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Convention for a Digital eSouth Africa: CoDE•SA

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This white paper is presented in part, towards a series of papers in the development of a South African digital infrastructure delivery, beyond Building Information Modelling policy.

This paper is intended to inform and guide in the development and implementation of a National South African Policy on Digital Infrastructure, Design, Delivery, Operations and Management.

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

  • UP (University of Pretoria) 

  • 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

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 Watts (Global Major Project Executive, Autodesk), and Pontus Bengston (Business Development Executive, Autodesk) share their insights to the approaches of 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 the 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.

Workshop 3 - 31 October 2023

Facilitated conversations

Mode: Unconference style

Objective: The 3rd CoDE•SA workshop will look at the hurdles / challenges / pain points we anticipate in the national BIM journey, through a “CALLING BULLSHIT ON BIM” approach

Pain points/challenges hurdles to be addressed, as identified by the People.  These pain points are grouped and reported under three Digital/BIM implementation fields: People, Process/Policy as well as Technology. Each delegate identified a field of interest from the three and formed 3 groups.


The discussions around the table were centered around:

  • Further detailing the pain points

  • Possible interventions/solutions

The collection of the reports is planned to inform the policy development by the CIDB, happening in parallel to the BIMCommUnity Africa industry engagement events.

These conversations are recorded below.

Background: The current process with the adoption of ISO 19650 is as follows:

ISO 19650 parts 1 (principles)  and 2 (Construction) have been published as a SANS standard.  Part 3 (Operations) comment period has closed and should be published as a SANS soon.  Cidb is interested in supporting the drafting of the National Annex and a protocol but this is a while off. This lack of clarity coloured much of the conversation.  There was very little pushback on the value of BIM as a technology, just on the way it is likely to be implemented.


Concern was expressed about the need to clarify BIM’s role before tendering for a project.  The lack of proper briefing from the client and the imposition of new requirements only once the project documentation was underway.  These are covered in the Process outlined in ISO 19650 and needed to be supported in the development of the National Annex. This is a valid concern as the clients do not get very involved in the briefing of project teams. The role of developers and their project managers in making hard ‘bargains’ focused on reducing fees also played a role.


It was felt that there was little incentive to introduce BIM into projects as it did not tie in with existing frameworks (Contracts, particularly PROCSA, in use) The long-term benefits were also not properly understood or explained to project teams. There was some concern that enforcement would be very one-sided and put unreasonable pressure on project teams. (Lack of Client understanding of their role and responsibilities) 


The discussion also addressed the ROI of moving to BIM, forced by the market or willingly adopting a new technology and maximising its potential.  Here the actions of the BIM Champion were seen as critical.  It was felt that having someone of the same discipline who had the responsibility of easing the introduction of BIM into the practice and providing support to colleagues working with it was critical.


On the point of creating a local need, the necessity of having a predictable and stable process and procedure in support of an accepted policy would lead to wider adoption and acceptance.

There is a lack of experience in BIM Projects where ISO 19650 plays a role and how this will impact the market for any understanding beyond genuine concern.


There was also little understanding of how workflows need to change with a BIM project. During the discussion, the role of having a BIM Champion within the company's structure is to support the rollout of the technology and processes as to simply learning about the software’s capabilities.


This was understood to cover families and libraries that are shared and introduce the benefits of the reuse of components in speeding projects and saving rework costs.  A BIM Manager was seen as having a project-based responsibility across disciplines and not helpful in an upskilling role within the team.