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Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications - 09/09/2015 - Smart information and communications technology in the design and planning of infrastructure

CASSON, Mr Brett Michael, Infrastructure Development Executive, Autodesk

SOMERVILLE, Mr Roger Paul, Director, APAC Government Affairs, Autodesk Asia Pty Ltd

Committee met at 08:06

Evidence was taken via teleconference—

CHAIR ( Mrs Prentice ): I declare open the committee's public hearing for the inquiry into the role of smart ICT in the design and planning of infrastructure. I welcome witnesses from Autodesk and thank you for offering to give evidence today. I thought you might like to start with an opening statement.

Mr Somerville : Yes, we would, if that is possible.

CHAIR: I just note that 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. So I will now open up for your statement.

Mr Somerville : We are delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry on the role of smart ICT in the design and planning of infrastructure. I represent a design software company called Autodesk.

Mr Casson : I represent Autodesk in Australia. My role at Autodesk is that I head up our government initiatives in Australia as well as the development and use of our technology solutions for the infrastructure and construction sector.

Mr Somerville : In terms of our presentation we were hoping to spend about 10 to 15 minutes of our time to quickly introduce Autodesk and then provide some context as to why we are presenting to the committee, to also introduce them and why we think it is valuable to the Australian government, then to discuss a case study of an infrastructure project that has used them and then leave all the rest of the time for any questions you might have.

CHAIR: We have about 40 minutes and I do warn you that the committee regularly have a lot of questions, so over to you.

Mr Somerville : Autodesk is a world-leading design software and services company. For 31 years we have been the engine driving the design of nearly everything around us. With tens of millions of customers around the world Autodesk makes tools for the people who are imagining, designing and creating a better world. Our portfolio of software and apps empowers organisations of all sizes to help solve the most complex global design, engineering and sustainability challenges. Our longstanding flagship product is called AutoCAD. We are headquartered in San Rafael near Silicon Valley in California and have 7,600 employees worldwide. We have approximately 120 employees in Australia, with major offices in Sydney, Melbourne and a presence in Brisbane, Perth and Hobart.

We think we can make a significant contribution to the deliberations of the committee as it considers all terms of reference related to this inquiry and we will discuss those terms of reference in a little bit more detail subsequently, but the key perspective that Autodesk hopes to bring to your inquiry is that a significant proportion of infrastructure project costs are tied to change management, requests for information or RFI, and design clashes that are not found until construction begins due to a siloed approach to project delivery.

We think the use of building information modelling, or BIM, is able to substantially reduce these costs and delays. Through our presentation and comments and answers to questions we will hopefully focus on explaining what BIM is and why it is a valuable tool to any government wishing to improve or make smarter the delivery of infrastructure assets and we will also provide details of a case study of a piece of Australian infrastructure that showcases the benefits of using BIM. Overall we have two key points for the committee. We think the Australian government should consider mandating or otherwise encouraging the use of BIMs for all public infrastructure projects. We note that the Productivity Commission, in a separate inquiry into Australia's infrastructure productivity last year, has also recommended this to the government. We also think an initial practical step for the Australian government would be to initiate several BIM pilot projects immediately to begin capturing the benefits of BIM in a more tangible way and to better understand the return on investment, or ROI, that BIM generates for public infrastructure assets.

I will quickly turn to a brief description of what we think BIM is. So, in that perspective, BIM is a collaborative approach to whole-of-life asset management. It is underpinned by the creation, collation and exchange of intelligent 3D models and, importantly as well, the structured data associated with those models. It is important to recognise that BIM is not a piece of software but rather a better way of managing digital and physical assets through the life cycle.

I would like to turn to why we think BIM is valuable for government. We think there are a number of reasons that BIM generates value for the Australian government. First and foremost is around the cost and time saving it can generate. This is obviously one of the main benefits; that is, the reduction of costs and compression of schedules during the development and construction of a building or infrastructure project. The collaborative processes at the heart of BIM take advantage of the insights of all project participants; that is, designers, engineers, contracts et cetera, to optimise project results, reduce waste and maximise efficiency throughout all phases of design and construction. Significant savings can be gained during the construction phase by reducing the rework through clash detection and analysis of BIM models. The result is a project that meets the budget schedule and needs of the government. BIM also creates better transparency for a government. This is because the BIM process contains such rich and accessible data. Governments will have much greater visibility into how their projects are evolving and being built. As the government, as owner, is working with multiple contractors and design teams, this transparency can help ensure that all its stakeholders are coordinated and the project is on track. It also helps with stakeholder and public acceptance.

