The argument for using BIM in construction has never been stronger, but adoption is still not widespread in the industry. There are three forces in play that can and should help to make BIM ‘business as usual’.
Firstly, as has happened in the UK, governments can mandate that BIM is adopted for public sector projects, in the hope of causing wider take-up. Secondly, in academia, more research can be published demonstrating both the effects BIM is already having on projects where’s it’s implemented, and point to the potential future of BIM - for example by defining BIM levels 3 and 4. Finally, at the coal face - we need more case studies from industry of construction projects where BIM was used.
As the European BIM case studies collected here demonstrate, BIM can be the key to unlocking savings and efficiency on the biggest and most complex construction projects in the world. At the other end of the spectrum, in a post-Grenfell world, it’s never been clearer how essential better information management on construction projects is.
In these examples, we look at the different ways BIM has been adopted in large scale complex European construction projects, up to and including 4D sequencing in the models, and the types of processes it's helping to expedite. Finally, we take a look at an aspect of the future of BIM - not in ever more realistic VR or AR on-site usages, but as a means of new understanding to make the construction projects of the future possible.
1. Slussen lock, Stockholm Sweden
The Slussen Lock, in Stockholm’s Old Town, is a crucial part of the local infrastructure. It sits slap bang in the middle between North and South Stockholm, both protecting the area from flooding and providing clean drinking water for millions of citizens.
The original site was in such bad shape, it was decided to completely demolish and rebuild it from scratch for €1.2bn. Swedish consultancy Tikab got the BIM brief for the project, defining BIM working methods and how information would be managed, opting for an entirely digital information process in the design stage - making it potentially the largest project ever to run without any paper drawings at this stage.
Both the scale and scope of the project made optimal BIM implementation crucial. For example, the site required 3,600 new steel piles for its foundations, each with unique dimensions, plunging down up to 70 metres into the bedrock on the seafloor. The cost and complexity of producing 3,600 sets of drawings for these piles, combined with the margin for potential error when translating these drawings and the relevant data between different suppliers in the chain, would have had a significant knock-on effect on the spend.
The contractor for the foundations was Skanska, who recorded 80 separate parameters in the BIM software for the structural engineer ELU Konsult to adopt, plus 30 parameters for themselves. Using the latest technology for these models, they also avoided the potential for information gaps - common when drawings don’t record all the data, or the data isn’t migrated when turned into spreadsheets from the original drawings.
2. Cityringen, Copenhagen Denmark
In neighbouring Denmark is the Cityringen, or ‘City Circle Line’ in English. It’s the new metro line constructed on the same principles as the existing Copenhagen metro network. It’s thought to be the biggest construction project in the capital in 400 years, costing an estimated $3.23 billion. Upon completion, it will make up a 43 km long loop, with 17 new stations along the line.
The use of up-to-date BIM protocols was essential for a number of reasons. The nature of constructing a new line in a busy city centre meant that detailed planning and abidance of approval procedures was essential. As well as the complexities of the site, the plethora of stakeholders and individual contractors, and the unusual scale of the project meant detailed and information sharing was also integral to success.
SWS Engineering was responsible for BIM implementation on the project, both in the individual stations on the line and on quality control through the construction process. Their aim was for models of a high enough fidelity that all major stakeholders could work from the same project information, sharing between themselves with everything stored in the cloud.
As has now become standard in BIM models, there was a robust interference identification process with continuous clash detection. But more than just that, as with the Slussen Dock, the use of BIM unlocked the potential to optimise the management of core structural considerations, in this case the calculation of the many reinforcements required along the line.
3. 22 Bishopsgate, City of London UK
From metro lines to skyscrapers, from Denmark to the UK, and from 3D to 4D BIM.
The history of the site at 22 Bishopsgate is a slightly torrid one, but aside from the difficulties in ongoing funding (brought about by aftershocks from the Global Recession), it is a model case study in what’s possible with correct 4-D BIM implementation.
As the name might suggest, 4-D, or 4D BIM takes into account the fourth element - time. Introducing time or scheduling into the information modelling means you can plan the sequences of work in detail for improved efficiency and health and safety. This was crucial for this project, where the logistics of site access in a busy part of central London, combined with an unusual site with many health and safety considerations, meant the model had to be sophisticated enough to prevent construction slowing down to a crawl.
London-based 4D consultancy Freeform worked on the existing BIM model produced by Multiplex and structural engineer WSP. As well as sequencing, they introduced immersive VR for better safety provision and communication on-site. All logistics and planning happened well before construction began, and they were able to rely on models of a fidelity that both prevented surprises at the work site and made for better decision making on the slab.
4. St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals, Merseyside UK
Again in the UK, this was a combined new build and refurbishment project to redevelop two major hospital sites in England’s North West for £338m. As with all UK government-commissioned construction projects, it was BIM Level 2 compliant, and its budget made this the largest PFI (the UK Government’s Private Finance Initiative) project at the time.
The BIM model wasn’t 3D or 4D, but it’s a common misnomer that BIM is synonymous with 3D modelling. While including details like timings in the model is a crucial aspect to improving efficiency on site, BIM compliance is more about giving the relevant stakeholders—the project owners, owners down the supply chain, and the information managers—the ability to develop an integrated set of ongoing production information to work from. This unlocks improved efficiency, which unlocks cost savings, and in this case 10% savings were made on the project.
The BIM principles employed included early access to all project information shared by all stakeholders, with drawings and scheduling sign-offs agreed in a timely and consistent manner. The supply chain was also brought on earlier, to greatly increase the information fidelity and make for more predictable outcomes.
5. The Qatar Foundation
We mentioned in the introduction the role that academia has to play in pushing forward BIM adoption in construction, and indeed digital transformation across the industry. To further illustrate the potential for BIM adoption, our final example isn’t a literal construction project at all, but a precursor to a larger programme to undertake multiple construction projects. It demonstrates a dedication by those who undertook it to try to understand the latest and best BIM techniques before construction planning has even begun, and how academic research can have a very real impact in devising the construction projects of the future.
Qatar’s ambitious construction plans most likely date back to before they successfully bid to host the 2022 World Cup, and evidence of that ambition was demonstrated back in 2013 when they gave a $900,000 grant to two UK professors to study how BIM could deliver savings in their projected $100bn construction plans.
Professor Nashwan Dawood and Dr Mohamad Kassem of Teesside University were given the grant, their credentials based on numerous experience rehearsing “builds on major projects including bridges and gas rigs”, according to their university.
Professor Dawood said of the grant for the research, which is a partnership between Teesside University and Qatar University, “Hopefully it will [set] an international agenda in terms of pushing the boundaries of how we manage construction projects in the future.”