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Infrastructure in 2014: Maximise concrete and rebar efficiency with new technology

The government and pioneering organisations are seeking to embrace building information modelling (BIM) and formulate all-encompassing strategies to implement these new processes.

The government and pioneering organisations are seeking to embrace building information modelling (BIM) and formulate all-encompassing strategies to implement these new processes. Companies of all shapes and sizes are struggling to translate all of this information into something meaningful. Of course, having an understanding of the wider implications of the UK government’s BIM strategy and the relevant standards is important. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that using the right BIM tool already represents a more efficient method of working than traditional 2D processes.

The vast majority of structural steel subcontractors, detailers and fabricators have been using BIM software for many years, and it is certainly not because they have been told to by their clients. They do so because it is the most efficient way to work. So the question we must ask is why the insitu concrete industry is not utilising equivalent technologies. In the times when the structural steel industry first adopted BIM, the available products were not suitable for concrete construction. But because the technology has evolved and developed since those days it can now offer concrete construction productivity gains similar to those that architects, engineers and structural steel subcontractors already enjoy. Naturally there is a number of different software options on the market but beware; there is no one-size-fits-all BIM solution. The solution that best matches the needs of, for instance, an architect or MEP engineer is probably not ideal for concrete construction.

Simply put, a concrete building information model provides a central source of digital information, which can deliver benefits at every stage of the construction process. All concrete profiles and details, embeds, reinforcing bars, anchor bolts, formwork components and even critical site set-out points can be modelled quickly and precisely in preconstruction, ensuring that everything fits when construction begins. Modelling concrete is not like old drawing-based processes. With 2D, every project stakeholder must repeatedly interpret 2D information for their own part of the process, for example perform quantity take-offs. Having a central data-rich model means that every output, be it a drawing, report or schedule, is consistent between each discipline and the work involving processing information only needs doing once.

With the proper tool, managing concrete and materials becomes easier too. Concrete pours can be defined in the model along with instant volumes and quantities, ensuring more accurate management of material deliveries with much greater control, which in turn minimises waste and reduces costs.

Detailing reinforcement in 3D offers significant advantages over the 2D process. Not only is it faster, modelling rebar in a 3D environment essentially eliminates clashes, as you can instantly see as you model when the bars will not fit into the respective area. Once the design is signed off, the reinforcement data can be exported directly into the fabrication machinery, eradicating data entry errors associated with manual schedules. With today’s technology the benefits of BIM for concrete projects are obvious and even the simplest outcomes can deliver significant savings.

  • David Evans is business development manager, Tekla UK


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