Dr M Reza Hosseini, a lecturer in construction in Deakin’s School of Architecture and Built Environment, is calling for Australia to introduce a common tertiary education strategy to meet increasing industry demand for expertise in revolutionary digital engineering, colloquially called Building Information Modelling or ‘BIM’.

Dr M Reza Hosseini, said BIM went beyond 3D design and served as a tool that connected architects, building contractors and owners – critical to improving building efficiency.

“BIM is the digital modelling of buildings or infrastructure to provide an intelligent system that connects everyone involved in the development, and can be used as a reliable basis for decisions during a building’s life-cycle – from construction all the way through to the end of life,” Dr Hosseini said.

“The concept of BIM emerged in the 1970s but has recently become popularised, with the increasingly widespread use of high-tech software programs like Autodesk Revit and Navisworks.

“A large proportion of Australian companies are using BIM now, and we expect it’s only a matter of time before it’s used even more widely. So demand for associated skilled professionals is predicted to increase substantially.”

But Dr Hosseini said there was currently no integrated plan across Australia’s tertiary sector to guide a universal curriculum in the core knowledge, skills and abilities relating to BIM.

At Deakin, two new units focusing on BIM were introduced last year into construction management courses – Introduction to Building Information Modelling for undergraduate students, and Principles of Building Information Modelling for postgraduates.

The School of Architecture and Built Environment is also developing a ‘BIM at Deakin’ online resource with information for staff and students in this field.

Dr Hosseini said while several other Australian universities had been introducing similar units, they varied in content across institutions, and therefore did not provide consistent student learning outcomes beneficial for industry.

He said an overarching framework was needed to make sure the units and curriculum aligned across institutions, as was already the case for other construction units, with relevant course accreditation through bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors.

“Last year the Australasian Procurement and Construction Council and the Australian Construction Industry Forum released a BIM Knowledge and Skills Framework for industry, and we need to extend it to the tertiary sector,” Dr Hosseini said.

“The community of BIM practitioners, educators and service users in Australia need to address the disparity in BIM education and converge towards a consistent policy approach.”

Dr Hosseini is hoping this can be done by bringing together a group of academics from different Australian universities to develop such a framework – a project he is already a part of developing in the US, and something that’s also being established in the UK.

Dr Hosseini said embracing BIM was a crucial way Australia’s construction industry could make the important efficiency gains needed to reduce a reported 30 per cent wastage, due to issues like poor communication between architects, engineers and contractors; changes to budgets and timelines; and fixing defective work.

“The value of the work done in the Australian construction industry will be around $203 billion in 2019-2020, making it a significant contributor to Australia’s GDP. With our cities set to double in size over the next fifty years, and with government increasingly committed to infrastructure investment, this would seem good news for construction.

“But construction in Australia is as efficient as it can be under current conditions. Over the last decade profit margins have been declining, and the construction industry experiences the highest proportion of firms going into liquidation, at 18 per cent.

“All this points to the fact that the way we build must be made more efficient. Modern methods such as off-site construction offer a way forward, but whatever the process improvement adopted, BIM will lie at the heart of the efficiency gains.

“BIM has the potential to revolutionise the Australian construction sector and is transforming the process by which buildings and infrastructure are designed, constructed and maintained.”