What is Building Information Modelling

Sarah Lorek: Constructible

BIM model of a bridge built with BIM models only – no drawings

Across the world, BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a crucial and even mandated process to ensure the planning, design, and construction of buildings is highly efficient and collaborative. Read on to discover what BIM is, how BIM is used, and what BIM levels mean.

What Is BIM?

BIM is an acronym for Building Information Modelling or Building Information Management. It is a highly collaborative process that allows architects, engineers, real estate developers, contractors, manufacturers, and other construction professionals to plan, design, and construct a structure or building within one 3D model.

It can also span into the operation and management of buildings using data that owners have access to (hence the name Building Information Management). This data allows governments, municipalities, and property managers to make informed decisions based on information derived from the model— even after the building has been constructed.

From Blueprints to CAD to BIM

In the past, blueprints and drawings were used to express information about a particular building plan. This 2D approach made it very difficult to visualize dimensions and requirements. Next came CAD (Computer Aided Design), which helped drafters see the benefit of plans in a digital environment. Later on, CAD turned 3D, which brought more realistic visuals to blueprints. Now, BIM (Building Information Modeling) is the standard— but it is more than just a 3D model.

BIM Objects

BIM objects (components that make up a BIM model) are intelligent, have geometry, and store data. If any element is changed, BIM software updates the model to reflect that change. This allows the model to remain consistent and coordinated throughout the entire process so that structural engineers, architects, MEP engineers, designers, project managers, and contractors can work in a more collaborative environment.

Example of a BIM object – Optibal W6 ball valve with Actuator – downloaded from the manufacturer and used by plumbing engineers in their BIM models

The “I” in BIM

BIM, as a whole, refers to the process of having all parties involved in the construction and lifecycle management of built assets, working collaboratively and sharing data. However, the true power of BIM lives in the “I” (information). All of the information gathered— from conception to completion— isn’t just stored, it’s actionable.



The data can be used to improve accuracy, express design intent from the office to the field, improve knowledge transfer from stakeholder to stakeholder, reduce change orders and field coordination problems, and provide insight into existing buildings for renovation projects later on.

How Is BIM Information Shared?

This information in a BIM model is shared through a mutually accessible online space known as a common data environment (CDE), and the data collected is referred to as an ‘information model’. Information models can be used at all stages of a building’s life; from inception to operation— and even renovations and renewals.

Now that we’ve covered what BIM is and how it can be used, let’s move on to BIM levels.

What are BIM Levels?

Different levels of BIM can be achieved for various types of projects. Each level represents a different set of criteria that demonstrates a particular level of ‘maturity.’ BIM levels start with 0 and go to 4D, 5D, and even 6D BIM. The purpose of these levels is to gauge how effectively, or how much information is being shared and managed throughout the entire process.

So what does each level involve, and how can you identify the level at which you’re working? Below are brief descriptions of the first three levels and an explanation of what criteria is involved at each stage.

Level 0 BIM: Paper-based drawings + zero collaboration

Level 0 BIM refers to not operating collaboratively at all. If you’re using 2D CAD and working with drawings and/or digital prints, you can safely say you’re at level 0. Today, most of the industry is working above this level, although not every professional in the industry has sufficient BIM training and some projects do not include the use of BIM in contract specifications.

Level 1 BIM: 2D construction drawings + some 3D modelling

Using 3D CAD for concept work, but 2D for drafting production information and other documentation, probably means you’re working Level 1 BIM. At this level, CAD standards are managed to the standard of BS 1192:2007, and electronic sharing of data carried out from a common data environment (CDE) usually managed by the contractor. Many firms are at Level 1 BIM, which doesn’t involve much collaboration, and each stakeholder publishes and manages their own data.

Level 2 BIM: Teams work on their own 3D models

Level 2 BIM begins to add in a collaborative environment. BIM Level 2 was actually made a mandatory requirement in April of 2016 on all publicly tendered projects in the UK. France followed shortly after with their own mandate in 2017.

At level 2, all team members use 3D CAD models but sometimes not in the same model. However, the way in which stakeholders exchange information differentiates it from other levels. Information about the design of a built environment is shared through a common file format. When firms combine this with their own data, they save time, reduce costs, and eliminate the need for rework. Since data is shared this way, the CAD software must be capable of exporting to a common file format, such as IFC (Industry Foundation Class) or COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange).

Level 3 BIM: Teams work with a shared 3D model

BIM level 3 is even more collaborative. Instead of each team member working in their own 3D model, Level 3 means that everyone uses a single, shared project model. The model exists in a ‘central’ environment and can be accessed and modified by everyone. This is called Open BIM, meaning that another layer of protection is added against clashes, adding value to the project at every stage.

Benefits of Level 3 BIM include:

  • Better 3D visualization of the entire project
  • Easy collaboration between multiple teams and trades
  • Simplified communication and understanding of design intention
  • Reduced rework and revisions at every stage of the project

Levels 4, 5, and 6 BIM: Adding in scheduling, cost, & sustainability information

BIM level 4 brings a new element into the information model: time. This information includes scheduling data that helps outline how much time each phase of the project will take or sequencing of various components.

Viewing a 5D BIM model within a common data environment to run a structure sequencing breakdown based on pour numbers

Level 5 BIM adds cost estimations, budget analysis, and budget tracking to the information model. When working at this level of BIM, project owners can track and determine what costs will be incurred during the length of the project.

