Monday, June 17

‘Sarawak construction sector behind on BIM innovation’

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Photo shows myBIM in progress. The Sarawak myBIM Satellite centre, which is hosted by Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, is a government-backed initiative to embed the new platform within the construction industry Malaysia-wide as part of the CIDB roadmap towards Industrial Revolution 4.0 over the next five-year period.

KUCHING: The Sarawak construction sector is behind on Building Information Modelling (BIM), as seen in the latest round of training in Building Information Modelling (BIM) in January.

This follows the state’s first and only myBIM Satellite Centre, set up in conjunction with the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) in June last year.

In this round, eight industry professionals – ranging from architects and engineers to project managers – started their rigorous training in this innovative multiple-user software platform for collaboration on construction projects that has transformed the industry internationally.

The Sarawak myBIM Satellite centre, which is hosted by Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, is a government-backed initiative to embed the new platform within the construction industry Malaysia-wide as part of the CIDB roadmap towards Industrial Revolution 4.0 over the next five-year period.

This is the fourth round of training to be held in Sarawak since the opening of the myBIM Satellite Centre in June 2018.

Though the number of participants has been increasing, the centre has not seen the bulk of the over 1,500 registered engineers, 250 architects as well as 6,000 contractors in Sarawak.

This threatens to leave Sarawak and its local construction players behind in the digital transformation of the construction industry that is currently underway.

Building Information Modelling software is already seen as a vital component of this transformation, with adoption of BIM already at 71 per cent in the US and 54 per cent in the UK.

Within Asia, BIM is being widely championed, notably in South Korea where the adoption rate stands above 60 per cent and where the government has been working to increase the scope of BIM projects since 2010 with public investment of US$5.8 million over three years.

Singapore is another early adopter and BIM e-submissions have been compulsory there since 2015 for any projects over 5,000 square metres.

This has lead other South-East Asian neighbours to rush towards implementation, with Vietnam’s Ministry of Construction signing an memorandum of understanding (MOU) in early 2018 with the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to push BIM adoption in public projects there through the UK Government’s Commonwealth fund.

Malaysia as a whole is already falling behind with adoption of BIM lagging at only 17 per cent. But this is something which the Federal Government is looking to change.

With an initial investment of RM3 million into one-stop “myBIM-centres”, it is facilitating broad adoption of BIM in Malaysia by 2020.

Thereafter, the aim is to make use of BIM compulsory on government projects above a designated size. With BIM shown to reduce time spent on planning and design alone by as much as 20 per cent, its implementation could result in major cost savings on public projects.

In fact, the benefits of BIM are already widely recognized. A cloud-based platform, it allows for multiple stakeholders to work on building plans at the same time. By employing 3D CAD techniques, it not only allows for up to the minute exchanges of information without the need for multiple meetings, but also flags up changes to other users and generates vital clash reports.

Therefore, work is not only faster compared to the laborious task of manual checking and updating, but the chances of human error are reduced to a minimum. Use of the platform has been shown to improve processes from costing to logistics to sustainability and facility management. Ultimately, plans can be submitted to relevant agencies electronically, allowing for a seamless transition between each stage of the construction life-cycle.

Within Malaysia, the construction industry is a major economic generator, contributing between three to five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). However, the Malaysian Productivity Corporation logs it as one of the least productive, generating a mere RM40,018 per worker in 2016 as compared to the manufacturing sector with RM106,647.

Higher levels of automation and technology use in the sector are seen as key to improving the productivity profile of the industry and to reducing reliance on labour, particularly from overseas. However, despite the fact that BIM technology has been available for a decade and is widely implemented internationally, research has shown that industry professionals in Malaysia still regard it as new technology.

In Sarawak itself, this point becomes even more pressing. Construction contributed around 2.7 per cent of GDP in 2016 but its share has been shrinking. Moreover, as construction projects in the state become increasingly diversified and complex, the need for BIM implementation and other innovation becomes increasingly important.

Moreover, with the current state government also stressing the need for digital transformation as a key policy area, uptake of this type of technology is truly in the spotlight. Without it, Sarawak-based contractors risk falling behind even their West Malaysian counterparts, let alone international standards.

As is often the case, the human factor has been shown to be one of the key barriers to BIM implementation. Employees are resistant to learning new technologies and management shy away from potential costs involved in implementation and training. This appears to be no less true in Sarawak given the slow uptake at the myBIM centre, despite full government backing and the roadmaps for adoption. As a result, few construction projects in the state have yet to employ the technology, the IEM development being a notable exception.

Swinburne Innovation Malaysia Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Professor Dr. Wallace Wong sees BIM technology as an increasing necessity in the current political and industry climate and is urging industry professionals in Sarawak to take full advantage of the facilitation provided.

“The training provided by the myBIM centre in Sarawak can take participants all the way through from BIM concept and theory, to fundamental modeling of structure and, eventually, to certification,” he said of the state-of the art computer training centre, fully equipped with the latest software for BIM implementation, now open at Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak campus.

“BIM is not a new and uncertain technology”, he added. “It is tried and tested both regionally and internationally and will soon be industry standard across Malaysia. At this point, any costs involved in implementation and training are minimal in view of the potential risk involved in not doing so.

“The cost and efficiency savings of the platform are well proven and its use will propel Sarawak’s construction industry into a new phase of transformation. Industry professionals in the state simply cannot afford not to implement it into their organisations.”

Whether the Sarawak construction industry responds to the call remains to be seen. However, it is clear that those calls are becoming ever more insistent and from multiple quarters. Nonetheless, the allure of a proven innovation is a rare occurrence in a modern world of fast-paced change. It seems that BIM, as a key component of the digital transformation of this traditional industry, is here to stay.