06 DEC 2018


Building Information Modelling (BIM) is used on a huge variety of projects, including building infrastructure and roads, writes Marzia Bolpagni , but do we really understand its full potential?

Digital technologies and processes are changing the way we create, deliver and manage the built environment. This includes BIM, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, additive manufacturing, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, Blockchain, drones, augmented and virtual reality.

Nowadays BIM has been widely implemented for building projects and is a set of technologies, processes and policies enabling multiple stakeholders to collaboratively design, construct and operate a facility in virtual space.

Collectively, as an industry, it’s time to transition into lean working where we put what our customers want first, make processes visible, drive constant progress, collaborate, deliver, learn and improve. Then start all over again after taking those key learnings on board. However, to advance our current way of building roads we need to improve innovation, reduce construction risks and map out the whole lifecycle of an asset.  

Usually people think that the creation of virtual models in 3D, with information associated to them, can only benefit designers and constructors. This is not true as most benefits can be achieved by clients who are then able to control the progress of projects within the same programme, monitor the cash flow based on performance, test health and safety solutions and manage operations in a coordinated way. Having a digital platform that connects different data sources securely can benefit clients in searching for information and mapping all of their assets. 

Information models can be linked to clients’ sites to gain a clear picture of the extension and location of these assets. Digital platforms can be accessed using different permission levels to perform maintenance and planning activities, including in emergency situations where real time data is needed to support well-informed decisions.

"We believe that BIM can break down silos and support integration of capabilities from across the supply chain and is a key element to pursue a better way of doing things for clients across their entire business."

Different information, geometry and documentation should be associated to information models to support activities such as capturing (things like 2D, 3D, laser scanning), creating (construction, demolition, operations planning), analysing (clash detection, simulations), managing (3D printing, logistics, prefabrication), operating (asset maintenance, procurement) and monitoring (field BIM, real-time utilisation).

We believe that BIM can break down silos and support integration of capabilities from across the supply chain and is a key element to pursue a better way of doing things for our clients across their entire business. 

When it came to our role in supporting the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement Scheme, our integrated delivery team used drones to capture the scope of the works, taking aerial shots and recording the dimensions of the affected area. Information models have been set using agreed naming conventions and information that has been exchanged using a collaborative and secured environment. The information models were created to coordinate different disciplines and were used to extract information needed for facilities management.

The use of information models is crucial when sensors can monitor performances and behaviours in real time and then compare them against planned activities. In the later stages of BIM, it’s possible to monitor traffic and detect critical or incorrect usage of the road to reduce risks for customers in real time, as the ability to manage assets dynamically becomes a key enabler for broader digital transformation within the highways sector.

There is no doubt that BIM is starting to transform projects and plays a vital role when looking at the ‘big picture’ and how it can improve large infrastructure programmes that our country needs.

Dr Marzia Bolpagni is BIM advisor for Mace.  


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