Level 6 BIM information is useful for calculating the energy consumption of a building before it’s built. This ensures that designers take into account more than just the upfront costs of an asset. Level 6 BIM ensures accurate predictions of energy consumption requirements and empowers stakeholders to build structures that are energy efficient and sustainable.

Benefits of Levels 4, 5, and 6 BIM:

  • More efficient site planning and scheduling
  • More efficient hand-offs between steps in the construction stage
  • Real-time cost visualization
  • Simplified cost analysis
  • Reduced energy consumption in the long run
  • Better operational management of the building or structure after handover

The Future of BIM

Because of the clear benefits, BIM is here to stay.

It has defined goals and objectives that are clearly beneficial to all those who work their way through the levels. Undoubtedly, the future of construction will be even more highly collaborative and digital. As BIM becomes increasingly more sophisticated, 4D, 5D, and even 6D BIM will start to play a part in the process.

More and more, stakeholders are walking through BIM models using augmented and virtual reality. This application can help contractors and manufacturers with clash detection and training, architects to sell their designs, and owners to “see” into their structures and make better decisions for maintenance and retrofitting.

Furthermore, around the globe, there is an attempt to reduce waste in construction. Much of this  is attributed to supply chain inefficiencies, clashes, and reworking. By working collaboratively in a BIM environment, all of this becomes much less likely, setting the stage for a better tomorrow.


This article was published with permission from Constructible.

Building an architectural legacy with Corobrik

Clay face brick and paving will always play a significant role in the built environment. Here five leading architects describe how Corobrik products have allowed them to realise their aesthetic and technical ambitions on a range of projects, from a retail destination to affordable housing and a high court building.

 Legacy Yard, Umhlanga Arch

Corobrik products used: A combination of Tambotie Satin and Fynbos Rooi Satin face bricks

Architect: Sphere Design & Architecture

Legacy Yard includes multiple vendors, all with a unique offering, making the space an amazing destination, while providing an anchor to the retail node within the Umhlanga Arch complex. The interior language is industrial to a point, juxtaposed with well detailed and bespoke installations.

The raw concrete, exposed services and brickwork all speak to this. Street art keeps things less formal, more fun and adds colour to the space – it also looks good on exposed brickwork and relates to a street food market concept, which is really where the idea of Legacy Yard began.

“We wanted a brick that was not perfectly smooth faced, that was not perfectly consistent, and that had some depth and contrast to its tones,” explains Rupert Spence. This product enhanced the aesthetics and added soul to the space.

“Having a material that essentially gets installed in one process and does not then require additional layers, skills, materials and time to finish also streamlined this aspect of the build. Clay face brick and paving will always have a significant role to play in the built environment. Externally it is still an amazing material and internally the possibilities are endless!”

Sphere Design & Architecture is a Durban-based practice established over 20 years ago. It provides experienced and professional architectural services alongside highly skilled and knowledgeable interior design services. Besides local work and national work, it has also completed many projects internationally.

 Elevate Building in Maboneng

Corobrik products used: Onyx Satin, Village Antique Travertine and Nala Travertine face bricks with Ironstone and Namaquastone clay paving

Architect: GASS Architecture Studios

Elevate Building is an affordable housing project in New Doornfontein, Johannesburg. “It is our first venture into micro-apartments,” explains Georgg van Gass. The building consists of 403 units, of which 38 are two-bedroom units and 365 units are 15 m² bachelor units. “We really like the aesthetic quality that can be achieved with face brick as a finish. Corobrik brings diversity to the market in the different products it manufactures.”

The choice of bricks was derived from various interactions with Corobrik, and sourcing from brickyards close to site. The aesthetic concept was to create a tapestry of bricks on the façade, giving it complexity without driving up the cost of the actual installation. This was further enhanced by the addition of the Titanium Satin FBX Brick on the south eastern portion of the building in an accentuated Flemish bond.

“Corobrik as a company has always given us amazing service and is always willing to come to the party to ensure that we can deliver a successful development. We can and will most definitely recommend Corobrik,” highlights van Gass.

GASS Architecture Studios is a bespoke architectural design studio with predominant focus on urban regeneration, architecture and Interior architecture. Its work is diverse and spreads over various scales from large residential, commercial, retail developments to small urban interventions.

 Mpumalanga Division of the High Court & Mbombela Square in Mbombela

Corobrik products used: Agate Satin clay face brick with Cederberg and Burgundy pavers

Architect: ORBiC Architects

The Mpumalanga Division of the High Court in Mbombela is a landmark building. Mbombela Square, officially opened 2020, is a mixed-use office development formed in conceptual cohesion with the Mpumalanga High Court. The two buildings were able to be built with the same brick, even though the latter’s contract only started much later. This allowed for a similar aesthetic throughout for a harmonious juxtaposition.

“Clay brick has always been widely used and maintains its status as a highly successful building unit. Other than providing a unique aesthetic and assisting effectively with thermal comfort, the durability makes for a valuable choice. Overall, we were impressed with the workability of the product and how it enabled us to successfully bring our vision to life. Corobrik was chosen because we wanted a product that was consistent and would positively contribute to our creative aspirations, and we were not disappointed,” highlights Toni Mclagan.