Some government-driven infrastructure projects can obviously be complex, with many different stakeholders and diverse public bodies keenly interested in the project. BIM processes and model based project visualisation can provide greater visibility for all these stakeholders, leading to a greater understanding and acceptance of the project and an easier approval process.

BIM also helps with PPP attractiveness. An increasing number of PPP financers and donors are requiring the use of BIM in their project to ensure best value for their money and to help clarify and stabilise the ROI they generate over the lifetime of the project. BIM's model based planning helps predict performance, for example traffic flow on a highway, simulate construction processes and experience the asset before it is real. Therefore, a government that embraces BIM is typically better able to attract potential partners and PPP investors.

Lastly, BIM also provides value for the operation and maintenance of an asset. The cost savings during the planning and construction phase are only one element of the entire life cycle infrastructure project. When using BIM for design and construction, teams can add data needed for operations and maintenance to the project models. Once construction is complete government owners can utilise the data rich models to generate ongoing life-of-project savings through improved management of the physical assets.

So, committee members, thank you for that. I have given you a context to why we are presenting. I have made two main points on what we think the Australian government should consider doing in relation to BIM. I have briefly touched on what BIM is and why we think it is valuable for government. I will now turn to my colleague, Mr Casson, to make a number of comments as well.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr Casson : I would like to briefly respond initially to some of the additional terms of reference as outlined and reference a case study on the use of BIM on an infrastructure project in Australia. Firstly, the infrastructure industry as a whole is one in which Autodesk sees some huge disruption, not only in physical production of linear assets, being infrastructure, but disruption in the intellectual production and demand factors relating to the actual types of infrastructure that are being built and will need to be built in the future.

Some of the technologies I would like to touch on that are assisting in the delivery of infrastructure projects include the use of 3D laser scanning and 3D mobile mapping systems to accurately capture the built environment and better aid future design; the use of mobile technology and mobile devices in the hosting of 3D project models and the associated data that goes with those models to improve productivity on site and for more certainty for the construction of these projects; the use of automated drones for the asset capturing and monitoring of lead pieces of infrastructure; and, the use in the construction phase of automated machine guidance, or as we like to term it at Autodesk, the 3D printing of the earth, so the models being hosted on construction equipment and those pieces of construction equipment shaping the earth into pieces of linear assets.

I would just like to respond to identifying the new capabilities Smart ICT will provide. Many of these new capabilities have just been outlined by Mr Somerville in why BIM is valuable for government, however, I would just like to highlight a few: improved community engagement, not only in the community but government and stakeholders as well; better project transparency can be more easily attained as the data being created is not only in a 3D format but it is also data rich, so it gives all of the stakeholders and all of the community a much better view of the project or the proposed project and that can speed up the approvals process. It gives more certainty for business throughout the supply chain. Better information management can lead to better outcomes. The example is a supplier of materials on a project can better forward-plan the wheres and the whens for the materials that need to be on site, so this can lead to improved efficiencies throughout the whole supply chain and it can also lead to a reduction in energy use as well through the supply chain and less duplication of effort.

I would like to touch on harmonising data formats and creating nationally consistent arrangements for data storage and access. This is one of the keys to the success of widespread adoption of BIM in Australia. Without a harmonised national approach there will be great uncertainty and no guarantees in the interoperability of the data throughout the life cycle of the infrastructure project being through proposed design, conceptual design, detailed design, construction, delivery and operations. That is the reason why we are advocating a whole-of-government approach. If the states start developing their own systems then this would lead to possible confusion. The analogy that I would like to draw on that would be the different rail gauges between states, so that is why we are most certainly advocating a whole-of-government approach.

I would like to touch on the identifying international best practice in the use of Smart ICT and the design and planning of infrastructure. We identify the United Kingdom as probably the most advanced country for their vision in the reform of the construction sector. They have adopted a whole-of-government approach that has been taken in the planning, procurement, construction, delivery and management of the building and infrastructure project, and Australia could certainly harness some of the lessons learnt from the UK experience.

I would like to comment on considering means, including legislative and administrative action, by which government can promote this technology to increase economic productivity. With the adoption of whole-of-government BIM approach there is a huge opportunity for us in Australia to be seen as leading in our region and, again drawing on the UK experience, it is paramount that we believe the federal government form, firstly, some in pilots to capture some of that return on investment or ROI but also develop a task route very similar to the UK with members from both public and private sectors across all states to develop some of these common goals in investigating the approach of not only the end in mind, so not only what Australia wants to capture from BIM, but also the development of frameworks and standards around that, which is absolutely critical for the success of this.

