Celebrating 50 years of the Sydney Opera House

by Dr Graham Kelly | October 27, 2023 | 5 min read

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The Sydney Opera House is an iconic symbol of Australia, a World Heritage-listed masterpiece of modern architecture.

From conception to completion, the building tested the limits of design and engineering. The construction of its distinctive shell structure was a major challenge for engineers working on the scheme, with the work seeing some of the earliest use of computers for building design!

The Opera House first opened its doors in 1973, and five decades on it is celebrating its 50th anniversary. As Australia’s largest performing arts centre, it has become an integral part of Sydney life.

And at BIM Academy we have been fortunate to play a small part in the journey told through the eyes of the Opera House through its 50 years.

Back in 2013 we won a major project to provide specialist facilities management (FM) and technical consultancy. We worked with the Opera House’s building information management team to define and develop a detailed facilities management specification to meet the building stakeholder needs for the existing building and its future development.

Rolled out over two years the project was delivered in two stages.  The first stage involved successfully retrieving and linking information from existing and new databases via the digital 3D model, while the second introduced a broader range of functional modules that can be added to the BIM interface over time.

We also developed a detailed model management plug in for the Revit model of the building. This enabled the Opera House to start the implementation of a web based BIM4FM interface that linked a constantly maintained geo spatially accurate model of the building to its engineering, maintenance and building control systems.

Looking back to the start of the project, my first thoughts when we won the contract was pure elation! This was a monumental opportunity for BIM Academy and we knew that if we got this right, it would impact the entire industry. We were delighted that the team at the Opera House saw the value in our software agnostic approach, fundamentally understanding their processes and ambitions before creating the specification for the required technology.

The biggest challenge we faced on this project was the data! We knew that the specification of a BIM4FM system (Digital Twin in current terminology) would be a challenge in itself – but understanding the levels and layers of disparate data and systems that were going to make up the one view of the truth within this system was huge. Once we started on this project, it became clear that there were also significant gaps in the data they had, which needed to be filled.

However with challenges also come rewards. The biggest benefit in the project delivery was the easy access to information which followed, that we had enable. Time and time again, the building management team was relied upon to find out the information required to deliver new projects on site, this was often based on core tacit knowledge in a few key individuals. Even with this tacit knowledge it would take time to pull information together. With the new system in place and data gaps filled, stakeholders could find what they needed at the press of a button, saving significant time and money in the process.

I spent several months in Sydney working with the Opera House team, this is a truly magnificent building and was a joyous project to work on. I feel very proud to have work on this majestic building and look forward to seeing what the future holds for the Opera House in the coming decades.

About the author

Dr Graham Kelly

Managing Director, BIM Academy

Graham is responsible for leading strategy and implementation of digital transformation strategies specific to clients’ real needs. This goes beyond BIM: it is as much about the people as it is about the technology. He has over 10 years’ experience in construction and academia, also completing a PhD in early 2015.