ORBiC Architects is a multifaceted and dynamic design firm located in Mbombela, Mpumalanga. Ranging from residential to commercial, recreational and industrial, it fully encompasses a vast range of services.

 Barnato Hall at Wits in Johannesburg

Corobrik face bricks used: Special bricks, sourced from local Corobrik yards

Architect: 26’10 South Architects

This project was an extension to a student residence that clips into the existing building’s infrastructure to provide an additional 150+ rooms. Phase 1 was completed in 2019 and Phase 2 in 2020. The main reason for using face brick was that the client wanted a low maintenance building also representative of the university.

“We used bricks of different colours and shapes and generated different patterns to create a woven façade that speaks of diversity. The bricks were also used in specific practical ways, like at doorways into units where we used chamfered bricks on exposed corners that are more robust and can withstand the wear-and-tear of students moving in and out of flats with luggage and furniture. We also used darker bricks on the plinth and high-traffic areas where buildings usually become quite dirty over time. Light coloured bricks were used to indicate what floor you are on,” explains Thorsten Deckler.

“Corobrik is associated with good quality and service to the architectural profession. It also has a variety of face brick, pavers and cills which affords a wide choice when it comes to realising distinctive designs,” concludes Deckler.

26’10 south Architects was founded by Anne Graupner and Deckler in 2004. It works across architecture, urban design and knowledge management, which means its projects are well informed and resolved at both the detail and macro scale.

 The Millstock, Cape Town

Corobrik face bricks used: The Black Brick

Architect: TwoFiveFive Architects

The Millstock is a mixed-use building located in Observatory, Cape Town. The brief was to accommodate a multi-level parkade, a car showroom and luxury student accommodation on a nearly round stand of about 600 m2. The complexity of the stand encouraged a minimalist design approach. The project was completed in 2020, and has since become a landmark within its context.

Given the concept of simplicity, the colour scheme was limited. “By only using two colours, we made use of materials to assist in creating hierarchy within the design. The Black Brick offered us the opportunity to introduce texture, while playing with the contrast between black and white to create rhythm and inform use,” explains Conrad Janse van Rensburg.

The soldier bond face brick pattern was chosen as the clean lines enhance the form of the staircases. Introducing the brick in this simplistic yet intriguing pattern, together with their uniform colour, brings a sense of luxury and arrival to the entrance. The face bricks were also introduced at focal walls inside the building, further giving importance to certain areas and adding to the sense of luxury within the building.

TwoFiveFive Architects is a commercial architectural practice and consultancy that challenges convention, inspires curiosity and instigates change, while remaining buildable and within budget.

Concor completes highest residential block in Cape Town

Cape Town has just seen the successful completion by Concor of the tallest residential block in the city area – fronted by a carefully preserved, century-old façade onto one of the trendiest streets in town.

The 16 On Bree project is remarkable not just for its size – it transforms an old two-storey block into a modern 38-floor luxury development – but its complexity. According to Concor Western Cape senior contracts manager Collin Morilly, an early challenge was the preservation of the fragile heritage façade.

“The 16 metre high wall was built not of concrete but of rock, clay and lime, so it needed very gentle treatment and firm support,” says Morilly. “We erected a specially designed structural steel brace that would support the wall and prevent any structural failure while it was cut free from the rest of the building, which had to be demolished.”

A concrete ground beam was also cast along the base of the façade to act as a counterweight and prevent any movement. As the new structure was built, it was stitched in with the braced façade until finally the brace could be removed. There were also three other heritage walls within the building – standing in a U-shape – which were preserved during the construction process.

“The project also had to be implemented in the highly space-constrained city centre, with busy roads on all boundaries of the site,” he says. “This meant there was almost no laydown area for materials and equipment, and we had to ensure an uninterrupted flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”

This was a significant achievement given the scale of the project, which consumed 21,000 m3 of concrete, 1,650 tonnes of reinforcing bar and 650,000 bricks. The new height of the building required the placement of 40 concrete foundation piles. Tower cranes had to be carefully managed to lift and place materials, a task made more difficult by the high winds for which the Cape is known, especially in summer.

“Then came the unexpected disruption of work due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he says. “We were soon able to get back to work after the initial lockdown, but this required extra vigilance and discipline because of the number of workers in such a confined space.”

Having about 900 people on a relatively small footprint over multiple floors meant that Covid-19 protocols had to be strictly implemented, based on a thorough understanding by all employees and subcontractors of the infection risks.

“Social distancing was a particularly onerous aspect for us to adhere to, as the nature of construction demands that workers operate in teams and groups,” he says. “For example, a team of tilers must work in an apartment together, but the regulated social distance must be observed. This required that fewer workers be allowed into an area, which reduced overall productivity.”

Nonetheless, work proceeded apace to roll out the apartments efficiently and to the highest standard of workmanship. Drawing on the expertise of its trusted subcontractors, Concor’s experienced supervisors kept a close eye on the pace and quality of work, with at least four foremen looking after each floor.

“We run our projects according to our SANS 10400 and ISO 9001 accreditation, and this means close management of the quality assurance and quality control process,” says Morilly. “Our systems included the SnagR snagging software to accurately record and close out snags timeously, and the Synergy document control software to facilitate timeous issue of information, tracking and recording.”

