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Convention for a Digital South Africa
Laying the foundation for the digital transformation of South Africa’s built environment

Building Information Modelling, or Better Information Management, BIM, holds tremendous potential to boost project delivery during all phases of projects, for the benefit of project stakeholders and ultimate users of those built assets. The skills, processes and technologies required are already widely used in South Africa. Our industry is poised and ready for wholesale adoption of this transforming approach to development. What we need is a national policy to create an environment for all the stakeholders to operate within to deliver the benefits to our citizens.


The BIM Community Africa (BCA) has undertaken a number of key actions to pave the way for the creation of such a Policy. BCA have established a network of Professionals related to the built environment, representing public sector, private sector and education. These professionals operate in various domains, ranging from planning and policy to architecture, engineering, construction and facilities management. Through this active network, BCA have championed the adoption of the ISO19650 standard by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). The process of comment and adoption by SABS is well underway with the first two of the modules of this 5-part standard, having already been circulated for industry comment. 


These activities by the BCA have created a groundswell of interest and awareness of the potential benefits of BIM implementation to the South African Construction sector. The topic of BIM adoption has been studied by various tertiary institutions, answering the question “why is BIM not adopted more widely?” Consistently, the findings point to the absence of a South African Policy about the use of BIM in South Africa. Anecdotal evidence within the BCA at its various conferences and meetings supports these findings, and has led to this BIM CODE•SA Initiative.


The vision of the BIM CODE•SA is to commence with the process to develop A BIM Policy, by the South African AEC industry, for adoption by the Cabinet of the Republic of South Africa. The policy should define the Roadmap for meaningful implementation of BIM in the Built Environment of South Africa, for the benefit of its citizens. 


The development of a Policy is clearly defined in the National Policy Development Framework (NPDF 2020). Policy development will require a Task Team to drive the process, involving key stakeholders, subject matter experts, policy drafters, industry professionals, representatives from government departments, educators and researchers. This is a mammoth task.


It is with this vision in mind that we held a half-day workshop on 20 April 2023 in Fourways, Johannesburg that was a collective first step towards this policy development, during which we discussed the need for this policy, identified the key benefits of the policy, and set out to establish a Task Team to drive this policy development.

Workshop 1 - 20 April 2023


Opening remarks from Amanda Filtane, event moderator:

BIM CODE-SA: BIM Convention for a Digital eSouth Africa

  • Towards a Digital Built South Africa

  • Inclusive and Progressive

  • Undivided SA > United Built Environment

  • Common citizenship > common data environments

  • Patriotism + Loyalty = Digital B.E. (Built Environment) “for us, by us”

Harnessing the power of digital technologies in:

  • Increasing the rate at which infrastructure is:

    • Planned

    • Delivered 

  • Improving inefficiencies in managing infrastructure

Why do we need BIM and why do we need a national policy?

Facilitator: Richard Matchett (Digital Lead, Zutari).

Delegates: Nikki van der Walt (Technical Solution Executive COO, Autodesk), Professor Innocent Musonda (Professor: Construction Management, UJ, Director Centre for Applied Research + Innovation in the Built Environment), Nicolette Pingo (Programme Manager: Inclusive Cities, South African Cities Network), Michael van Rooyen (CIO, GIC)

Benefits / Why?


  • Information availability, enabling the generation of revenue, and planning

  • Lack of information makes the management of facilities very difficult.

  • Efficiencies - workflows make life easier and save time and effort.

  • Inefficiencies from engineers to contractors, transfer of design information into construction information, 

  • Progress reporting, frequent progress information updates.


The little guys


  • Access information, update project status easily, remain updated through changes, 

  • The little guys… better information to drive procurements, payments, material planning.

  • Digitised processes are quick, payment approvals are quick, complete value chain is better.

  • Visualisation and clarity of scope, technical complexity… comms to the community, tradesmen, stakeholders, politicians…

  • Information is valuable, to communicate issues, problems, risks…

  • Common view of project intent, common view of “need to know” information


Challenges to overcome…


  • Back yard dwellings… informal development is big, how would BIM apply to them?… does it need to?  If its not practical, is it a “why not” or is it another topic to explore in due course?  Better Information Management applies to these dwellings too, and is relevant.

  • Different categories of projects / asset types / compliance requirements etc. that would trigger different grades of requirements for BIM

  • Each category of asset would have a requirement.

  • Transitional process - Level 1…Level 2…? Similar to the UK?

