Building Information Modelling

Four experts explain the benefits of BIM to building projects

Not everyone involved needs to see the whole building - often only a small part need to be examined. (Picture from WME)
Not everyone involved needs to see the whole building - often only a small part need to be examined. (Picture from WME)

Four experts explain the enormous benefits of BIM, which has yet to win widespread acceptance in the Middle East and look at potential pitfalls.

Case study: How BIM is saving time and money at a $1.09bn project in Kazakstan. 

Louise Collins, a director at engineers WME, explains below how BIM has been used by its building services engineers in Phase 2 and 3 of construction of the Abu Dhabi Plaza Project. It comprises five towers - the tallest of which will be 320m - on a 500,000m2 site in Astan.  

Aldar’s mega-project under construction in Astana is scheduled for completion in 2016. It will deliver some 600 residential units in an 88-storey tower, along with office space, retail areas and hotel accommodation.

Using building information modeling (BIM), our building services engineers worked on Phase 3 of the project. Phase 2 included the development of a further two towers and the extension of an existing retail mall and basement areas. The residential building stands at 20 floors and the office building at 30 floors.

The total BUA for Phase 2 was over 175,000m2 within the project design brief there was a prerequisite for BIM for all services within Phase 2, this was not carried out in Phase 1 which was expedited in 2009 when the technological advances of BIM where not as apparent.

The main reason for using BIM on this project from the client’s perspective was for co-ordination purposes. The whole process of creating a model for such a large scale project seemed overwhelming considering the millions of components that would need to be fed into the project, at the beginning of the project this was tough, however once the setup of the libraries and families where in place the project went ahead at full speed.

During the extensive BIM process which was done between external HKR architecture & structures the model was updated on a weekly basis which meant everyone could see the model evolving together in sync.

During the internal design process as we selected equipment we were able to contact multiple supplier to supply us with the BIM families so we were inserting actual equipment sizes and create a constructible BIM.

Designs become much leaner when you can visually walk through spaces and pick up wasted spaces.

Upon completion of design, co-ordinationed section and RCPs where easily reviewed by the team for visual compliance. Schedules of equipment that were put into BIM where taken off at the end of the project which meant accurate scheduling and numbers could be passed to the QS for pricing, saving all parties a lot of time and money.

Complete electrical systems were modelled including transformers, LV switchgears, busbar risers, sub-main/final distribution boards and circuiting all the way including light fixtures and socket outlets.

The model was extended to cover final electrical circuits where by electrical circuit charts were exported from the model automatically; which otherwise in itself would have been a time consuming exercise if the design were done in a conventional 2D platform.

As various distribution components were visible from the model, it was much faster for different stake holders to understand the distribution philosophies and it also made the approval process much quicker.

CCC had been awarded the project on site and its company policy is to use BIM on all projects, they are going to now have all of Phase 1 transferred into BIM also, which shows they are also aware of the benefits of using this with regards to coordination, scheduling, ordering etc.

WME is currently carrying out BIM on 40% of its projects. We are limited to using it only when the architect uses it as a base model but we can see how it evolving faster than any other software.

As we progress with BIM in the future we envisage more design works will be completed in BIM such as thermal analysis, duct pressure losses, structural support for services and other aspects of the design.

Fulfilling the promise of BIM
Hervé Hamelin is general manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa at Aconex and here he explains that BIM is already transforming the way projects are completed but he warns complete understanding of the process is vital.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is changing the way that projects are managed and delivered throughout the Middle East. How BIM is deployed during the course of a project can have significant bottom-line impact for both builders and owners.

Many architecture, engineering and construction professionals define BIM as the multi-dimensional output of design software.

However, BIM is much more than that: it is a process for creating and managing all of the information on a project that results in a built asset. The output of the BIM process is the model – a digital description of every aspect of the asset, before, during and after construction.

But what is the best way to capture and communicate a comprehensive digital record of a project and the resulting asset?

Quite simply, collaboration. Multi-party collaboration across organisations is essential to the success of the BIM process from design through to handover.

In December 2012, AECbytes, sponsored by Aconex, conducted research among its global subscriber base of more than 8,000 AEC professionals.

When asked about the most difficult challenges impacting the success of their BIM projects, respondents listed the following:

• Deciding the correct BIM processes and workflows for their teams – 64%
• Access to models by all team members across organisations – 50%
• Ensuring the completeness and usability of the post-construction asset information handed over to clients – 48%
• Lack of online collaboration tools that fully support BIM requirements from project initiation through handover – 44%
• Maintaining a record of design decisions – 43%
• Linking other project information to models – 42%
• Tracking, recording and resolving clashes – 41%
• Viewing large models in their entirety when only small details of the models are required – 39%

These findings point to a gap in alignment among people, processes and technology around BIM. It’s clear that effective collaboration on BIM projects calls for systematic coordination of all project team members.

Managing BIM through construction…
Design teams use BIM software to create and repeat models. It’s essential for construction teams and project owners to be able to access those models, comment on them, contribute to them, and integrate them with other project information.

For optimal efficiency, this requires:
• Centralised and secure management of all information – including the models – throughout the project
• A standard set of workflows and other processes – defined by the project manager – for all team members to follow

Beyond these collaboration fundamentals, team members need to be able to view models quickly and easily, anytime, anywhere – especially in the field. And in many cases, they need to view only a detail of the model in order to complete a task or resolve an issue.

To examine an elevator or pinpoint a window, why waste time crawling through a huge model?
BIM files are large, ranging up to hundreds of megabytes in size. Project teams require the ability to distribute them securely and efficiently, which is often impractical using email or FTP sites.

They also need to link models to associated information – such as RFIs, drawings, manuals, specifications, and photos – so that the project value of BIM can be fully realised.