The Finishes Matrices system was also employed, indicating the level and the apartment in which each of the trades should be working every day.

The result has been an elegant structure gracing Cape Town’s city skyline, rising 120 metres from street level and comprising 380 upmarket apartments. The future may hold scope for further residential units, making use of space currently used for the parking areas. To make this possible, the parking floor-to-ceiling heights were designed to the same dimensions – 2,9 metres – as the apartment levels.

DIY Retailer Leroy Merlin opens a new store in Johannesburg

The current COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge in the demand for DIY products. With this in mind, Group Adeo opened their fourth Lroy Merlin store in Johannesburg, opposite the recently revamped Fourways Mall. The store boasts a new layout and extended range of products aimed at the enthusiastic South African DIY market. It specialises in construction, hardware, kitchen, bathroom, home decor and garden products. About 65% of these products are locally sourced.

 “While necessity may be driving many home-based DIY projects such as revamping spaces to accommodate home offices, kids studying remotely, socially distanced backyards, or personal gyms/studios etc, DIY can also be a healthy way to cope with alleviating some of the stresses of the pandemic,” says Cédric Sennepin, CEO of Leroy Merlin South Africa.

The store features a Drive-Thru Building Yard for a swift in-and-out experience when purchasing construction material. This was implemented through a scan, pay and go option on the Leroy Merlin mobile app, which eliminates in-store queues.

“People are at the heart of the Company:  customers, potential customers and, of course, our teams throughout the organization.  As we committed when we launched in SA, we are here to grow the market, to create employment, to build opportunities and I am happy to say that we have done so, with partnerships with local small businesses and the employment of 1000 staff,” says Sennepin. “In addition to our permanent staff complement, Leroy Merlin currently employs over 44 students across 4 stores and headquarters with the aim of creating future opportunities for those who would otherwise potentially be unemployed when they complete their studies.”

Mugg & Bean on the Go, known for their seasonally inspired menus, generous portions and ethically sourced coffee, is housed inside the 12000 m2 retailer. Lockers are set up for customers to charge their mobile devices as they browse the store. In store you will also find other services like Coastal Hire for tool rental, Trailer Boys if you would like to get your project started as soon as possible and JTSI for key cutting services.  Fourways will also be the first of the Leroy Merlin stores to partner with the in-store florist, Electric Butterfly Flowers, that will take care of your last minute gifting needs.

Budget 2021: Getting down to ‘WORK’

John Matthews – Chairperson: Construction Alliance South Africa

The adage of being caught between a rock and a hard place is an understatement when compared to the balancing act required of South Africa’s financial plan for the year. The reality is that an under-performing economy and the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic mean less will raised by way of taxes. At the same time, the country’s growing social support needs and level of fiscal spending required to revive the economy mean that government expenditure will far exceed its revenue generating capacity. As a result, the announced budget deficit for the 2021/22 financial year came as no surprise to many.

What was a surprise however, was the lack of detail in how government expenditure will be directed, particularly when it came to stimulus spending on infrastructure. The President has lauded catalytic infrastructure projects as foundations to economic revival of the country in the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan and State of the Nation Address, and we eagerly anticipated a clear roadmap in the Budget Speech on how this would be achieved in the year. The lack of clarity on this crucial part of the country’s financial plan was a clear disappointment for the construction industry.

At the very least, details should now be provided of the target projects for the year, when they will go to tender, when each project will start and when each project must be completed. The numbers must now get down to WORK.

Without such details, there is no doubt that the announced growth and employment targets for the year, that are largely pinned on aggressive infrastructure investment may not be realised. Clarity and certainty is necessary to instil consumer and business confidence needed to jump-start production and employment.

Structural Economic Reforms

However, the commitment to full implementation of high-impact structural reforms to lower the cost of doing business was most welcome. Key to the success of these structural reforms is enactment of the Public Procurement Bill of 2020, and digitisation of government procurement and payment processes. These should ease some of the long-standing challenges that contractors have faced in tendering for government work and getting paid on time for work completed.

The numbers have been announced, it is now time for the WORK.

Eben Meyburgh: CEO – GVK-Siya Zama

SA’s construction industry can build its way back to success in 2021

Eben Meyburgh: CEO – GVK-Siya Zama

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA 2021), President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the R100 billion Infrastructure Fund is now in full operation. He said that infrastructure projects that have been planned will lead to the revival of the construction industry and the creation of much-needed jobs.

With this in mind, Eben Meyburgh, the CEO of GVK-Siya Zama Building Contractors said that he believes the industry has potential to help kickstart the economy the 2020 COVID-19 induced decline. “As the public sector is investing in various civils projects, we hope to see a positive knock-on effect when it comes to increasing work opportunities for related industries such as building construction, material manufacturing, engineering, architecture and electrical construction.”

He added that challenges brought by the pandemic and slow economic growth would persist in 2021. Even though expenditure in the private sector was expected to improve, this would not be sufficient to offset the slowdown in public sector work, he said. As such, a rise in disruptions caused by the construction mafia could be seen. He added that government has the opportunity of making a considerable contribution towards averting the risk to industry and the labour force by accelerating project awards.

