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The Potential of BIM to Facilitate Collaborative AEC Education

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Computers in Education General Technical Session II

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1487.1 - 22.1487.7



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Paper Authors

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Jennifer Anne Macdonald University of Technology, Sydney


Julie E. Mills University of South Australia

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Julie Mills is Professor and Program Director in Civil Engineering at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, Australia. Prior to commencing at the University in 1996, she worked for fifteen years as a structural engineer in private industry on industrial, commercial and residential projects. She has a B.E. (Hons.) from Adelaide University and a Ph.D. from Curtin University in the area of structural engineering education. Her primary research interests are in cold-formed steel structures, engineering education and women in engineering. Julie co-authored a book on Gender Inclusive Engineering Education published by Routledge in 2010. She is currently leading a nationally funded project on Collaborative Building Design Education utilizing BIM. In 2009, Julie was awarded the Australasian Association for Engineering Education National Teaching Excellence Award.

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The Potential of BIM to Facilitate Collaborative AEC EducationIn the U.S., approximately 8 per cent of the total workforce in 2007 was employed in construction andthe industry contributed $611 billion, or 4.4 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in that year(NAS, 2009). But despite the importance of the construction industry to the developed world, somestudies suggest that productivity has declined over the past 30 years and that the construction industryis extremely inefficient compared with other industries. The adoption of computers and 2D computer-aided design (CAD), far from improving efficiency, has actually coincided with a decrease indocumentation quality and productivity and significant losses are accrued in the construction industrydue to lack of interoperability between the various sectors and professions involved in it.Enlightened companies in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry are movingtowards collaborative working practices, where all design team members are engaged at an earlierstage in the design process, aided by building information modelling (BIM) tools. Whereas the old 2DCAD tools simply replicated manual drawing processes, without adding any value, BIM is acompletely new paradigm. It allows professionals to query their designs at an early stage of the designprocess; to explore different options; to run structural and environmental performance analyses andcostings and to detect problems and resolve them before they get to site. This way of working cannotbe achieved through technology alone, however: it requires a cultural shift within the industry fromthat of fragmentation and litigation to collaborative working and information sharing. It also requiressome significant change to the way in which future architects, engineers and constructionprofessionals involved in the building industry are educatedThere is a great opportunity for educators to train undergraduates in the AEC professions, includingengineers such as structural, civil, building services and electrical engineers, in the use of BIM and theconcepts of collaborative design, before they learn about the “old ways” of working in the industry.These new graduates are likely to have a profound effect on the industry and to lead the charge inadopting BIM and developing innovative approaches to working practices. Unfortunately, students ofthe various AEC disciplines currently tend to be educated separately, often in different Departmentsand frequently with little interaction. This paper discusses the potential of BIM for improvingcollaborative AEC education, and proposes a way forward for Universities, based on the outcomes ofa series of surveys and interviews with a range of industry and academic stakeholders in the AECprofessions, examining current and future practice in this important area.

Macdonald, J. A., & Mills, J. E. (2011, June), The Potential of BIM to Facilitate Collaborative AEC Education Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18426

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