The process of building information modelling (BIM) is paying real dividends in terms of improved collaboration, improved workflows and improved value to clients, according to BAM Group Ireland who detailed their experiences at a BIM event held recently at the Aviva Stadium.
As one of Ireland’s leading construction services groups, BAM Group Ireland has taken a lead on adopting BIM technology and processes and was keen to share its experiences with others in the construction industry. The company’s BIM manager Michael Murphy said: “For BAM, BIM is a legitimate form of prototyping which is an extremely powerful way of mitigating risk on a project. A cooperative approach from all project stakeholders delivers better results.”
The Aviva event, which attracted nearly 200 attendees, heard how major cost savings are being made to large construction projects thanks to the improved capabilities in design, visualisation, simulation and collaboration enabled and supported by BIM solutions, such as the Autodesk suite of products. These cost savings, estimated to be as high as 20% overall, has lead to the UK government to announce that all cabinet mandated projects will need to come with collaborative 3D BIM by 2016. Similar announcements have been made in Norway, Finland and Denmark and the European Commission is already making moves to make BIM a part of infrastructure projects across the EU.
“There is a political momentum behind this now,” said Tom Edmonds of Autodesk. “This is good news and politicians want to be able to say ‘We are now building 20% more schools or public housing because of efficiencies that we were able to introduce’. That momentum is unstoppable.”
In the private sector, Foreign Direct Investment firms are the main driver for the uptake of BIM in Ireland, says Denis McCarthy, a director of construction business & engineering firm BAM. “FDI firms want BIM for their maintenance requirements and to qualify for LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) rating,” he said. “For us, as engineers and project managers, we see that BIM enables us to understand, at an early stage, what an architect is trying to achieve. There is so much added-value that BIM brings to the process that it is a bit like getting an iPhone – at first, you only understand 5% of what it can do.”
In addition to facilitating effective collaboration and coordination, BAM’s Paul Brennan says that the additional benefits of the early use of BIM include: “Resolving problems efficiently and refining solutions, achieving more for less, providing clarity on cost and saving time and streamlining construction. “
Looking at the Leeds Arena, a BAM Construct project where Populous was the architect, Brennan said: “Intelligence within the model meant that when structural alterations were made – an opening was widened or closed, for example – the design team was warned that load paths had changed. Structural analysis capability enabled the efficiency of the cantilevered roof section to be optimised. The model also automatically produced the schedule for the building’s piled foundations, recalculating the locations, diameters, lengths and cut-off heights for every pile as the structural solution evolved.
“Running up to construction this information was used to calculate the volumes of concrete required. The model also produced a figure for the total weight of structural steel needed for the roof, saving considerable effort when it came to quantifying the materials needed.
“Detailed plans, elevations and cross-sections needed for construction were generated directly from the model, saving time on the production of drawings compared to traditional computer aided design. On site, 3D details taken from the model were used to explain complex areas of construction.”
The use of building information modelling fits very well with BAM’s ethos and culture, says Michael Murphy. “BAM’s commitment to lean is being demonstrated through our use of BIM. We are finding that BIM is strongly enabling our practice of Lean Six Sigma due to the ability to capture high levels of accurate data through the BIM process. This, as much as anything, is helping to improve our business outcomes.
BIM is about ‘Building Smart’, Micheal Earley of Scott Talon Walker told the BIM Seminar at the Aviva Stadium. Earley argued that BIM is about putting more effort into the design and the early stage development of a building– because these are the stages where the costs of design changes are the least costly and the easiest to make.
“Construction costs are approximately 20 times the design fees, so the cost of mistakes in the construction stage is high. Mistakes are mainly due to lack of coordination, but identifying coordination mistakes early allows contractors to generate more RFIs and avoid mistakes before they are set in stone,” said Earley.
“BIM is challenging the existing established processes for delivering design and construction process. BIM adds value, but it requires strict management to ensure the benefits can outweigh the disruption caused to existing processes. We have adapted BIM in our London, Dublin and Cork offices and certain elements are working very well – visualisation, clash detection, scheduling and documentation. BIM removes many mundane tasks, but you have to ensure that there is no duplication where you do things the new way and then do them again the second way, for example using BIM to produce a schedule of doors and then having your door supplier go to the trouble of producing a second schedule!”
In a case study involving the £250m Proton Beam Therapy Centre commissioned by University College London Hospital, Earley outlined how BIM is helping to deliver this complex radiotherapy project which uses state-of-the-art equipment requiring sophisticated maintenance programmes.”As project BIM Coordinators, we are responsible for ensuring coordinated models are delivered for the key milestone dates.”
The PBT Centre is an 11 storey building, with four of these storeys, where equipment is housed, below ground. Earley said that Autodesk’s Revit and Navisworks were helping the centre’s users to visualise the scale of the building – for example some of the walls are 2m thick and in one place a 2.3m thick slab will be laid. As well as using the BIM model to gauge things like natural lighting levels within the building, the model was essential to ensure that vital radiographic equipment could be removed from its basement location without difficulty should it need to be sent away for repair.
On a more intimate level, Earley detailed how the BIM model was working with the NHS Schedules of Accommodation and Activity Database (ADB) to ensure that room sizes and layouts met patient and consultant needs in terms of space needed for furniture and equipment. “After working with the room data sheets and applying a realistic rendering we then start to work with the engineers and the structural engineers to see where the clashes might be.”
In another location specific application, the €70m redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork, Autodesk Revit and data collected using fisheye cameras are being used to ensure that the grass grows well on the stadium’s new pitch!
Of course, BIM is not just for new builds, it works very well for existing structures with laser scanning used to generate point clouds that can then be scanned into a BIM model to illustrate existing surfaces. However, these point clouds involve very large data files – files big enough to cause a standard office PC to crash, warned Simon Tritschler of DPS Engineering. He said: “One of the biggest challenges with BIM is having the hardware to handle it.”
In fact much of BIM computing is done in the cloud – rendering, structural analysis, etc – which does help reduce the cost.
David Harpur, MD of Diatec, an Autodesk Gold Partner, says another way that BIM investment costs can be reduced is that customers leverage their existing investment in Autodesk products. He said: “You can upgrade your old AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT to the Autodesk Building Design Suite or the Revit LT suite. If you have purchased Autodesk products in the past they still have value & can save you hundreds or thousands of euros depending on the upgrade path. Diatec can help with identifying your old licensing & recommending the least cost route to upgrade.
“If you haven’t been an Autodesk customer before Diatec can help by applying for additional discount under the ‘new Autodesk customer program’. This can also save quite a bit on the initial capital outlay. When this is matched with special bid pricing on HP hardware that is Autodesk certified, together with reduced rate Revit training, the overall cost of the investment is significantly less than you might think. Flexible finance packages including all aspects of your BIM investment can be arranged to help with budgeting and thus remove the need for a once-off capital outlay.”
The Autodesk Building Design Suite is available from Diatec, Ireland’s largest Autodesk Gold Partner & Autodesk Authorised Training & Certification Partner.
‘BIM is a better, more collaborative and less risky way of doing things. There is no going back to the old ways for BAM’ says Denis McCarthy, BAM.