Despite these challenges, Meyburgh pointed out that there was cause for optimism as the industry starts building its way back to positive growth in 2021. “The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan has helped to address some of the uncertainty in the construction industry and players in the sector are currently in engagements with Government regarding the rollout of strategic integrated infrastructure projects to revive the economy” he said.

Meyburgh is confident that the construction industry will be able to successfully navigate 2021 as the sector is now better equipped and able to deal with the continuing challenges brought about by COVID-19. “The lessons we learnt last year will definitely assist us to handle crises that we may face, and construction teams are armed with effective ways of ensuring their own safety and that of others on site and in their personal lives.”

“The sector, therefore, needs to be ready to take advantage of these opportunities and I believe that the key theme of this year is to accept and embrace change, partner with industry stakeholders to find solutions and create opportunities for growth, and growing people.”

Like most South Africans, Meyburgh points out that the team at GVK-Siya Zama has learnt to embrace change and upheaval. “More than anything, we place emphasis on the importance of retaining and building trusted relationships with all stakeholders and supporting one another through these difficult times. Working together and uniting with our colleagues, clients, sub-contractors, suppliers and other industry players has strengthened us as individuals and as a company.”

Meyburgh urged construction industry peers to remain positive. “It is incumbent upon us to contribute to the revival of the economy by being solutions oriented, improving efficiencies and driving alternative and sustainable building methods. “I implore industry leaders to proactively drive innovation and creative thinking to successfully grow the industry in 2021.”

The Basics of Lean Construction Methods

Contributions from: Holly Welles and Kendall Jones – Construct Connect

The notion of doing more with less has integrated itself into countless industries. The pressure to achieve greater results with fewer resources is immense, and the construction industry isn’t immune to it. Projects have grown more complex and challenging over time with tighter timelines, regulations and budgets, layered with new materials, intricate processes, and customization requests. This has potential to added further strains on already thin margins in the industry.

Thankfully, lean construction management principles allow companies to do more with less while delivering high-quality output to customers.

What Is Lean Construction?

Lean construction is a relationship-focused production management system that eliminates waste from the construction process to deliver greater value to clients.

The method has roots in the Toyota Production System. First developed in Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in Japan in the 1920s and later implemented in Toyota automobile manufacturing facilities after World War II, the system focused on providing greater customer satisfaction while reducing waste and giving workers more meaningful jobs. Toyota’s strategies were found to be so successful that lean concepts were adapted for use outside manufacturing. In construction, lean concepts offer a framework for improving the entire construction process, from design through completion, based on a few basic principles.

 Lean Construction Principles 

  1. Value from the Client’s Point of View

What your client truly values in a construction project goes beyond delivering what’s laid out in the plans and specs. It’s more than just the quality of your work or completing a project on time and within budget. This requires a customer-focused approach that can be achieved by building a relationship with the client. In lean construction, this should include all stakeholders i.e. client, architect, engineers, general contractor, subcontractors, and suppliers.

Identifying client values should begin early in the conceptual planning phase of a project and must be carried on through construction. It’s about understanding not only what your client wants, but why they want it so the project team can manage expectations and best advise the client. A deep level of trust must be established between all stakeholders in order to successfully implement lean practices. 

  1. Processes that Deliver the Value Stream

The value stream is simply what the client values. Once you’ve identified value from your client’s perspective, it’s time to identify the processes needed to deliver the value stream. All steps in the process should be carefully mapped out to determine what activities are involved. Take into account labour, information, materials, and equipment needed for each activity. Any steps in a process that don’t add value for you client should be eliminated. 

  1. Eliminating Waste

Lean construction is accomplished by cutting out waste. The eight major types of waste in construction are easy to remember because they result in DOWNTIME.

 Defects – This is anything not done correctly the first time which results in rework. This wastes time in having to make the repairs and materials needed to correct the work.

 Overproduction – In construction, this type of waste occurs when a task is completed faster than scheduled or before the next task in the sequence is ready to start.

 Waiting – This is wasted time where workers are stuck waiting for materials to be delivered or for preceding work to be completed. This disrupts the workflow and results in workers waiting for work.

 Not Utilizing Talent – You wouldn’t hire an electrician to fill a labourer’s position. It would be a complete waste of their talent, skills, and knowledge.

 Transport – This can be the transportation of equipment, materials, and workers to a site before they are needed or it can refer to the transmission of information with no added value.

 Inventory – In lean construction, you want to move toward “just in time” inventory as opposed to “just in case” inventory.

Motion – This is any unnecessary movement that can be eliminated, such as having to make multiple trips across the site to get more tools or materials.

 Excess Processing – Excess processing is typically generated when having to deal with too many instances of other waste such as defects or inventory. Double-checking or adding extra processes to try and eliminate other areas of waste will involuntarily lead to more waste from over processing. 

  1. Flow of Work Processes

The goal in lean construction is to achieve a continuous workflow that is reliable and predictable. Each stage of production is done in sequence. For example, you wouldn’t start hanging drywall in a room until all of the electrical and plumbing was roughed in. In order to achieve flow, all parties have to communicate and work together to avoid interruptions.

You also want to avoid workers waiting for work or vice versa.  Dividing a project up into separate production zones can help contractors ensure they have the capacity to finish each task on schedule. If one stage of production gets behind or ahead of schedule, it’s important to communicate and make adjustments to avoid the workers waiting for work scenario. 