Lastly, I would just like to mention a project, so a user case, and it is here in Australia. The case study is actually the North West Rail Link in Sydney. It is expected to open in 2019 and it will be Australia's first fully automated transit rail system. It is poised to change the way that people in one of Australia's fastest growing regions, being the north west of Sydney, think about transportation. Residents of that area, who have some of the highest car ownership rates in Australia, will shortly have quick access to convenient, comfortable public transportation systems.

SMEC, which is a professional services firm focused on major infrastructure, is leading the design effort on this project with several elements of the operations of trains, and systems and surface and viaduct civil works. The lead client in the public-private partnership, being the New South Wales government, has mandated the use of building information modelling, or BIM, on this project. Some of the stats of the North West Rail Link are that it will feature eight new stations, approximately 4,000 commuter car parking spaces and twin 15 kilometre tunnels, which will be some of Australia's longest rail tunnels. So a project of this size and complexity requires far-sighted management and proactive attention to some of those smaller details that happen on large infrastructure projects. Some of those are some of the large teams from multidisciplinary areas, including structural engineers, civil engineers and architects all contributing to this project.

SMEC has very quickly developed a team to understand the BIM process and understand how to deliver it. One of the key challenges, obviously, was to coordinate all of those disciplines, so using virtual design and construction, or BIM, was one of the key technologies to help overcome that; in particular, some of the design clashes that are associated with some of these construction projects. So, for SMEC, this approach alone is delivering cost and time savings throughout the construction process, along with huge advantages in the maintenance over the life cycle of the asset.

So I will close on that and I would like to, again, thank the committee for the opportunity to give this address.

CHAIR: You indicate in your submission where you refer to a study which you say found that 60 per cent of major capital projects failed to be delivered on time and on budget. Now, I assume you are then correlating that to if BIM had been used on those projects that would have been dramatically reduced or, if not, eliminated. I just wondered if you could tell us the source of that study.

Mr Somerville : Yes. Our point is certainly that the use of BIM should dramatically reduce that number. In terms of the source for that, would it be possible if I can follow up.

CHAIR: By all means take anything on notice that you want to. That is not a problem. Thank you for that.

Mr THISTLETHWAITE: You mentioned mandating BIM, particularly for government owned buildings. Has that been done elsewhere in the world? How successful has it been and who bears the additional cost?

Mr Somerville : Yes. If I can make a couple of comments on that. What we are seeing globally is more and more equivalent federal governments are mandating BIM. Mr Casson noted the UK example. That is one mature mandated example we can touch on. Other examples closer to Australia would be the Singapore government. They are also seen in the APEC region as having perhaps the most mature mandate for the use of BIM where any structure over the size of 5,000 square metres needs to be submitted to the Singaporean government using a BIM or 3D model before the permissions will be granted for that construction to proceed.

In ASEAN we are also seeing the Vietnam government mandating the use of BIM for construction. We are also seeing the Philippines and Indonesian departments of public works mandating, or considering mandating, the use of BIM for their public infrastructure build out. Further north in the region we are seeing Korea with a relatively mature BIM mandate. We are also seeing China in the process of implementing a BIM mandate and also a number of US government agencies have mandated the use of BIM for a number of years. So, globally I would say that there are indeed a large number and a growing number of governments that are mandating, or in the process of mandating, the use of BIM.

Now, as to the costs and how those are apportioned, typically a government would consider applying some sort of BIM mandate road map. By that, I mean they would not mandate immediately but they would develop a multi-year road map that involved the development of a BIM standard, that involved the provision of training or upgrading to their national infrastructure or construction industry and also develop guidelines and materials for industry to follow to ensure that they are able to indeed use BIM according to the mandate time line. Now, this does have costs involved. What I have seen typically is that a central or federal government would allocate budget and funding to the implementation of that road map, but I would also add that projected savings from the use of BIM over time would certainly outweigh that funding outlay by a significant degree. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr PITT: Certainly your submission and your statements this morning have covered a lot of the questions I had, particularly about a harmonised approach. Just to lead on from that, in terms of the data—and I have two questions here—where would you suggest that that is stored? Where could it be successfully stored? Secondly—and this is something that I do not think we have considered previously—given our current security position, how would we manage that data regardless of where we put it, given that it would be a 3D map of every piece of infrastructure in the country over a period of time?

CHAIR: Mr Somerville, are you volunteering or is Mr Casson?

