Building Information Modelling: What’s the hype about?

Construction site at the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy building. Cloud collaboration and BIM 360 helped the Miron Construction Co., Inc. in their construction of this building.

Error-free design and construction is the holy grail of all projects – but rarely achieved. Building Information Modelling (BIM) works towards this goal, as experts from Civil Survey Solutions explain.

Civil Survey Solutions (CSS) is an Autodesk partner and authorised software developer, assisting customers in the survey and civil infrastructure industries with premium technical support, training services and development of industry-driven software solutions.

CSS Director Andrew English believes conventional means of communicating design and construction data are approaching their use-by date.

“Traditionally, civil designers have presented paper plans to collaborators and clients. A shift is leaning towards digital- based scenarios, which is why we are helping businesses to move towards digital as well,” he says.

BIM is a process that enables collaboration between architects, engineers, contractors, construction professionals and building maintenance teams through the planning, design, construction and maintenance of a project. Centralised and accessible data models allow contractors, designers, architects, engineers and project managers to directly communicate on the same data, identify design conflicts and coordinate construction.

Initially, BIM was closely associated with building design – where the design disciplines of architecture, structural engineering and MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) benefitted from a single building model which effectively eliminated design conflicts. The downstream benefits of BIM included better data for project management, construction scheduling and post-construction auditing.

Now, the civil infrastructure industry is being drawn into the BIM process – ranging from the infrastructure surrounding a building project, such as car parks, access roads, storm water, sewer and landscaping to significant highway and rail projects, encompassing civil, structural and electrical disciplines.

There has already been one major revolution in the relationship between design and construction in infrastructure. As civil contractors invested in GPS-operated equipment, pressure was brought to bear on the design industry to provide the finished road design in a digital format which could be downloaded into earthmoving equipment for accurate and more automated grading. This replaced the use (although not the legal requirement) of traditional long section and cross sections output from civil designers.

So how will BIM affect the construction contractors as the demand for BIM in infrastructure increases?

CSS anticipates that designs will become more accurate through BIM, resulting in less variations through the construction phase – reducing the exposure of the end customer to unexpected construction costs and delays.

In the UK, where BIM has been used to deliver major projects, a study of the service found that it can lead to a 20 per cent reduction in build costs, 47 to 59 per cent increase in overall project quality as well as 35 to 43 per cent reduction in risk.

As CSS Technical Services Manager Shane O’Rorke explains, BIM helps minimise the risk of error and re-working.

“By centralising the data, designers are able to see different assets and infrastructure. All tasks can be completed in a collaborative environment. There are less errors and re- work because, from start to finish, different operators are working on the same model. Everyone is seeing the same stages as everyone else.”

The Autodesk Construction Cloud delivers to the architecture, engineering and construction industry via a unified platform. The platform provides secure centralised document management, gives designers real-time design progress and annotates design clashes. Autodesk design, construction and maintenance applications all link with this unified platform, enabling model coordination and project analytics. Authorised users can make changes and assessments, whether they are in the office or in the field.

As O’Rorke explains, the BIM model can be used by multiple teams during the design, construction or maintenance phases.

“Traditionally, an architecture firm may focus on the building and separately engage civil designers for land development design. The BIM process allows for the parties to work a lot more collaboratively.

“What’s revolutionary is that all the data is now mobile so it can be accessed from the cloud, anywhere. With centralisation of data, everyone can be working off the same information.”

Major construction projects have now successfully used BIM internationally, with successful implementations in the US since 2003, South Korea since 2010 and the UK since 2016.

In Australia, the software has been used to aid major construction projects such as the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the Sydney Metro Northwest Rail Link, Perth Stadium and Regional Rail Link in Victoria.

In July 2019, Queensland announced a policy which mandated the use of BIM in construction of all new government construction projects with estimated costs surpassing $50 million.

As a company, CSS is focussed on supplying the industry and businesses with the design tools, training and support to complete BIM projects.

Autodesk’s AEC Collection – which includes software programs spanning architecture, structural engineering, civil engineering and survey is an example of a collaborative workflow where different discipline designs can be aggregated in Autodesk’s unified platform.

“We are firmly involved in the design and construction field, for both civil engineering and surveying industries. At the core of what we do, we help to optimise what clients need to deliver in their daily design life.”

To learn more about Civil Survey Solutions, click here.

This article was originally published in the July edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.


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