BIM CODESA: Advancing Building Information Modelling in South Africa

The South African built environment is seeing real progress towards adopting a national standard for Building Information Modelling (BIM) in South Africa, says Richard Matchett, Digital Practice Lead leading consulting engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Zutari. “It is being done by the book. The estimates are that anywhere from 18 to 24 months we will have a policy ready for gazetting. However, that is dependent on many factors aligning.”

Building Information Modelling technology.
Photo by Evgeniy Surzhan on Unsplash

Matchett co-hosted the inaugural BIM CODESA on 13 July 2023, an industry-wide workshop organised by the BIM Community Africa (BCA). “Industry is blaming the lack of a national standard for the lack of BIM adoption. In truth, it is a stumbling block. Without a standard, everyone does whatever they think is good. The really great aspect of the BIM CODESA was how we are starting to see some real movement towards getting a standard in place.”

The BCA advocates that BIM holds tremendous potential to boost delivery during all project phases to benefit stakeholders and, ultimately, the end users of those built assets. The required skills, processes, and technologies are widely used in South Africa. While the industry is poised and ready for wholesale adoption of this transforming approach to development, it lacks a national policy to create an enabling environment for all stakeholders.

The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) has commenced work to develop a national BIM Policy for South Africa, aiming to have the policy gazetted by end 2025. The development of the policy will be supported by the BCA’s network of stakeholders, thereby broadening the source of contributions from interested parties in the built environment.

Matchett reveals that the BIM CODESA workshop session focused on the key drivers behind the process, which are the different roleplayers in the built environment, combined with the legal and political framework, and then looking for synergies to take advantage of any interconnections.

Richard Matchett, Digital Practice Lead leading consulting engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Zutari
Richard Matchett, Digital Practice Lead leading consulting engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Zutari

“We need to realise it is not just an engineering or an architectural point of view. Everyone in the built environment will be impacted by this policy. Its adoption therefore needs to consider the value that all these different parties can derive from it and, in turn, bring to the table,” explains Matchett.

The ongoing process is likely to be influenced by legislation and economics, resulting in both a systems and a value chain perspective. “The built environment includes the client, quantity surveyor, architect, engineer, project manager, and a host of other players. The question is if we look ahead to a scenario where BIM is actually adopted and is now running full tilt, what will change about the way we work?”

Matchett adds that another key stakeholder is higher education and training. “We are having a conversation around curricula, training, skills development and accreditation, and how adopting BIM will bring about the need for a different skillset in the industry.”

The BIM CODESA is likely to be followed by compilation of a White Paper, sponsored by Autodesk, a global leader in design and engineering software. “We do not have a framework as of yet for the White Paper, but it is being developed,” says Matchett.

“We have to acknowledge the role of the built environment in this process and how the industry is driving awareness. The conversation has been democratised as much as possible, so it is not just a few isolated parties who stand to benefit. It has really become a mainstream conversation. We are also looking to ensure that the entry barrier is lowered in terms of focusing on information requirements rather than software type, so it is cost-effective and scalable for all players,” says Matchett.

Commenting on the impact of accelerating advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) on BIM, Matchett predicts it will introduce the widespread systemisation of good quality data. “Good quality, structured data is the entry point for the meaningful integration of AI into any process. The BIM approach to project delivery facilitates the creation of consistent, organised data about build assets.”

As for current progress in South Africa on the BIM front, Matchett says that while there are pockets of excellence, some remain hesitant about its largescale adoption. “I think where it is being applied practically, we are up there with the rest of the world.” Autodesk recently reported that South Africa is, in fact, not lagging far behind the rest of the world when it comes to BIM adoption.

“We are not as advanced as Europe, which has a decade’s head start on us. What it means for South Africa is we have an opportunity to observe what is being done elsewhere successfully, keep track of the outcome, and then implement what is likely to work best for our built environment,” concludes Matchett.

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