  1. Using Pull Planning and Scheduling

When using pull planning or scheduling the work is released based on downstream demand in order to create reliable workflows. Because work is done sequentially and the completion of one task releases work on the next task. This requires starting from a specific milestone or target completion date and working backward to schedule work when it can be performed. In lean construction pull planning is done by those performing the work, typically the subcontractors, through communication and collaboration with each other to dictate the schedule of tasks. This is because they are best suited for determining their capacity for performing a given task. They can work with the next subcontractor, or customer, downstream to coordinate schedules and handovers. 

  1. Perfecting the Processes Through Continuous Improvement

Continually making improvements to further eliminate waste and add value is critical in order to perfect your lean construction processes. Not only should adjustments be made throughout the individual project to identify and reduce waste but taking what you learn from project to project will allow you to continually innovate new ways to add value and eliminate waste.

What Are the Benefits of Lean Construction?

Lean construction transforms nearly every stage of the construction process, requiring teams to work together more closely and build innovation into every project. Although how much a company gets out of lean construction depends on how the philosophy is implemented, potential benefits could include:

  • On-time project completion: By cutting out inefficiencies, lean construction allows teams to finish projects quicker, even with fewer workers on-site. This is particularly appealing, as the construction industry skills shortage makes deadlines harder to meet.
  • High-quality work: Standardization, continuous improvement and a focus on communication mean teams make fewer mistakes and produce exceptional results.
  • Increased worker satisfaction: When workers have more control over the process and waste less time on unnecessary tasks, they are more likely to enjoy their jobs and put in a full effort.
  • Better risk management: Companies that embrace lean construction plan for problems before they occur. As when creating a contingency plan, this reduces panic and ensures leaders make the best possible decisions when problems occur.

How Can You Implement Lean Construction Philosophy?

Often, companies focus on using a certain tool or procedure in an attempt to increase efficiency. But lean construction is a philosophy and is continuous (not a start-to-end process). This means the best way to obtain the benefits of lean construction is to apply lean ideas and methods at every level of an organization and at every stage of construction. However, you can start getting results quickly from the methodology by following a step-by-step approach.

Step 1: Assemble Your Team

Start by determining roles and responsibilities for each team member, ensuring that they are clear on what’s expected of them. Allow for clarification questions, and take time to address questions about scheduling, planning, and accessibility. Next, help the team get comfortable with any collaborative technology you’ll be using with onboarding sessions. Finally, establish milestones with the owner’s oversight and input.

You must also give workers more autonomy. Workers know their jobs better than anyone else. Show workers the respect they deserve by encouraging them to solve problems, work together and offer suggestions for improvement. A team can build this relationship-based work culture by holding lean trainings that incorporate discussions and give volunteer facilitators, not just management, the opportunity to lead.

Step 2: Engage Subcontractors

To build transparency, highlight the individual benefits subcontractors will receive through lean construction. Make it personal to them and their role to get them onboard. Integrate these contractors into the planning process early and get them up to speed on the collaborative technology you’ll be using.

Step 3: Set Goals Based on Client Priorities

In lean construction, every decision should be rooted in maximizing value for the client.  All steps in the process should be carefully mapped out to determine what activities are involved, taking into account labour, information, materials, and equipment needed for each activity. Any steps in a process that don’t add value for you client should be eliminated.

Step 4: Develop Your Schedule

Use backward planning in the pull planning method. Determine the sequence of tasks through milestones, which lead to the final deadline. To create coordination schedules, use last planners for tasking. Progress and milestones will need to be assessed continuously to keep things on track.

Step 5: Conduct Check-Ins

During check-ins, take note of areas that need improvement and create action plans to address them. Use this time to discuss best practices with stakeholders and keep communication open. Check-ins are also an excellent time to evaluate project performance with your team.  This includes practicing preventative maintenance. Keep processes and equipment in good shape with regularly scheduled maintenance. Even a one percent drop in equipment productivity can cause a 2.75% drop in project profits. Lean construction requires managing much smaller maintenance expenses before major problems derail and delay business operations.

Step 6: Standardize

As you work on the project and review best practices, develop your own standards for operations. Communicate these to your team and set expectations for reporting and benchmarks. During this step, you can also quantify the benefits and results you’ve achieved with lean to make a case for continued and increased investment.

Step 7: Embrace Continuous Improvement

Teams looking to benefit from lean construction should constantly evaluate their existing processes for areas that need improvement. Look for inefficiencies in transport, scheduling, work quality, inventory, processing, movement and more.

A Better Way to Tackle Construction

Lean construction has gained popularity for a reason. When implemented thoughtfully, this philosophy allows construction teams to complete jobs more efficiently and more successfully, all while making clients and workers happy.

Roy Bowles Construction is nominated for international award on Shamwari Game Reserve renovation project

Eastern Cape-based construction firm Roy Bowles Construction, has been selected as one of the top 5 African contractors nominated for an award in the Leisure Development Category of the International Property Awards. The Awards are world-renowned and celebrate high levels of achievement in architecture, development and interior design in projects across the world and the winner will be announced in May 2021. The project has already won the top spot for Best Hotel Interior (Africa) which was awarded to K/M2K Architecture & Interior Design.

