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BIM is 'wake up call' for Qatar's contractors

Government usage of Building Information Modeling is a ‘wake up call’ for Qatar’s contractors working on $200-billion worth of projects.

Paul Wallett, Tekla area business director, Middle East.
Paul Wallett, Tekla area business director, Middle East.

Across Qatar, the country’s megaprojects – from the National Museum of Qatar to the Lusail Multipurpose Sports Hall – are using the most advanced Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology to design, build, and operate the construction projects.

BIM is more than just producing constructable real-life 3D models – rather it unites the whole design-build-operate process, integrating across architects, engineers, contractors, and project managers to enhance communication, construction, fabrication, and procurement.

With BIM, organisations can deliver projects on time, on budget, and with a goal towards sustainability. Contractors can create lists of materials and labour, and automate tasks that were once difficult to predict, such as effects of sunlight or weather on building interiors; while also being able to better understand and adjust budgets.

But on a countrywide level, the adoption of BIM by contractors lags behind the region and the rest of the world. With Qatar’s rising number of projects – from skyscrapers to stadiums - what can be done to further encourage BIM adoption in the country?

Right now, we are seeing that across the Middle East, and especially in Qatar, while there is strong awareness of BIM technology, organisation-wide adoption of the system has been lagging.

The majority of companies are only adopting BIM based on a reactionary basis for contracts. It is not uncommon in the region for contractors to ask about BIM for producing a model at the end of a project to check off an item on a list – when it is already too late to do any good. Or organisations will use Building Information Models in a closed loop – for example, one contractor would use a model for the structural design, but a different BIM system for construction and operations.

Around the world, BIM mandates are seeing increased take-up – the European Union recently encouraged BIM for publicly-funded construction and building projects by 2016, while Dubai Municipality recently mandated BIM for all mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) projects for large and internationally-delivered projects and specialised buildings.

Similarly, Qatar’s government agencies are demonstrating best practices in having government-backed megaprojects –such as museums, transportation and healthcare facilities – using BIM across the whole project timeline.

This is a strong wake-up call for contractors of all sizes, not just multinational firms in Qatar, to take a proactive approach in BIM adoption, no matter the size or scale of a project – from a master-planned neighbourhood down to a villa or storefront.

With Qatar’s low cost of labour and a mentality to get the job done, it is understandable that many construction organisations are hesitant to find, train and retain the skilled staff on BIM solutions. But while the system is often considered for architectural and engineering projects, construction organisations in Qatar need a paradigm shift to adopt it for their projects.

While many organisations in Qatar believe that BIM training is expensive, that is actually a misconception. Training often has a significant initial investment, but depending on the area being implemented, the training can see payoffs within three to four months.

Design aspects that once required intense manual attention to detail, such as detecting collision or clashing aspects of a design, can now be automated quickly. For example, for organisations that have deployed BIM solutions such as Tekla BIMsight, the software can do the work of several staff, enabling organisations to free up their current staff to focus on more mission-critical aspects and business development.

The role of technology in construction is rapidly advancing in the region – with BIM solutions on mobile devices enabling real-time updates between the field site and main offices. As Dubai launches its first 3D-printed buildings, the technology is enabling the global design community to create and share 3D models into physical objects.

But perhaps the most groundbreaking solution is holographic technology, with our parent company Trimble currently working with Microsoft Hololens to enable people to use a head-mounted computer to experience holograms placed in the real world, by becoming virtually immersed inside 3D models. As a result, architecture, engineering and construction stakeholders can visualise, collaborate, share ideas, and manage change for complex, multi-phase construction projects in real-time, and experiment with different scenarios.

With Qatar being the GCC’s fastest-growing construction and infrastructure market, with more than $200-billion worth of projects by 2021 according to one report, the country cannot afford to lag behind its competitors.

Contractors adopting BIM across the whole project delivery would enhance Qatar’s standing as an innovation hub, while driving the country’s competitiveness on a global scale.

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Construction Week - Issue 746
Jul 20, 2019