Growing Africa’s BIM capabilities is facing new challenges due to COVID-19, but Exceptional BIM, an online learning portal backed by Asite, is aiming to maintain momentum.
BIM adoption in southern Africa has historically lagged more developed markets such as Europe, the US and the Asia Pacific region (Dec 2016: South Africa lagging …). However, there is a thirst for BIM knowledge, says Vaughan Harris, until recently president of the Cape Town, South Africa-based BIM Institute.
In July 2020 (announcement), Gregory Mofokeng, secretary-general of the Black Business Council in the Built Environment (BBCBE) and also a member of the Engineering Council of South Africa, was appointed as the new director of the BIM Institute. Harris says, as part of its transformation, the institute’s education and research arm, BIM Academy Africa will remain the official training partner of the BIM Institute.
Harris, the BIM Institute and BIM Academy Africa have worked hard to expand industry adoption of BIM across the continent. In 2016 Harris launched a construction software journal; in November 2018, a new African BIM portal: NavBIM was launched; and in early 2018, he published an e-book promoting BIM in southern Africa. While interest in BIM has been growing, Harris told Extranet Evolution that the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to slow progress, particularly as it has hampered conventional face-to-face BIM education efforts.
For the past four months, trying to build new momentum, Harris has been developing a new online BIM learning platform, integrated with the NavBIM portal, called Exceptional BIM.
He has applied gamification and social networking approaches alongside his own interests in martial arts to create a tiered approach to BIM learning. A newly enrolled learner will be a BIM Ninja. As they complete courses they must earn learning certificates and BIM badges (Active Member, Commentator, Extroverter) and progress, first, to BIM Warrior and then, via more certificates and badges to BIM Samurai. After completing the third tier, successful learners will be BIM Sensei. The martial arts phraseology also extends to a ‘BIM Dojo’. This is a group of experts, some drawn from supporting businesses (including Ireland’s Arcdox, UK-based BIM training provider White Frog, and US-based Plannerly – coincidentally, Extranet Evolution recently spoke to Plannerly’s co-founder and CEO Clive Jordan).
Training courses are competitively priced – on the first tier, for example, the offer is “Pay for ONE and get ELEVEN courses FREE”, at a cost of US$100. Companies can invest in training packages for their employees who can then pursue their chosen courses at their own pace. Interestingly (and perhaps a recognition of the continent’s connectivity issues), Exceptional BIM recommends users follow the courses on mobile devices.
To date, Exceptional BIM has trained over 1,000 professionals in BIM and provided more than 750 students with learning programmes.
Asite backs Exceptional BIM
Active in South African since 2014 (post), London, UK-based SaaS construction collaboration technology provider Asite is sponsoring the online learning programme. Ritesh Narain, Asite EVP for India and MENA, said:
“Asite is delighted to be part of an initiative that promotes the use of BIM throughout the continent of Africa, helping to upskill workers and give many their start in BIM.
“For years Asite has been at the forefront of the integration of BIM across the sector. As such, we have seen BIM grow and develop to become one of the most exciting aspects of the industry. There is no doubt that BIM Academy Africa will play a crucial role in achieving this same level of excitement across the region, and we are thrilled to bring our expertise to the growing conversation and drive real change.”
Harris, once a business development manager for Asite, says:
“Africa needs guidance during these transformative times. Most companies need to move in a new direction: start-ups must professionalize, product and service innovations must be accelerated, and competitive positioning must be strengthened. I am proud to give Africa a launchpad to assist them through this journey.
“We are a living entity within our digital built environment, and we all have a professional role to play. With remote-working technologies presenting industry opportunities for many organizations across the globe. Together with Asite, we believe that Exceptional BIM can educate and grow an enthusiastic industry to build back better together! Fortune favours the brave.”