While many firms set out BIM’s benefits on paper, more real-world examples need to be put to clients, says Graham Stewart.
BIM effectively provides the answers to three simple but crucial questions when designing buildings: what are we doing? Why are we doing it? And when are we doing it?
But while it is a hugely powerful tool, it is also often too easy to pay lip service to the software without being clear on what tangible benefits it offers to clients.
Nonetheless, it has played a critical role in three recent Ramboll projects: the Royal National Lifeboat Institution Headquarters, King’s Cross Central development and Birmingham City University campus. In all three, BIM has delivered a number of different advantages to clients.
RNLI Lifeboat Centre
Ramboll was lead designer on the RNLI’s All-weather Lifeboat Centre in Poole, creating a modern manufacturing facility to service the RNLI’s needs for the next 30 years.
This was a particularly ambitious project providing capacity for the construction and fit-outs of lifeboats, as well as office space and a canteen.
Ramboll used BIM for clash detection. Placing the architect’s models into the BIM software allowed the team to analyse vast quantities of data automatically and to identify and mitigate potential clashes months in advance of construction.
The software automatically detects problematic elements by highlighting soft as well as hard clashes. By entering different variables, Ramboll can identify and flag, for example, a structural support sat in front of a doorway.
This system removed the need for an analysis of 2D and CAD drawings and, although a visual verification was still required, saved 70-80 per cent of the time that would have otherwise been required to complete the process.
Ramboll is currently playing an important role in the King’s Cross Central development, where innovation on a number of the buildings has been instrumental to their delivery.
Situated on an ex-industrial site, the development sits adjacent to the High Speed One railway and above Network Rail Thameslink tunnels.
The development is one of the largest urban construction site in Europe, with its sheer size and complexity meaning that effective collaboration and communication is vital.
“Despite it becoming a standard practice, we often fall down in communicating BIM’s advantages clearly to clients”
As part of the design, co-ordination and analysis, Ramboll has produced 3D models on all of its projects on King’s Cross Central to date to deliver
the design requirements.
These models have played a significant part in the design co-ordination, not only for the buildings themselves but also in analysis and review of foundations in close proximity to adjacent railways and tunnels.
In addition, these computer generated models were also used for site logistics meetings where they assisted the co-ordination between three contractors working on three adjacent plots.
Ramboll is now continuing to deliver BIM models for a number of newer plots on the development, which will be used throughout design and construction, ultimately providing a 3D model for the facility managers when the buildings are complete.
Parkside Building, Birmingham
Completed in 2013, the Birmingham City University’s Parkside building is a new centre of excellence which offers technology-based arts and media provision.
The facility includes television, radio and photographic studios to support the full range of academic courses for the School of Art and the Birmingham School of Media.
These disparate requirements created a structure that was both complex and multifaceted.
BIM software allowed Ramboll to upload asset management data, providing a complete 3D model which could be viewed on site on a tablet computer.
All drawings were marked up and sent to a data cloud, giving the client a complete operation and maintenance database.
This not only significantly sped up the client’s understanding of what needed to be done on the site but also saved it from employing a facilities management operator.
BIM clearly improves communication and knowledge sharing, allowing companies such as Ramboll to make savings on time and money, and to build better buildings more efficiently.
Despite the fact that BIM has become a standard industry practice, as an industry we often fall down in communicating its advantages clearly to clients - a shortcoming that we must work hard to rectify.
Graham Stewart is UK head of BIM at Ramboll