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Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications - 21/08/2015 - Smart information and communications technology in the design and planning of infrastructure

SHUTTLEWORTH, Mr Alex, Principal, Lynnwood Consulting


CHAIR: I welcome Lynnwood Consulting. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the House. I invite you to make a brief opening statement, if you wish, before we proceed to discussion.

Mr Shuttleworth : My role at Lynnwood Consulting is to provide advice to asset owners around the use of technology within the planning, designing, construction, operation and maintenance of physical assets, which includes both larger infrastructure as well as physical buildings. The challenges that we face are quite complex in terms of making the right decisions around both the technology to use and also the data standards and processes that we need to apply to make sure that whatever is started at the beginning of a design process is then usable throughout the life of the asset.

At the moment, one of the big topics is building information modelling, which is a great assistance because it has got the potential to save significant amounts of time and effort throughout both the design and the construction phases and it also, if implemented correctly, can provide then the support for more efficient operations and maintenance throughout the life of the asset. However, having said that, there is no clear direction or guidance in Australia for a unified approach that is similar to what the UK government has done. That creates confusion in the eyes of the asset owners in terms of which is the appropriate framework or methodology to adopt in terms of supporting the assets through their life cycle.

We also have to take into consideration that it is easy when you are starting a new asset, because you can make certain decisions around that; but if you have a large asset portfolio, you have to be in a position to actually combine the existing assets with the new assets at some point time to enable the appropriate operation and maintenance of those facilities. What someone in my position has to go through is to actually go and research what is available internationally and then have to convince an asset owner around the appropriate methodology to adopt. At the moment, this is defaulting back to—for example—the PAS 1192 approach that has been mandated by the UK government.

From my perspective, putting my case through the submission process is really to put it before this committee to consider a similar approach to what the UK government has taken in putting a strong mandate out there—in terms of strategy, standards and frameworks—that cascades down to the data level in terms of what is appropriate for federally funded assets. As soon as that focus is created, it will then push a lot of the asset owners, as well as the supporting industries around that, to adopt those same standards, because it just becomes more beneficial for them to do that.

That is it in short. The details are in the submission. If you want me to run through some of those specific recommendations, I am happy to do so. In essence, as an adviser to asset owners, those are the key challenges that we are being faced with at the moment.

Mr THISTLETHWAITE: In terms of the UK model, which level of government does it occur at? Is it at a local level or is it mandated at a national level?

Mr Shuttleworth : It is mandated at a national level. I guess if you can equate it to a federal level, anything that is funded over a certain value has to adopt it. They have mandated for 2016 that it has to comply with a level 2 capability or competency level, based on the frameworks that they have defined. Everybody is working towards that specific point in time for any new facilities that are constructed so that they comply with the requirements. Therefore, through that, they are driving certain processes, efficiencies and cost savings through the design and construction process.

Mr THISTLETHWAITE: Were the companies that have traditionally been involved in the infrastructure space, particularly around construction, okay with all of this? Was there any blowback?

Mr Shuttleworth : No, I think there has been quite a revolution within the industry in the UK. This has given them a focus and a framework to work towards. The UK is now one of the leading countries in terms of being able to support these types of activities within industry. You will even find in Australia that expertise from the UK is coming down here and advising asset owners on how to go about adopting these methodologies to get to a certain level of competence and capability, which, in a way, makes it difficult for us, because we do not have that same focus locally. We have to try and accommodate the asset owner and convince the asset owner around the appropriate direction to follow.

Mr THISTLETHWAITE: It says somewhere in your submission that Australia missed an opportunity become a world leader in the use of this. Why is that?

Mr Shuttleworth : Back in 2005, with the work that was done around Sydney Opera House, they actually went through what was called 6D BIM, which is effectively being able to provide all of the information required for maintenance of the asset. That was quite an advanced state back then. Many companies, 10 years later, are still trying to get to that level in terms of data. Federal funding was involved in that whole process, but we seem not to have evolved from that point to actually being the leader in that particular field. In the interim—in 2011—the UK government made a decision to put a strategy out, first around construction, which then cascaded down to the actual data environment. They do not specify particular software, but they have defined the whole data environment framework processes around how to go through and make sure that you can support your assets from a digital perspective. That has now made them almost the world leader in this space.

Ms MARINO: Thank you for your submission, Mr Shuttleworth. You have made a number of recommendations. As a first step for this committee, in your view, what would be your No. 1 recommendation?

