Building Information Modelling (BIM) for free’ and ‘BIM for all’ were the main philosophies behind the BCIA award winning 66 Queen’s Square building in Bristol.
Set for completion on site this year with a construction cost of £12.63M, 66 Queen’s Square is a new five storey office development just south of Bristol city centre. Part new build, part Georgian façade retention, the project design was carried out extensively in building information modelling (BIM) with the key philosophy of “BIM for all” and “BIM for free”.
In a slightly unusual but extremely successful construction model, contractor Skanska, was the developer, client, contractor, structural, mechanical and electrical engineer.
This internal approach to the process allowed for very early contractor involvement with an extremely high emphasis placed on integrated design. It also offered the perfect platform for BIM to be rolled out across the board between internal teams and external subcontractors.
Skanska recognised early on that many in the industry lacked the capabilities to produce models and interact with BIM in the way it envisaged, and set about making the BIM model as accessible as possible.
“It’s not right to say that if you can’t do BIM then you can’t work on the job,” says Skanska director of BIM and digital engineering Malcolm Stagg. “The market just isn’t ready for that yet – it can’t be that black and white at this time.”
The project team put several initiatives in place. An enterprise deal for the project enabled field management software to be made available and used by anyone working on the project, with training as part of the service.
“[Field management] is the new way to manage construction on site whether that is your daily site diary or your tasks, snags, closing out issues or relationships with the supply chain,” explains Stagg. “But it’s also all about the management of important information that relates to running the building, post construction. That technology is a big aid.”
The building structure comprises a concrete frame with 250mm to 275mm thick post tensioned floors for the most part. However a curved steel “drum” structure with profiled metal deck slabs forms the entrance construction which abutted the end wall of the retained, listed, Georgian façade. The building was supported by around 200, 25m deep piles. With all of these different interfaces, teams and subcontractors on site and no one single BIM model, the workflow of information has needed careful management. Using the BIM workflow gave people confidence that the latest version of the model was being used.
“[At Skanska] we use a document management system which only shows the latest version,” says Stagg. “The field management technology is connected with that so it would pull through the latest versions of everything and make that available in the field on an iPad.”
Strict procedures were put in place, with Skanska shifting the balance away from clash detection to clash prevention, with weekly meetings with the different design teams involved to integrate the models and spot potential clashes. A strong emphasis was placed on an “error free workflow”.
“Clash prevention is multi layered so you’ve got designers or members of your supply chain checking their work in relation to their peers routinely as part of the development of their design,” states Stagg. “Once that design is ready for publishing it is then checked again and there are occasionally things which they wouldn’t have been able to resolve because it has an interface with something else outside their jurisdiction.
“That’s when our design management colleagues would come in and those things would be raised at the regular meetings which would take place,” he says.
“Design is iterative by its very nature. As soon as someone has pushed a few keys, something changes. You have to release the changes you’re making at a frequency that is suitable for the project and only once these things have been checked. It’s all about having a process.”
Stagg reveals that a five pound charity fine was imposed if either an avoidable clash was found or a two dimensional drawing was used.
On site, it was recognised that not all of the specialist contractors had the capability to invest in BIM in the way which the project demanded. A room on site was dedicated to a “Think BIM station”, with several computers set up so that anyone could access the model and benefit from the comprehensive amount of information on offer. Training for those who needed it was available. Quick response (QR) codes were displayed in critical areas of the project. These could be scanned with ordinary phones and relevant information about that particular area would be displayed.
“It’s important that we recognised that a company may only have three or four employees, so the chances that it will have invested in technology to keep pace with much larger organisations, is not realistic to expect,” explains Stagg.
“So we wanted to give them something which was easy to scan and then it would give them the latest information to their smart phone or other device.”
This collaboration between the supply chains enabled a far more efficient design to be produced and allowed the design to be translated to a smoother construction process on site. The full model of the building ought to form the basis of a more interactive and practical operations and maintenance manual when it is handed over to the client compared to the traditional reams of paper and information hidden away in files.
For Stagg, the success of the project lay with the carefully designed execution plan or the comprehensive BIM models and also in the skill of the people working on the project.
“The team on the project were very good with people,” he says passionately. “They had some really good soft skills and so they were able to bring people on board to explain how it was going to work for them. That really has been the difference; people have been passionately driving this in a way in that they bring others on board rather than force them to be on board. I think the highly collaborative nature of the team was a real highlight.”
BCIA Judges’ Comments
66 Queen’s Square won the BIM project application category in the 2014 British Construction Industry Awards. This is what the judges said about it.
“This project tackled the challenges of blending a part-listed building with a new construction.
Three key objectives were progressed: ‘BIM for free’, ‘BIM for everyone’ and ‘Timing is everything’.
The team, which includes members of the supply chain, worked hard to demystify the technology and engage the supply chain alongside Skanska’s in-house teams.
Collaborative use of BIM throughout the whole design process supported the “Timing is everything” objective and 2D drawings were banned from design team meetings - anyone who turned up to a meeting with a 2D drawing paid a nominal fine – to push engagement through the BIM models.”