The R200 million Shamwari Private Game Reserve renovation project was successfully completed in December 2020 and involved construction of a new wildlife rehabilitation centre, new staff accommodation and extensive renovations to several lodges and camps around the reserve.

Shamwari Private Game Reserve is one of the largest private game reserves in the country, located in Paterson, Eastern Cape. It stretches for more than 25 000ha and is home to the Big 5 and a large array of animal, bird and plant species that offer a wild back-to-nature experience for visitors. Under new management and a $25 million investment, the reserve has gone through extensive renovations to elevate it as one of the top five-star safari bucket lists.

“A major challenge with the project was the location and nature of the site. Being situated within a remote game reserve meant that getting materials to the site would be a big challenge. For example, the nearest centre where we sourced most of our material was 70km away, and delivery trucks could not drive through the reserve because it is a protected area. A lot of forward planning had to be done in the procurement of materials to ensure that items were delivered on time to avoid over stocking materials on site” said Roy Bowles, the CEO of Roy Bowles Construction.

To mitigate the impact of site works on the natural environment, the company constructed a temporary road for exclusive use by contractors and members of the professional team to gain access to the site. Delivery trucks were also not allowed into the reserve, but materials were loaded onto front end loaders at the reserve entrance then carted to the site.

Outlining how the company managed to complete a project worthy on an international award on time and schedule, Roy explained, “We had a very tight schedule to construct a fully operational 5-star lodge literally located in the bush, balancing the tight schedule with the high quality standards required of an internationally renowned wildlife reserve. To achieve this, we centred our strategy on the people involved and recruited highly skilled individuals in every department, starting from general labourers right up to top management. We ensured that every person knew exactly what was expected of them daily. In addition, ongoing quality control checks and weekly meetings helped us to discuss potential bottlenecks approaching and come up with ideas to resolve them before they occurred. This was extremely beneficial and helped us stick to the schedule.”

The project started in May 2018 with work involving completion of 2 separate lodges, each with 9 guest rooms, a reception, bar, kitchen and dining area, a retail centre, children’s’ club and boma. The work on both lodges was completed in only 4 months.

By September 2018, the second phase of the project was started, which involved construction of the reserve’s staff accommodation and the reserve’s flagship lodge, Long Lee Manor. This was the largest and most intricate part of the project involving extensive demolitions of existing structures to create way for new buildings. Understandably so, the construction of Long Lee Manor was characterised by almost weekly variations to the design, which the construction team had to contend with without time extensions granted. By February 2019, staff offices, 12 one-bedroom studios, 3 large two-bedroom flats, a welcome centre had been completed for staff accommodation. The Long Lee Manor guest house was completed in April 2020 and included dining and kitchen areas, administration offices, additional staff accommodation, a concrete swimming pool, bar, spa, fitness centre, games room, 17 guest rooms and a conference centre.

The most interesting part of the project started in May 2020 which involved construction of a tent camp in a remote part of the reserve. The works required consideration of the delicate natural environment to minimize the construction footprint on site. Concrete bases were installed and steel substructure added onto which tent structures were fixed. This involved many specialist subcontractors that had to be managed effectively to complete the project within the allocated timeframes. Upon completion, 9 villas were built, each with its own plunge pool, spa, dining area, kitchen, reception, bar and staff accommodation.

While acknowledging that the company’s nomination for an international award was a big achievement, Roy added that the biggest reward was satisfaction of being part of a sustainable and lasting legacy project that will benefit the community for years to come. “Work opportunities in these communities are few and far between so we were happy to be able to provide these communities with employment. The workforce was made up of members from the Paterson, Grahamstown and Alicedale communities. We also sub-contracted local SMMEs for most of the work done on the project. The reserve itself is also an oasis providing employment for the local community.”

The 2020 Employment Equity Amendment Bill – What you need to know

By Neil Coetzer and Rod Harper (Cowan-Harper-Madikizela Attorneys) 

The latest draft of the Employment Equity Amendment Bill was published on 20 July 2020, several years after the initial draft appeared for comment. The latest version, which will be heading to Parliament, includes controversial amendments to the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 (“the EEA”) which permit far greater intervention by the Minister and more red-tape for employers hoping to do business with the State.

Less regulatory impact on smaller employers

The Bill intends to amend the definition of ‘designated employer’ by excluding employers who employ fewer than 50 employees, regardless of their annual turnover. This means that those employers will not be subject to the affirmative action provisions of the EEA. Voluntary reporting will also be done away with.

These amendments are a welcome relief from the regulatory burden already placed on small, medium and micro-sized employers. It will introduce greater flexibility into a sector which government has highlighted as being an important driver of South Africa’s post-COVID recovery plan. 

Sectoral targets

However, the Bill seeks to double-down on existing measures in the EEA to reach its aim of ensuring equitable representation of suitably qualified people from designated groups at all occupational levels in the workforce.

Firstly, the Bill seeks to introduce section 15A to empower the Minister to identify national economic sectors and determine numerical targets for those sectors. The Bill requires that prior to doing so, the Minister must consult with the Employment Equity Commission on the proposed sectors and targets he seeks to designate and to publish any proposals for comment.

The Bill also requires that the numerical targets set by employers must comply with the sectoral targets set by the Minister. When assessing compliance with the EEA, the Director-General will also consider whether the employer has complied with the sectoral targets set by the Minister. 