Mr Casson : I will volunteer.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr Casson : If I could just cover off on the hosting of the data, that would need to be very carefully mapped out. At the moment the hosting of data on infrastructure projects really happens at a project level and then it is delivered to the stakeholders, typically being the state governments, who then have their own data hosting requirements. So with a national approach that would obviously have to be scaled in different ways and different considerations in terms of how that data is managed and hosted. Essentially the theme would be that there would be, what we term and what others term, a common data environment in which all of that data, all of that intelligence, is hosted. Could I just ask you to repeat the first part of that question.

Mr PITT: The first part of the question was about the hosting of the data, where it should be and, in particular, who should get access. The second part of the question was about how we continue to ensure security, given that it is very important, if you have a 3D map of every single building in the country within the next 20 years, who gets access to that and how do we manage the security threats that we currently have?

Mr Casson : In response to the second part of that question, there are certain technologies at the moment that we are seeing for data hosting that are actually more secure in the way that it is being hosted now. We have certain standards around cloud security, if data is being hosted in the cloud. There are ways to give users and specific users access to specific pieces of data, but I would draw back again that we cannot have any obvious sharing or standardisation of data unless we have obviously, as I said, the standardisation or the framework around that.

CHAIR: You mentioned in your opening statements about a pilot project. I was just going to ask Ms Marino to elaborate on one that the Western Australian government is doing with roads and if that would be considered a pilot project. Ms Marino, could you just elaborate on the one that was shown to us the other day.

Ms MARINO: The one down at Bunbury and there is one around the airport in Perth. That is the one that the chair is talking about. That has been a collaborate type project. It might be worth even getting in touch with the particular agencies to have a look at how that is working. I think the layered approach to that is we had a surveying company that has a mobile survey grade laser scanner that gave us a very detailed look at how this assists government and private enterprise.

CHAIR: So it probably could be rated as a pilot project, do you think?

Ms MARINO: I think it could. I think it could be useful in that sense for us to look at. It well could be a pilot project.

Mr Casson : I would just like to add that with a pilot project it is very important to start with the end in mind, so to understand what it is exactly that we want to capture from this project and then we can set up processes or the actual project can deliver processes to very accurately capture some of that ROI that has been identified under the outcomes. It is actually quite difficult to do retrospectively, so I think the position would be to identify a project, identify some of the goals and then map out very accurately how some of those ROIs will be captured in relation to those goals.

Ms MARINO: In other words, a new project?

Mr Casson : Absolutely.

Ms MARINO: Well, there are plenty of those happening.

CHAIR: Yes, there are.

Mr VAN MANEN: Thank you for your comments and your presentation today. To follow on from the discussion about pilot projects, other than the North West Rail Link what other projects in Australia, either at a state or federal government level, whether they be major infrastructure projects such as road or rail or building projects, are you aware of that are using BIM now to optimise the outcomes on those projects? I note in your submission that you provided where you touched on the North West Rail Link but you also touched on the Ipswich Motorway upgrade in western Brisbane and the success of using BIM in that project. Could you just elaborate on your experience in the use of BIM in Australia, but also obviously you represent Autodesk, which is a key software provider in this space. I am assuming there is a number of other providers of software that will achieve a similar thing as well. I am assuming that is where your comments regarding integration of various pieces of software and setting those standards is important.

Mr Casson : Yes. If I could respond to some of that and if Mr Somerville would like to jump in as well, I will talk firstly about two projects that we know of where BIM is being used—two significantly different types of projects. The first is the Melbourne Metro project where the joint venture stakeholders are using BIM to assist in the delivery of that project, which at the moment I think is one of Victoria's largest infrastructure projects. That project in Victoria obviously is a rail project with some tailing works through the heart of Melbourne.

The other project I wanted to touch on was the one that we also outlined in our submission which was an urban renewal project, scoped and delivered by GHD, which again is a very large engineering consultancy practice. It was the Central to Eveleigh rail corridor in Sydney. The difference of that project in relation to the other infrastructure projects is that it used different types of data and there were different deliverables associated with that. GHD used different methods to help deliver the big process, some of them being the consumption of what we term big data, so the consumption of demographics data, the consumption of huge aerial imagery data sets, terrain data sets and 3D building data sets. That assisted them in the decisions to be made about that project: is this the right decision for us? Is this the right decision for the community? Is this the right decision for the city of Sydney and for government? So, that was a very, very important project because it was not tied to a long linear asset. It was more tied back to an urban renewal project. Obviously there are associated works that were going to happen with that project in those areas. I am sorry, could you repeat the second part of the question.

Mr VAN MANEN: Obviously, Autodesk is one provider of software in this space. I am assuming there are a number of others and, consequently, the importance of some standards so that all of the work done on the various pieces of software is interoperable and can be merged into a single model.