Mr Shuttleworth : If this committee can get a commitment from all of the federal agencies to work in unison to define a strategy that cascades down to the data level, that would be brilliant. That would give everybody the focus to say: 'That is the direction that Australia at a federal government level is taking. Let's adopt the same approach.' Now everybody in industry can look at the same framework and model and say, 'That is a prudent direction to take; let's adopt that.' It is going to give not just the private industry but also anybody involved in federally funded activity the same base framework to work on.

Ms MARINO: When a company like yours or any other in Australia is talking to a potential new asset owner or existing asset owner, would that give you the capacity, in that space, for them to have greater confidence and for you to have greater confidence?

Mr Shuttleworth : Absolutely. I would not have to go and convince them about this methodology and why that is the best. I could just go to them and say, 'Everybody is adopting this.' So the conversation is about 'why shouldn't they adopt it' and not 'why they should'.

Mr PITT: In terms of the data, I am issuing this is not a Beta/VHS argument—there are more than two options?

Mr Shuttleworth : That is correct.

Mr PITT: Australia has an enormous amount of standards—mandatory standards, advisory standards, codes of practice and regulations—at all levels of government. There is no national standard at all in regard to the infrastructure modelling or the way that you store or capture this data now?

Mr Shuttleworth : Not that I am aware of, no. Again, creating something like that would focus people to head in the same direction. There are different organisations that are promoting open standards, but it has not been mandated anywhere. At this stage, it is almost the case of if I choose to, I can adopt those standards. There is obviously a lot of work and effort involved in adopting any particular standard, but at the moment there is no one standard that makes everybody go, 'That's the right one to adopt'. If a decision changes two years down the track, then, because it is not mandated at all or there is no single point of focus in the federal government, that could change and then everybody has to change to suit that. It is up to the asset owner a bit in terms of which way they go, and sometimes that decision is driven by wherever the design entity is and what they are comfortable with, and that is what then gets used through the process.

Mr PITT: Standards Australia, in my view, have always been very good at developing things that they then push out to everyone else that they have to purchase and then follow, so there is no work around SAA at all.

Mr Shuttleworth : The only standard that is close at this particular point in time is PAS-1192, which is the UK standard. It is publicly available at this stage, so anyone can pick it up. It has been a great help to someone in my position to provide advice, because I can leverage all of that information and actually provide assistance and guidance to my clients, to be able to say to them, 'Here's something that has been thought through to a specific level, and it is being adopted fairly widely and has been used successfully'.

Mr PITT: We have had a number of submissions with regard to the skill sets that are required for the development or management of development specifications at a federal level. They have basically been saying this has been lacking. Do you have any comment to make on what skills are available within the public service now to be able to do this work? You have spoken about departments having to work together and having a common standard—I would like them to do that for many things, not just this one—so if you have any comments around the capability of federal departments now it would be appreciated.

Mr Shuttleworth : I am aware that Defence, for example, because they have a large asset portfolio, are doing work in this particular area. Defence around other things have got good policies and procedures in place, for example around military equipment, where there are similar data standards that are required to operate aircraft or marine or land equipment; therefore, they already have a certain skill set. It is just not common across the building industry. The building industry does not quite have the same specifications of standards that some of the other areas in industry do have, and maybe it is an opportunity to tap into that skill base and see if we can roll it across into the construction site.

CHAIR: In your submission you recommend that Australia adopt the UK government model. Why is the UK government model best practice?

Mr Shuttleworth : They have put more effort into what it is they are doing; there has been concerted effort across the UK. Even Europe is looking at the UK as a de facto model. They have achieved success with it as well: they have run probably some of the biggest projects in the European Union based on that model, and they have claimed efficiencies and cost savings that on paper look extremely good. There is obviously a cost involved in implementing some of these things but, based on everything that I can see sitting at this end of the world, they are certainly doing a pretty good job of defining that strategy and then sticking to that strategy. They are now evolving that, so they have got the digital bill written, which is basically the next phase of the original approach. Again, this builds on the foundation they set in the past and is going into the next stages of becoming more efficient, more effective and more integrated from a data and a software environment point of view.

Mr VAN MANEN: Mr Shuttleworth, thank you for your submission. My question goes back a little bit to your earlier comment in relation to us missing the opportunity to be world leaders in this space, and you specifically mentioned the Opera House. Are you aware of any work that has been done subsequent to that, or at that time, with the Opera House project that has been able to quantify the cost savings in the subsequent period as a result of using that model that was used back in 2005—I think that is what you said—as compared to what it would have potentially cost if that had not been done and another system had been utilised, or the system had not been utilised at all?