State contracts

Secondly, the Bill proposes that certain requirements must be met before the Minister may issue a certificate of compliance to a designated employer in terms of section 53. One of those requirements is the achievement of the sectoral targets set by the Minister. It is obvious that a failure to meet these requirements will have serious implications for employers who seek to perform work for the State.

Possible difficulties and litigation

The proposed insertion of section 15A and amendment to section 53 of the EEA will almost certainly lead to litigation. If implemented in its present form, the numerical targets set by designated employers in their employment equity plans would likely be rendered meaningless. This is so because the Minister’s targets are likely to be broad-based and will have little regard for targets which are tailored by individual employers to suit their employment equity plans.

Allowing the Minister to impose such targets unilaterally, without consulting stakeholders other than the Employment Equity Commission, will result in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and will almost certainly be disruptive of existing or future employment equity plans of employers. Disagreements with and litigation over such approaches in the context of bargaining council agreements in various industries have been well documented in the recent past and similar difficulties are likely to arise here.

An important consideration will be which sectors are identified by the Minister and what targets are determined, how they are determined and to which employers in the sector they will apply. In the absence of consultation with the relevant stakeholders in a particular industry, it is difficult to understand how the Minister could arrive at any sort of informed or rational decision. Whatever the decisions are, they are likely to be contentious and could lead to protracted legal disputes regarding their legality and enforceability.

A conceptual problem with the amendments may also arise. It could be argued that the proposed amendments requiring a designated employer to meet the targets set by the Minister and to be assessed on this criteria, particularly before it may do work for the state is not really a ‘target’, but actually more akin to a ‘quota’. Our courts have found that quotas in employment equity plans are not permitted by the EEA and thus the amendments may not find favour with our Courts. In those circumstances, the provisions may be rendered unenforceable.

The Bill also does not provide an employer with an opportunity to apply for exemption from these new provisions. Employers who fail to meet the Minister’s targets may, however, provide a reasonable justification for their failure, although it is not clear to what extent the Minister would be willing to accept any variations given his recent utterances in the media. What constitutes a ‘reasonable justification’ is thus likely to become a contentious issue in due course.

Additional challenges

The amendments come amid a global pandemic which has already had a severe impact on employers and employees. In response to the lockdown, many employees have been retrenched (some 3 million by recent reports) and this may have impacted negatively on many employers’ employment equity plans. The situation is very uncertain, and many employers will be focusing their energies on staying afloat and saving jobs during the next few months.

Nevertheless, the Minister appears keen to implement the amendments as soon as possible given the slow rates of transformation in many of South Africa’s economic sectors. The Minister’s new approach to ensuring compliance with the EEA incorporates both the ‘carrot’ and the ‘stick’. Whether this approach will achieve its purpose remains to be seen.

Construction Alliance South Africa has established a Construction Sector Employment Equity Targets Sub-Committee to develop and present a construction industry position on proposed targets for the sector. Members are encouraged to contact their local Master Builders Association to support this exercise.


Stagnant Websites Are Weapons Of Self-Destruction

It is time the construction industry realised that proper marketing holds the key to growth and survival – particularly in the current economic climate, says Jan de Beer, professional writer and publicity consultant.

De Beer has extensive experience in journalism and has consulted on media matters to dozens of construction and engineering companies and associations in a long career, including MBA, The Concrete Institute, Castrol, SA Paint Manufacturing Association, KBAC Flooring, Gauteng Piling, Chryso SA, and Concrete Society of Southern Africa.

He says digital marketing has become a vital tool for companies, particularly as there are now few print journals in circulation. “Websites are vital to promote a company’s work and acquire more clients. An impressive, up-to-date website reassures prospective clients that a company is doing well and busy – but what does a website with a last posting of company news done, say, in 2012, tell you? It rings alarms bells indicating, for example, that the company lacks professionalism, has not had news to be proud of for years, and may well be on its last legs.”

He adds: “A website allowed to languish becomes a weapon of destruction. How are visitors to a website to know that ancient facts about the company are still relevant? If a website is not cared for, it is far better to simply remove it to prevent it driving potential business away.”

That “News” section – with news (blogs) professionally written and illustrated – on a company’s website is a powerful and affordable and yet often totally neglected aspect of marketing. Blogs should be updated once or least twice a month by a competent writer ideally working in liaison with a website administrator who can keep tabs on the performance and readership of a company’s website. “Companies simply have to ensure that their latest news get posted regularly – irrespective who handles the task: the receptionist, PA, or a professional web administrator.”

De Beer says Google also focuses on quality of the content on a website. Higher scoring is attributed to good copy and relevant titles, for example, and a regularly updated site will be ranked more prominently to assist the site owner achieve a spike in traffic.

News to post on the company website could range from a new product, new staff member, projects landed, or simply authoritative, informative copy along generic lines on the type of product offered by the company. “If you are selling a quality range of paint brush, for example, tell your website visitor what to look for in any paint brush. Subtle marketing can achieve remarkable results.

“Owners of websites who fear that they may struggle to find time to provide content for news blogs, should realise that an experienced writer could make their task much easier. He or she could simply work via emailed mini-questionnaires regarding the facts of a selected project or product, a relevant brochure to draw information from, or personal research,” De Beer adds.