Mr Casson : Yes. Thank you for repeating that. That is actually correct. Your assumption is correct. There are other software vendors that can provide BIM software technology. We are advocates of an open BIM platform, meaning that it is vendor agnostic. We are very much in favour of having open standards and open format so that industry can use whatever authoring tool they like, but we also recognise that there needs to be a common data environment and common framework and standards associated with those data formats so that, for example, a structural design for a bridge can marry with the road design for a bridge or the pavement design for a bridge, so the development of standards around those disciplines and the framework is absolutely critical for the success of BIM in this country.

Mr VAN MANEN: To follow on from that, how effectively is that working at present?

Mr Casson : At the moment there are definitely a few open data formats, so there are definite formats that are standards. One of them is IFC, which is an interoperable format between different vendor platforms for not only the 3D context or the 3D geometry but also there are other standards for the interoperability of data, so the associated data attached to those objects. I will draw on the UK experience as well. They have actually mapped out exactly how that would look, and one of those formats they use is IFC; the other one is COBie.

Mr VAN MANEN: Are those standards being looked at from an international perspective, that we finish up with a global standard that everybody around the world is used to working in?

Mr Casson : Yes. So the British standard, BS 1192, is being developed in certain phases. The vision for all of these platforms and all of these formats is that it will develop into an ISO standard. IFC is an ISO standard at the moment.

Mr VAN MANEN: Thank you.

CHAIR: Roger, did you want to add to that in the two minutes that we have left?

Mr Somerville : No, thank you.

CHAIR: Gentlemen, you have suggested that government should mandate them and that we should do a pilot project. Are there any other actions government should be taking?

Mr Somerville : From my perspective they are two key actions we would recommend to the Australian government but it would also, I think, be a phased approach so that establishing a number of pilots would be a phase that would normally occur before the mandating and there would, therefore, be a significant amount of preparatory work to ensure that when the mandate occurred it was meaningful and one that industry could indeed follow.

In terms of that initial step with the pilot, what I have seen in other countries that are mandating them—and I would also add that rather than just one pilot, many governments would be considering half a dozen or a dozen pilots at the same time on different types of infrastructure projects—and as Mr Casson noted, very much preparing and planning and setting up those projects so that metrics and measurements are in place to capture and understand all the benefits that BIM would provide to those pilots. Therefore, the government would be in a position, when those projects were complete, to have a very clear understanding of the value, the ROI, that BIM provided. That would be typically a concrete number or a concrete set of actions that were much better than previous processes. That concrete outcome would typically drive the understanding within government of the value of BIM and lead to a much more substantial and meaningful mandate to follow. Again, Mr Casson may have a comment here too.

CHAIR: Mr Van Manen has a quick follow-up on that.

Mr VAN MANEN: Thank you for that. Just quickly on that, given your experience in working with governments around Australia, both at a federal and state level, what is the level of skill or competency within government or the various government departments to work in this space and actually understand how to utilise what BIM can potentially provide?

Mr Casson : If I could comment on that, the New South Wales government agency Transport for New South Wales actually has a BIM task group. They have been going down this process and path to understand what it is that is required for the New South Wales government to deliver the digital railway for the future. They are, again, drawing very heavily on the UK experience but also developing the framework and standards for the delivery of infrastructure projects in New South Wales. They have a task group that they have formed over the past 12 to 18 months and are quite mature in the understanding of not only delivery but how the technology will assist in productivity gains for the operations and maintenance of the rail network in Sydney, in New South Wales.

Mr VAN MANEN: Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you. Mr Casson, do you want to add to that or shall we invite you to submit any further information?

Mr Casson : Just lastly, Mr Somerville mentioned the BIM pilots and the development of the standards and framework. That has to be done, in our opinion, through a task group. That needs to be the conduit between industry and government. That task group will be the group that will form some of the standards, frameworks, identify the pilots and capture the ROI on some of these projects. They would be made up from both public and private sectors. That experience has been reasonably successful, or mostly successful, in the UK with the UK BIM task group.

CHAIR: I assume in Australia's case it would be state governments as well as national.

Mr Casson : Absolutely. State governments have a vested interest in all of this so they would absolutely have to be a part of any task group formed.

CHAIR: Excellent. Mr Somerville and Mr Casson, thank you very much for participating in 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 information that you have undertaken to provide and, if you feel there is other information that would benefit our inquiry, please do not hesitate to include that. The secretariat may also be in contact with you to seek more detailed information on some aspects as we proceed to draft our report. Thank you very much for today, and we look forward to progressing BIM. Thank you.

Resolved that these proceedings be published.

Committee adjourned at 08:51