BILT ANZ 2018 Chairman’s Wrap

As is normally the case, BILT ANZ 2018 was the culmination of a great deal of effort by many, and as chair of the event, I am both thrilled and proud to write this post, summarising it as I saw it.

I still recall the committee workshop we held on site last November, reviewing abstracts and crafting the event schedule. We knew that after our event in Adelaide in 2017, that Brisbane should be a good event, based on various local or state initiatives pertaining to BIM use within the industry, and because each time we’ve held an event in that region (Gold Coast, 2011 and 2015), we’ve had great numbers. We predicted 500 for Brisbane, and while we will admit we had our doubts in the week or two prior, we were rapt to see a final tally of 503 attendees.

Admittedly I am proud that we set a record attendance, but so we should have. We have invested heavily in diversifying our conference content offerings in order to appeal to a broader industry cross-section, and to build a community that is more impactful in leading our industry. That we are achieving that goal is validating and rewarding, to say the least.

I should expressly thank all the sponsors and exhibitors for their contributions to the event – financial and otherwise. They are indeed an integral part of the BILT community.

The Exhibition Hall showed significant growth in exhibitor numbers compared to our 2017 event. Some of those who explored the hall may have enjoyed a racing simulator experience, though in mine, it was more a case of great shame, thanks to some overconfidence in my driving ability.

The Thursday morning plenary saw our keynote speaker, Ashraf Habibullah light up the stage in his traditional fashion!

His message to us was about human chemistry and dosing up in healthy and effective ways … and both his enthusiasm and passion were contagious. The feedback was fantastic, though it wasn’t the last we’d see of him or his jacket!

As is often the case, as event chair, I don’t get to attend near as many sessions as I would like. 109 sessions over 3 days makes that quite the challenge. That it is so hard to see all the great classes is a problem by design. We want both the breadth and depth of our community’s knowledge to be showcased. During the opening welcome, those present suggested we had approximately 40% new attendees, which is great to see. There were plenty of highlights, and bound to be more than I can list here, but a few from my personal experience are:


Thursday Highlights

  • Transport for NSW Digital Engineering Framework Program – Simon Vaux, TfNSW showcasing a mammoth client change journey
  • We’re back!!! How the QS can bolster your bench on BIM projects – Peter Clack and Andrew Brady; great to see a mixed audience attend this one!
  • OpenBIM Brothers Live – Rob Jackson and Nathan Hildebrandt sharing their wealth of knowledge in a double-length lab
  • Government BIM Mandates – the hype and the substance  – Chris Razzell and panel. This was a great exploration into merit and method of mandating BIM.  Plenty to digest from this one – and some controversial statements added some spice to this one!  I’m a big fan of robust discussions in pursuit of excellence and real solutions.

The evening’s Welcome Function (sponsored by Deltek) was a great way to mix and mingle, after which a good portion of the attendees wound down at the Brisbane’s Baedeker Bar.


Friday Highlights

Following the opening session by Autodesk, we had a plenary panel discussion (sponsored by Central Innovation) tackling the subject of gender diversity.  The panel was chaired by Justine Clark of Parlour, and featuring a heavy-hitting line-up of Todd Battley, Chief Executive of AECOM ANZ, Elizabeth Harper, CIO of GHD and Glenda Caldwell, Senior Lecturer in Design, QUT.   As an event committee we wanted to engage with the subject and ask what we can do within our industry as individuals, teams, companies and as an event community to ensure equal opportunities are available to all.  We chose gender diversity as a subject because the lack of women in attendance at past ANZ events has been evident.  At this year’s event, we had a 50% improvement over our 2017 event, which is good to see, and we’ll be reviewing how we respond to the various discussion points as we prepare for our next event.

Other highlights for me were:

  • Why BIM Costs Money – Keeley Pomeroy
  • Our burgeoning change management stream – focusing on the non-technical skillsets we all need to be more effective in what we do and how we relate to those around us. Mark Jeffery impressed via telepresence robot, and Katherine Mair dazzled before helping those present to find their focus and better manage their brain, energy and time.
  • A special presentation for me was to see BIM for Facilities and Asset Management – Can it work? which focused on the Sydney Opera House.  I was lucky enough to be involved in part of the team’s journey, and Chris Linning and Steve Lianos did a stellar job.

On Friday night we headed out to Victoria Park for a Golf Extravaganza (sponsored by NBS).   As has been a tradition for Friday nights, we had plenty of food and activities including giant jenga, chess, putt-putt and a good portion of the bays at the driving range.  While most of us think of ourselves as tech-savvy, there was the odd dinosaur making an appearance!


Saturday Highlights

  • Industry BIM Update – Mark Cronin and Toby Maple
  • Advance your digital agenda through persuasion and influence – Phil Lazarus
  • Queensland Government – the path to widescale adoption of BIM across the state – Andrew Curthoys and Toby Maple
  • A Guided Tour of Cutting Edge Creek with Some BIM Geeks – Luke Johnson et al
  • The Worst BIM Projects – A Case Study of How BIM Can Go Wrong, and How to Avoid the Pain – Luke Johnson (how bad must he be?)
  • Working with multiple generations – Desiree Mackey


In the wrap-up (sponsored by ClearEdge3D), Kelly Cone showed how to do a sponsor presentation like a boss, even if we had to endure endless puns.  We were entertained during our finallists’ Vision 20/20 presentations as Nathan Love and Carl Storms battled it out, illuminating us on the dangers of technology.  With 56% of the vote, Nathan was successful in winning first prize (registration and accommodation at any 2019 BILT event), while Carl had to buy himself another suitcase to get his second prize home.

We’d been looking forward to our Saturday night special event, hosted by CSI Inc. and BILT.  In reality, this was the Ashraf show – full of Glitz and Glamour (the theme).  The food was amazing, the venue stunning, and the entertainment was stellar (well, most of it!).  Some of those on stage were more professional-grade than others.  Ashraf was a most generous and gracious host – I don’t think anyone would disagree.



As is a regular custom, the event Committee and staff (those who can stick around) partook in an activity day, for some team bonding and post-event recuperation. I’ve been procrastinating for a while now about trying out the ZeroLatency VR experience, and this was the perfect opportunity. We had two teams of 8 don some backpack-mounted computers, headsets and headphones, and enter other worlds where we had to deal with alternative realities, in the form of a zombie apocalypse and a Singularity fail. We may run another blog post on this, but what I will say is that as an active zombie genre fan, I was proud to score the most headshots. Watching the other team from the lobby on a large screen and hearing their screams from within the warehouse was nearly as thrilling!


In conclusion

The BILT ANZ 2018 social media afterglow has been longer-lasting and full of very positive feedback.  We managed 2.7 million Twitter impressions over the course of the event, and trended very strongly throughout. I extend my thanks to all those who attended and anyone who contributed. We had a stellar line-up of speakers, and it will be a tough act to follow in 2019.

There remains plenty for the committee to digest as we begin planning for BILT ANZ 2019, which, as you may have heard already, will be held at Crown Conference Centre, May 23 – 25. We’ve already had numerous people preparing abstracts and wanting to discuss ideas and recruit those to be involved.

It would be remiss of me to not give a shout-out to Carl Storms (@thebimsider) who managed to leave his passport in his hotel safe but (thanks to some fantastic service by Rydges and Virgin) still managed to get it back in his hands at the eleventh hour, just in time to fly home.

The BILT ANZ 2018 top 10 speaker ratings have been announced. Conference materials have already been made available.

Ideas for social event venues/activities for BILT ANZ 2019 are welcome – I’ll look forward to reviewing them all in person.

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