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Building trust in BIM

Richard Shennan

Why the system makes life easier for all.


People will always react most positively to change when they can clearly see benefits for themselves, feel in control of the change and are confident that it is not introducing the potential for increased risk and consequent stress.

Getting people to understand BIM is crucial to building trust in it. Once that hurdle has been cleared, the benefits - a better built environment and more streamlined project delivery - will follow. Over the last six months, site work has started in earnest on London Underground’s Victoria Station Upgrade (VSU).

The site is congested, making VSU a complex undertaking. Mott MacDonald introduced BIM at the outset of the project to optimise the 3D spatial configuration of new ticket halls and tunnels within the many existing constraints. Specialist grouting subcontractor Keller faces the challenge of inserting 2,500 jet grout columns to consolidate the ground prior to tunnelling. Keller’s project management and design teams quickly understood that BIM provided them with the best possible platform to carry out detailed design. But what about the operatives on site?

Keller’s offices, housing designers and modellers as well as operatives, are adjacent to the VSU site. Initially, when operatives needed detailed information they asked for 2D plans, sections or details.

But it soon became clear that the CAD team was using the model to generate requested views and simply printing out the drawings from that source.

Operatives began looking over the technicians’ shoulders to see for themselves the 3D views needed to help them undertake their work in the field. Next, they started to ask the technicians to capture and print screen views. We now see operatives on site carrying colour coded prints of model views.

Getting people to understand BIM is crucial to building trust in it.

It isn’t hard to imagine them now wanting their own hand-held devices so that they can find the right views for themselves on site, avoiding the trip up to the site office. Of course, BIM also enables them to get at the data behind the graphics - so is much more powerful than a simple set of drawings.

A similar story of growing confidence can be tracked within Mott MacDonald. While the base BIM model for VSU was produced by our own team, the project engineer responsible for checking Keller’s detailed submissions was originally suspicious of the model environment and requested drawings from the Keller CAD team for comment.

Like Keller’s operatives, our engineer saw that the requested 2D plans and sections were generated from the detailed 3D design model. He too realised that if he was on site he could look over the technicians’ shoulders and ask to view any areas of concern. Understanding the subcontractor’s details was easier and comment on them was consequently more robust.

Before long our engineer realised that he could request a 3D PDF that he could view at his own desk and spin around to find the views he required. He could gain the benefits of BIM without having to learn and master the modelling software.

Now we cannot see why one would want to do detailed design reviews and approvals any other way.

  • Richard Shennan is Mott MacDonald’s BIM champion

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