... and from construction to handover
BIM files are generated by different authoring tools and change constantly with different contributions and revisions.

As a result, they need to be federated and managed in real time, so that all team members have access to the current version. Review and approval workflows should be tracked accordingly, producing a permanent record of all decisions and actions.

On BIM projects of any size, clashes are inevitable – and frequent. The longer it takes to detect and resolve them, the more severe will be the ripple effect. To avoid schedule delays, it’s critical for clashes to be recorded in real time and resolved immediately.

The true promise of BIM collaboration is fulfilled in the timely handover of complete and accurate documentation for operation and maintenance of the built asset – which accounts for up to 75% of its total lifecycle cost (according to the International Facility Management Association). The contractor secures final payment and moves on to the next project, while the owner proceeds with confidence to monetise the asset.

BIM is the answer, but we need to be clear on the question

Barry Clarke is the General Manager of Macro International’s operations in Qatar and KSA. Here he argues that it is vital for BIM to prove its cost saving credentials, especially in the future life of the building, before more private companies will embrace it.

How many times as a building operator have you been delayed and frustrated by the lack of information available to understand a particular systems layout, affect that repair or trace that leak?

Translate that scenario into a cost in both time and effort to find that information or in the damage caused by the fault and the advantage is clear. We look after buildings only a few years old where things like as-built drawings, maintenance manuals, room data and system configuration details are just not available.

This will be the same for a significant number of building operators and, even when we may have that information, will it be compatible with the Building Management System (BMS) or the Computer Aided Facilities Management System (CAFMS)? The answer is not often, I venture.

Over the horizon comes the apparent answer: BIM, a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its lifecycle, defined as existing from earliest concept to demolition.

The concept of BIM has been around since the mid 1970s, and has reached the stage of evolution that the UK Government, and other European governments, are mandating it to be used on specific projects. However, very few private developers and investors have signed up to the concept.

To make this happen, the cost benefit, direct and indirect, needs to be demonstrated and a number of practical issues will need resolution. These issues mainly revolve around the ownership of the model throughout its intended life.

Project teams are becoming more and more used to managing and sharing information electronically. However, this is rarely passed on in this comprehensive form.

Quite often it is not in a form compatible with BMS, CAFMS or property management systems, and the benefits are lost for future operations.

One of the greatest inhibitors to BIM adoption will be the complex and diverse nature of the project teams involved from concept to demolition. In this chain there will be a number of systems and users with varying needs and interfaces. Then comes the stumbling block of integration with the operational management systems.

With all of the above challenges and interested parties involved, it is difficult to see the level of co-operation required and development investment needed until more practical and real examples are available.

The theory is sound, and no doubt the technological answers can be achieved. Cross-discipline co-operation is already happening on most big projects, but unless we can demonstrate the cost benefits, attracting private sector investment will remain in the balance.

Ignore the hype, but BIM will save you time and money

Dr. Ozan Koseoglu is Assistant Professor for Construction Management and Surveying at the School of the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University in Dubai. Here he argues that BIM can only take off in the Middle East once industry-wide benchmarks have been agreed.

BIM ... BIM ... BIM. Is it going to happen in the Middle East, or are we going to keep asking the same questions like: What is BIM? Which piece of software is recommended? How much is it going to cost? Is it good for me while fixing the formwork and pouring the concrete?

These are some of the common questions I hear during presentations, speeches and events.Some short answers for these questions are as follows: BIM is a new dimension for managing construction projects throughout the lifecycle within a virtual collaborative working environment.

Which piece of software do you suggest? There isn't one single answer, BIM is not like an illness that requires a prescription of medicine or treatment.

The idea is to understand the business needs and requirements. Know the strength of all products in the market. Choose the right solution armed with the knowledge. And then know how to utilise the right product in the process with the right skills set.

That big question: How much is it going to cost? Regardless of being a client, quantity surveyor, contractor, consultant, architect or facility manager, it will save you a huge amount of money.

It will also strengthen future prospects if you concentrate on how to best apply it with the right methodology, process and protocols.

Is BIM good for me while fixing the formwork and pouring the concrete?

Again, yes. BIM should lead your programme, cost plan, quantities and construction methodology, while improving safety and reducing waste (construction is one of the largest waste-producing industries).

The above are normal and typical questions due to lack of knowledge about BIM, or misunderstanding due to the BIM ‘experts’ who have been overselling the capabilities of pure technology without understanding the process, implementation and nature of collaborative working throughout the lifecycle of construction projects.

At last the industry has come to a point where we've started discussing this topic at BIM round tables, and conducting forums to find the right way of delivering BIM on the ground throughout the lifecycle of construction projects in the UAE and MENA.

There are issues behind the question of how this can be made to happen. This includes: Setting clear standards and guidance for BIM management, including modelling, implementation, monitoring the performance through the lifecycle and ownership.

Upskilling of workforce not only training for BIM but also for design management, project management and safety management; and addressing the limitations inherent in collaborative working due to traditional procurement methods.

These questions and issues can be resolved, and BIM has the potential to be a norm in the Middle East, adopting an industry-wide approach once governments, universities, industrial bodies, technology providers and other relevant parties from the construction sector get together with a unified initiative to be achieved within a specific time frame.

A good example that sets the benchmark for BIM is the UK, with a clear strategy and a government-initiated BIM Task Group for delivering public projects with BIM until 2016.

Another good example to take a lead from is Singapore and its BCA-Building Construction Authority, where it has an approach similar to the UK government’s support of BIM. It allocates specific funds for setting guidelines, standards and supporting projects with funding.

The industry is keen to see the next level of BIM development in the Middle East, and the key question is: ‘Who is going to set a new benchmark with a clear BIM strategy and timeframe?

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