that a three year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed with the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA). The MOU signals a commitment to working together for the advancement of architecture and specifically to promoting BIM knowledge and enhancing professional BIM skill levels among architects in Singapore.

Nikken Sekkei, 4th largest architectural firm in the world based in Japan, is confident about the use of BIM as the future standard. Tomohiko Yamanashi, Principal at Nikken Sekkei, noted that in looking to the future, Nikkei Sekkei, sees that their growing experience in BIM leads to rich data that can be leveraged in ways imaginable. “This can provide us additional services for our clients in the future,” said Yamanashi. The company also envisions greater efficiencies in the process. As they learn and their skills develop, the BIM process up front gets even faster, bringing about greater overall firm efficiency.

Fergus Dunn, Building & Construction Industry Solutions Director at Bentley Systems, sees South-East Asia as key market for both BIM and green building. “We view the region as a major growth area for our company, in terms of both sustainable design and pushing towards a BIM paradigm,” he said. “A number of countries in region are adopting a more concerted approach to this issue, with Singapore taking the lead and Malaysia now hot on its heels.”

No matter how fast this switch could be and how our human resources are prepared to adapt, the future ecosystem of BIM in the construction industry in Asia is inevitable. And it is starting right now. (AGB.com – RO)

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