The complex nature of infrastructure projects, and the requirement for collaboration across disciplines and project participants, has prompted many organisations to adopt BIM (Building Information Modelling) processes. With benefits ranging from asset sustainability to risk reduction, it is fast becoming impossible for other infrastructure professionals to ignore BIM if they want to remain competitive.

The benefits that are offered through BIM advancements can be experienced on projects of all types and sizes. From a technology perspective, a BIM strategy enables the integration of data-rich models and project information databases to build a virtual representation of a project and all assets. All stakeholders can access reliable information, making collaboration easier, reducing risks and, most notably, improving return on investment (ROI). Business Review Weekly reported that the use of BIM in construction has the potential to save firms between three and five per cent in costs.

These financial benefits are derived from the enhanced project collaboration and improved construction productivity enabled by BIM advancements, which absolutely contribute towards building a robust construction economy. Employing BIM methodologies leads to faster client approval cycles, which can have a dramatic impact on reducing overall project delivery costs.

This BIM ROI enables constructors to select with confidence the best team for the job, rather than accepting the lowest bidder.

Implementing BIM best practices for construction also enables the testing of constructability and sustainability models before work begins, to build the most durable and green asset possible. The benefits that these processes bring about are eliminating design errors and costly construction re-work, building high performance assets, and reducing environmental impacts such as energy performance.

Enabling BIM advancement

Providing software and services that empower organisations to attain the full potential of BIM advancements, Bentley is well placed to deliver a truly BIM-enabled solution.

A connected environment for comprehensive member project delivery ensures corporate governance and information integrity while providing the project agility to unify multi-discipline project teams for improved project performance.

For example, ProjectWise CONNECT Edition provides a comprehensive work sharing solution. The result is the virtual connection of every project partner and remote team member to project information and processes throughout the project lifecycle, including initial planning, design, and construction, and handover to operations.

Crossrail westbound crossover

The complete BIM solution includes 3Dvisualisation for modelling and design, optioneering for performance improvements and merging the physical with the virtual to achieve an immersive rich data model throughout the lifecycle of the assets. There is also increasing demand for applications that make it easier to conduct walkthroughs and constructability reviews in the field in order to reduce both risk and reworking when translating the design model to the survey. Recent R&D has focused on developing applications that use visualisation and clash resolution capabilities to identify constructability and compliance issues – using Bentley Navigator’s 3D model review and collaboration, for example.

With the ability to explore immersively and to investigate the models and their embedded property data, it is easy to perform construction simulation and virtual walkthroughs before construction begins. Supporting multiple device types – PCs, tablets and mobiles – users can  take this technology into the field with Navigator Mobile to improve project coordination and gain insight into project planning and execution for faster issue resolution.

Enabling BIM best practice

To maximise the value of these tools, of course, it is essential to train the construction workforce. However, while increasing the use of information mobility among users in the construction industry creates a lasting legacy of best practice and innovation, facilitating the acceptance and implementation of BIM advancements is easier said than done.

In addressing this and promoting the use of BIM methodologies, Bentley established the BIM Advancement Academy programme in conjunction with industry experts. Supporting BIM initiatives through industry standards, such as Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie), Infrastructure Asset Data Dictionary for UK (IADD4UK), and Unified Classification for the Construction Industry (Uniclass), the Academy works with organisations at all levels of the industry to educate staff and the entire supply chain about BIM workflows.

As well as providing users with the required skills and knowledge, the BIM Advancement Academy programme helps owners to bring construction projects into alignment by ensuring that contractors and the supply chain understand the processes and deliverables expected for each project.

Today, Bentley’s experts in BIM best practices are already providing leadership and training globally by utilising the company’s BIM Academy in London as well as on site and through virtual training. They can assess the maturity level of an organisation’s BIM methodology and benchmark it against best practices, and then work with that organisation to achieve BIM compliance.

The industry standards and processes that form the basis of the Academy curriculum (BS 1192, PAS 1192) were sponsored by the UK BIM Task Group. Creating a replica environment of an organisation’s systems and processes can demonstrate the best way to work and how to get the people in an organisation ready to execute their projects. This means all project participants are better informed and understand the importance of BIM processes for the project.

BIM in practice

The value of effectively combining best practice systems and expertise is proven in projects around the world. Indeed, projects are increasingly being specified to have a totally BIM-driven lifecycle, such as the Midfield Terminal Building at the Abu Dhabi International Airport, designed and constructed by Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC). Throughout this $3.2 billion project, CCC leveraged its 17 years of experience using Bentley’s BIM processes to integrate our products with its in-house platforms. The use of a BIM methodology that included AECOsim Building Designer, MicroStation, ProjectWise, InRoads and Bentley Navigator facilitated project delivery and minimised risk. Moreover, the BIM methodology helped the construction team leverage information in ProjectWise to accurately forecast construction schedules, perform logistics studies, and validate resource requirements.

A BIM approach was also used by the Beijing Construction Research Institute to design the 500-metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, in Karst, Guizhou, China. This telescope will  be the largest single-aperture telescope in the world when it is complete in 2016. This enormous project required highly accurate construction, fabrication, installation, and collaboration across multiple disciplines and locations. The project team used a standardised BIM methodology that saved the team 1,300 man-days of design modification and 400 man- days of review and field error handling. What is an interesting fact about this project is that by using ProjectWise, the design team reduced management risks by 85 per cent. Additionally, ProSteel’s parametric 3D modelling helped to design and optimise the 445 network cable nodes, which reduced costs by CNY 4 million.

Visualize and understand models containing related project information

Lastly, Crossrail, which will transform transportation across London, reduce congestion, and bring an extra 1.5 million people within a 45-minute train ride of the city, is using a BIM approach to build more than 21 kilometres of new twin-bored tunnels and nine new stations under London. The BIM methodology enabled the team to overcome the challenge of building in close proximity to existing infrastructure. Using Bentley’s BIM solution, Crossrail effectively coordinated and communicated with over 100 contractors and more than 10,000 people working across the project supply chain.

The future is BIM

Looking ahead, the industry is clearly moving towards new cutting edge technologies that leverage cloud services, mobile devices and drone technology. To be well positioned for the next decade and beyond, Bentley recently made some strategic acquisitions, including SITEOPS for breakthrough site design optimisation ‘software at your service’. This uses cloud- based computing techniques to empower site development professionals to move beyond engineering to optioneering, which enables the exploration of engineering alternatives and their associated costs. Optioneering also substantially improves the choices considered for any site development, including commercial, industrial, institutional, campus, and residential projects.

Bentley also entered the world of drone technology early last year with the acquisition of France-based Acute3D, provider of software for reality modelling. Renamed ContextCapture and launched at the end of 2015, the product automates the generation of high-resolution, fully 3D representations from digital photographs taken with any camera, even a smartphone.

Lastly, EADOC technology, acquired in March 2015, offers construction management cloud services. It helps construction managers at engineering/construction management firms and infrastructure owner organisations reduce risk, improve information quality, and provide owners with real-time visibility into costs on their capital projects.

This continued evolution of BIM best practice will, without doubt, drive ever better control and risk management throughout the construction supply chain. Organisations simply cannot afford to ignore these benefits if they are to remain competitive.

Harry Vitelli is senior vice president of Bentley Systems (Construction and Field, Project Delivery).