Thursday, 3 April 2014

thinkBIM – Spring Conference 2014

There was a super line-up of speakers at the first thinkBIM conference of 2014.

First up was Richard Ogden from Build Offsite. I’d first came into contact with Richard at the RIBA Build Offsite conference in 2011 where the Leadenhall Building and Circle Private Hospital case studies were presented (read this blog post here).

A few screenshots from Richard’s presentation are below. Building offsite and then assembling on the construction site is one proven method of bringing the cost of construction down. The UK Government 2025 Construction Strategy is demanding some big efficiency and environmental impact enhancements and this was discussed. The analogy with the auto-mobile industry was given. Volkswagen have a standardised process, 80% of their cars come from the same components – yet the customer still gets 2million+ possibilities in terms of customisation. Can the same be done for buildings to achieve the efficiency and environmental impact savings?
Ogden puts up the 2025 headline goals
How big is the parallel between assembling cars and assembling buildings?
Richard also mentioned that a lot of the thinking is not new - it's just the technology is enabling better things now. Check out the History Channel documentary on Building the Empire State Building on youtube.

Jaimie Johnson from Bryden Wood then gave a web presentation from St Petersburg Russia. Jaimie started by presenting a case study from some of their work for Anglian Water. They designed and digitally built modules on the computer. They then prototyped and built them in a factory. Then when they were sure they were correct they then formed a build-offsite-kit-of-parts for numerous Anglian Water facilities.

The St Petersburg project that Jaimie is currently working on is a $1.2bn new district. The largest level-2 BIM project ever (although the Qatar world cup may have something to say about that). Brydon Wood have followed the same principles as before on this project. They built a digital kit of parts using BIM methodology. The architects on the project now know to use these components and assemblies to design their buildings.

Jaimie reflected that they had tried to do the same on the Olympic athlete’s village project, but on reflection they did not have enough time to achieve this. How this current project is progressing is an excellent example of getting things right at the strategy stage and preparation+brief stage of a large project. Get things right at the start. Learn from previous projects.

Some headline statistics where that the modular buildings were 1/3 of the mass which produced a large saving in embodied carbon and 25% cheaper in terms of materials. The delivery time was also reduced by 8 months.
A selection of digital library objects that were developed in preparation for the design of the buildings
How the objects come together to form a floor of a building
Check out a PDF case study on this project so far at -

The thinkBIM conferences always have a set of excellent roundtables that the delegates can select from and take part in. It was pleasing to see that there was a full table for the session I was hosting on BIM and LODev. (See my previous post on BIM and Level of Development for a bit of background information on this).

There was a good consensus of opinions on BIM and LODev. To summarise:
  • Having a set of LODev guidelines available is the ‘construction language’ that is needed for the collaborative project team to agree *who* is responsible for *what* and *when* information is needed to be delivered through the project.
  • There is a vacuum here in the UK in terms of guidelines. Those working on BIM projects are using the American guidelines. These are considered the best in the world, however, it would be really good to have a set authored for UK construction. It would be even better if this was available in a digital online database and not just a PDF.
  • It was clear that there was not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ for each system and product across all of the disciplines. Specific properties are required. Certain items need designed to a greater level of development earlier in the project.
  • Equally, every project is different. A ‘built-offsite’ project with standard components has a greater level of development early on. A bespoke project may go well into the design stages before as much information emerges.
  • Strong consistent project leadership is advantageous. A good project lead from concept stage onwards can really help.
  • Many professions were represented at the round tables (engineers, design managers, architects, manufacturers, civils…) – it was felt that a consistent approach would help all in construction.
  • Consistent classification is required and this must map to rules of measurement for costing.
  • If the LODev guidelines are digital, this should lead to a certain amount of digital validation. A client can request a certain amount of information. They can then automatically check this has been provided.
Two sketches are shown below that were developed as part of the discussion in terms of the design (LOD) and information (LOI) part of the levels of development.
LODev round-table one sketches
LODev round-table two sketches
The final presentation was from SKANSKA’s Rob Francis. Rob gave an insight as to what SKANSKA have been doing in partnership with Arup and Forest City to develop Brooklyn in New York.

The joint venture put in $12million in developing a factory to build modular housing to form part of high rise developments in the Brooklyn dock’s area. 80% of effort offsite in the factory and then 20% on the construction (assembly) site. Building offsite was the only feasible option here as there was very little space available on the tight building area available.

The photographs below nicely illustrate the designs progressing, the sequencing in the factory and then the assemblies being lifted onto the structure. Also fascinating was the extremely tight standards and regulations that come from building high-rise in New York. The building must be able to stand 8 on the Richter Scale – 200 mile an hour hurricanes and have a progressive collapse sequence.
The build-offsite and assemble process
The factory layout
'Made in Brooklyn' - the assemblies get lifted onto the structure
Here is a video of a factory tour I found on youtube below and link to the SKANSKA presentation.

The next thinkBIM is July. Looking forward to it already.

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