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Building discovered to have ‘several columns missing' after BIM blunder

NCE stock health and safety

A new eight-storey concrete building has been built without eight columns after they were omitted from the ground and first floor drawings, a structural safety report has found.

The report by safety body Cross said without the columns a 225mm thick reinforced concrete slab was required to span up to 14m.

According to Cross, the omission was picked up by the concrete frame company’s project manager for some of the locations, but others were not immediately obvious due to transfer structures and column plan positions changing up the building.

The unnamed firm behind the design blamed the BIM software modelling tool it was using, but did not state how the error had arisen.

Cross surmised the mistake could have been made when transferring the model between BIM and an analysis programme or a separate discipline may have deleted the columns when clashes occurred.

“It is unusual to lose complete elements but it is possible that the columns were deleted by someone not appreciating their structural role,” stated the report. “The BIM model would likely have been a multidisciplinary model and there is the possibility of another discipline inadvertently deleting the columns due to clashes with their elements.”

However it went on to say that structural engineers needed to appreciate that they were still required to check the final output regardless of whether it appeared to simply be a copy of the analysis model.

“As BIM becomes more common, engineers need to improve their skills and develop tools to check final BIM models against their design intent,” it said. “It is they who are responsible for design, not the software.

“On a wider theme, the history of failures reveals a frequent pattern of gross error; that is an error so bad, you wonder how no one spotted it. This report seems to fall into that category. A lesson is for engineers to always start with looking at the big picture: are the load paths clear, is there a stability system and so on? - all before they get down to detail.”

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Readers' comments (7)

  • Just looked this up on Cross. The report is dated January 2017, 21 months ago. Hardly 'breaking news'. Though I'll give you credit for highlighting the work of Cross, albeit a bit late on this one.

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  • Where is the building that was therefore structurally unsafe and what has been done to reinstate the missing support columns?
    Is this building still at risk apparently some 21 months after the major error was acknowledged?

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  • Craig Orrell

    "The unnamed firm behind the design blamed the BIM software modelling tool it was using"

    Bad workmen an' all that.......

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  • Problem is of them (industry) seems to be adopting software and technology without investing in good engineer to test/check output, so these things are bound to happen. Hope someone will realise this soon at higher level and start investing in training young engineer or else we will have a lack of experience and knowledge in the industry when most of the experienced engineers retire in next 5-15 years, and there is huge gap!!.

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  • Blaming the blunder on BIM just highlights that there is still a lack of understanding in the industry of what BIM really is. Although the use of technology is a critical part of BIM, the appropriate management of digital information is the key.
    My take on this blunder is that if BIM was properly adopted (and not just ‘3D Modelling’), said structural elements would have not been deleted – it would just be not possible to do this if the standard workflows and practices were adopted, which include carrying out thorough checks before a models is ‘shared’ to other disciplines, when it becomes effectively locked.

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  • I'd suggest the demands of the Eurocodes have something to answer for in situations like this. For example, the automation of fea software packages means that engineers are required to check mamy loadcase combinations (often twenty plus) in line with EC0. It is therefore understandable that inexperienced engineers may focus on the intricacies as opposed to the overall picture. Perhaps not the root cause in this situation but if time is invested doing one thing, there is less time to do the other, arguably more important checks.

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  • BIM software is in essence just 3D CAD software. One of the biggest problems is that elements - such as a column, or a pile are linked to a grid line.

    When that element is moved or removed, other elements on the gridline go with it.

    Therea re three fundamental stages, and each element needs to have an attribute with different behaviours
    Design Stage - elements can be moved around normally with knok on effects
    Approved [AFC] - elements must be LOCKED as they are now being built . . . changes cost money.
    As Built - elements are LOCKED all be it in a slightly different position.

    Regrettably 3D CAD does not have these attributes.... yet ???

    How does one handle "systems" like Train Protection - which got somewhat overlooked on Crossrail. And what happened to some equipment which went in smaoke when it was turned on ??? Where has that story got to ???

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