I think that would potentially give us a good foundation to say, 'Okay, if we're using this system here in an Australian context, here at least as a starting point is a model that was used, is working and has saved us X number of dollars,' even though there would have been an additional upfront cost of doing it.

Mr Shuttleworth : I have not seen anything in the public domain that has actually related the work that was done back then to today from a cost point of view. My understanding is that the work done back in 2005 has enabled them to do the construction work that they are now doing to the Opera House in a much more efficient and effective way because they were able to digitise all of the information. So, they knew exactly what they were up against when they started the construction work that is currently happening with the underground expansion they are doing, et cetera. I cannot quote you a specific figure, unfortunately.

CHAIR: Although in your submission you did say:

According to a 2010 study of firms implementing BIM published in the Journal of Information Technology in Construction, half of the firms reported a decrease in project costs of up to 50 percent.

Did that identify where the savings were made?

Mr Shuttleworth : There is information that is available where different studies have identified across the life cycle which areas they were able to save and to gain efficiencies in.

CHAIR: So we should go to that report?

Mr Shuttleworth : There is information in there. There is other information available as well, but it is not specific around saying, 'In the Australian context we have been able to save X amount.'

Mr VAN MANEN: Would that not be a useful piece of work to do to quantify the value of using these systems? Also, I think you would have heard or seen some of the presentation from NICTA. How does what you do link into what NICTA does? Do you work separately? What is the collaboration like across the industry and the area you work in?

Mr Shuttleworth : In the area I am working in, in many cases it is almost a point solution. People are looking at specific projects, whether it is a new building inside an existing environment or part of a network. It is not necessarily a whole-of-organisation initiative. It is difficult to quantify some of those aspects. What NICTA is doing with that, which I think is relevant, is looking at where the interfaces happen between a piece of infrastructure or a particular building and how that interacts with the immediate environment. One of the challenges that we have also faced is with integrating geospatial information with building-specific information. There are a number of organisations that are currently working on it to try and define what the schema should look like so that we can go from the global data level to the building-specific data level. At this point in time there is a bit of a disconnect between the building envelope and the environment—that you can seamlessly move from one to the other. Again, there is work being done on that but at this stage most of the things I have been involved in are around the specific piece of infrastructure or particular asset.

Mr VAN MANEN: Within local council planning requirements or approval requirements for projects, are they starting to mandate that this sort of work is done? Or are they still just looking at the particular building within the confines of their planning regulations—that it meets their planning regulations—and that is it?

Mr Shuttleworth : That is my understanding. I am not aware of any councils that are currently asking for information to be presented to them in a digital format which they can then absorb into an existing data set and actually understand what the implications are. It is pretty much a point solution at this point in time.

Ms ROWLAND: In the context of your advocacy for the UK to be seen as best practice, you mentioned on page 13 of your submission the $15 million annually Global Infrastructure Hub being funded by a number of countries. How much do you know about how that is looking at BIM and smart ICT generally? Are you able to give us a sort of status update on what is happening with that?

Mr Shuttleworth : That particular one was actually out of left field. I was not aware that that initiative was being kicked off through a G20 submission. I actually just came across it by chance, so I do not know much more than the information I presented on that particular one, which I think reinforces the point that there seems to be different entities at a federal government level that are pursuing the same endgame through different avenues. Part of what I am recommending is that these initiatives come together as a single defined outcome from a federal government point of view. That will make it easier for us working in this environment to understand the direction that federal government is heading in. We can either decide to follow or then make a decision that that is not a direction we need to go and we need to do something else. But I think 99 per cent of people will go, 'If that's where the federal government is heading and that is where infrastructure funding is going to go, it is probably worthwhile to pursue from our perspective to understand how that works and to adopt those frameworks and methodologies that are beings espoused at a federal government level.'

Mr VAN MANEN: How readily transferrable are the UK standards and parameters to an Australian context?

Mr Shuttleworth : There are two worlds. There is the US model and then the UK model if you start to look at it in broad terms, and it is international. Data standards are not region-specific. If you decide to adopt a particular standard, it is about how information interacts at different levels—architecture and the data element level. That is totally applicable within our environment; it is just that you are living in a different part of the world. From that level down, everything can be replicated at an Australian level.

CHAIR: Do you have any further comments that you would like to make at this point?

Mr Shuttleworth : No, other than to say thank you for the opportunity. If there is any other information, I am happy to provide written support.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. If you want to respond to submissions made by other people, we would be most interested in hearing what you have to say. Thank you for attending the public hearing today. The secretariat will send you a draft transcript of proceedings so requests can be made to correct any errors of transcription. It would be helpful if you could send the secretariat any additional material that you have undertaken to provide.