  • Access to technology, viewability of models, IFC and open BIM standards?

  • For local, un-digitalised contractors, BIM will support the drive to digitalise the country


TASK TEAM: Digital Built SA - Policy Development

  • People

    • skills​

    • competencies

    • environments

  • Technology

    • soft​

    • hard

    • infrastructure

    • interoperability

  • Process

    • collaboration​

    • security

  • Transition

  • Stakeholders

TASK TEAM: Governance

  • Governance - BIMcommUNITY.Africa


  • Task Team - EXCO (approx 4 executive members)

  • Framework for

    • policy development​

    • policy components

    • collection of best practice (sample globally)

  • Determine task team deliverables


Open Mic Session

  • Proposed CBE

    • critical for a unified Digital Built Environment policy development​


  • MOU for:

    • appointment of members/individuals/organisations/institutions/associations to be part of the extensive task team

    • collection of best practice and pilot project data in order to validate recommendations in the policy 

  • Forward thinking

    • housing of the Digital Built SA Policy: custodian/enforcer body

MOU acceptances:

  • iX Engineers


  • CIDB

  • Lyt Architects

  • CKR Engineers

  • Zutari


  • DRA Global

  • UJ (University of Johannesburg)


  • MD Construction

  • Archimus

  • WBHO

  • CSIR

  • VWSA

  • CESA

  • Maninga Engineering

  • UCT


  • TUT (Tshwane University of Technology)

  • WACO

Workshop 2 - 13 July 2023

Screenshot 2023-09-07 at 11.15.14.png

Presentation by Ishmail Cassiem from the CIDB

​Ishmail shared the CIDB’s plans for a BIM Mandate and their sponsoring of the national annex for ISO/SANS 19650.

Conversation between Selvan Murugan, Lewis Watts and Pontus Bengston

Selvan Murugan (Digital Practice Lead, Zutari), Lewis Watt (Global Major Project Development Executive, Autodesk) and Pontus Bengston (Business Development Executive) share their insights to the approaches to BIM, Information Management and ISO19650 from a UK and Swedish perspective. They also discuss the pros and cons of a top-down BIM government mandate approach of the UK compared to a more organic approach in Sweden. 

The aim of this conversation was to learn from other BIM journeys, and then see what we can apply in our South African context.

Facilitated conversations

The first conversation focused on Governance. Delegates were asked to look at the eco-system of BIM from a Provincial, National and International perspective.

The second conversation was to identify a Needs/Gap analysis for the Built Environment from the perspective of various disciplines. 

These conversations are recorded below.

Conversation 1 - Environmental


  • Information Requirements - what metrics are needed, for what purpose - focus on the output of whatever tech and system is used, the information that is produced should assist to manage the Environmental Sub-systems.

  • Systems of systems, environmental concerns, stewardship and action occur within a system of systems, good information (predefined) is needed to measure, track, reports and benchmark.

  • Driven by economics (money talks), with a latent driver from Legal (policy / regulation)

  • BIM could drive the digital economy in a country - new services, new workstreams… its an enabler for the broader industry and economy (4IR transformation of South Africa)

  • No-one is going to pay more for BIM… it’s rather a matter of survival. Adopt or DIE. This is the new way of doing engineering, without this approach, you will fall behind and fail.

  • Benefits and use cases… who benefits, and when do they benefit in the asset life cycle?

  • Big Bang adoption… people will adopt to meet a need, rather than merely to tick a box. Companies developed organically, however the mandate created a movement for improvement and change.


Conversation 2 - DHET / SAQA


  • Education of the professionals that will be operating in all stages of asset lifecycles, all roles in contracts, all activities around asset operations.

  • Curriculum will change to meet the emerging / changing needs

  • BIM as a skill, not an area of theory, introduce “in service training” / apprenticeships

  • De-stigmatise the paradigm of designer / modeller, recognise the parallel roles of creativity and design and equip / certify accordingly.

  • Incorporate learning about information and its use, in undergrad courses. Point to the IM in each course, highlighting the use of the IM in the lifecycle.

  • Teach process, expose to technology.

  • Maintain feedback from industry to keep the curriculum relevant.

  • Involve industry to close the gap between theory and the changing practical landscape.

  • How much does the formal education do vs the in-service training?

  • While CIDB is driving policy, we drive the capacitation of the industry. What we have in our hands is the widespread capacity growth of the individuals in the industry.

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