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Technical BIM

Building Information Modelling is the technology everyone’s talking about. Jan-Carlos Kucharek reports on how a 4D BIM model is giving Vinci Construction UK additional coordination and control over the £560m contract to rebuild Tottenham Court Road station

Adventures in time and space

“DO YOU WANT TO DRIVE, or shall I?” We’re on site at Tottenham Court Road station where Vinci Construction UK’s senior engineer Lawrence Remmers has just asked the question of William Hackney, Vinci’s BIM strategy manager. Except we’re not in a car or a JCB, but their 4th floor site meeting room sitting in front of a laptop looking at Autodesk’s Navisworks Freedom — a 4D BIM viewer that allows team members to access the 3D design model linked to the “fourth dimension” of time management. Vinci is using it to help build this particularly complex example of city centre transport infrastructure. On the screen is a complete virtual model of the site immediately outside their stacked temporary offices: the neighbouring buildings, the two huge holes in the ground, their props and retaining walls, the cranes, even diggers and trucks. Remmers, in charge of both the actual construction site and its BIM doppelganger, is navigating us around the view on screen. One second we’re looking at a bird’s eye view of the site, the next we’re hunkered in alongside the secant piles of the foundations, or at any point in between. “Younger members of staff take to the

programme immediately,” says Remmers. “It’s just like playing a computer game, except there’s no bad guys involved.” “Is that digger actually there?” I ask, pointing to a perfectly rendered image of one in the middle of the screen. “Well, it’s on site, although it may not be exactly in that position,” says Hackney. So the model isn’t quite rendering in real time, but as he’ll go on to explain, it’s not far off. Taylor Woodrow, the civil engineering division of Vinci Construction UK, along with joint venture partner BAM Nuttall, is delivering the £560m, six-year contract to build the station boxes, connecting shafts, tunnels and fit-out for the new TCR


underground and Crossrail stations. There was never any doubt among the Vinci team that BIM was going to be a core aspect of the procurement: the levels of coordination required between the consultant and construction teams made it a no-brainer. Hackney heads Vinci’s dedicated BIM

strategy team, which has been in existence for more than 10 years and works out of the company’s Watford HQ. This team dictates the BIM processes, platforms and tools that will be used on Vinci projects all over the country. Senior engineers like Remmers combine the roles of site manager and IT emissary, managing the engineering works and coordinating the 4D model.

Open strategy

With the huge number of consultants involved on the project, an “open BIM” strategy was adopted from the outset, with standardised IFC file formats allowing models that originated with the various consultants to “talk” to each other. Uniquely the client — London Underground Ltd — made the BIM data available during the tender period, improving the value in planning with the use of BIM. “There is an empire of information being passed around between the teams and IFCs have facilitated that,” says Remmers. “Lead designer Halcrow has been designing in Bentley, and its native model has been issued to the station architects Hawkins Brown, the M&E guys and consultant Bailey Rail, who have been using it for their detailed design models. At the same time, all the temporary works and props have been designed by the sub- contractor [DAM Structures] in Tekla and exported to us in IFC format, while we’ve been using Autodesk AutoCAD to do our design drawings.” As the construction side of the Vinci/

Top: Lawrence Remmers, Vinci senior engineer Above: William Hackney, Vinci BIM strategy manager

BAM contract draws to a close, the main 4D BIM model will be passed to the fit-out team delivering the next stage. Remmers says there were translation issues between Tekla and AutoCAD, but that IFC dealt with these issues instantly. Hackney adds: “The beauty of IFC has been that it hasn’t forced anyone to use the same software tools — it’s an enabling tool that has made the idea of ‘open BIM’ a reality.” The common data model is also supported by the use of the NEC3 Partnering contract, which places emphasis on collaboration rather than the traditional, more adversarial arrangements. Of course, it is the 4D capabilities of

BIM, the ability to link the design model to the programme and to examine the implications of design and programme changes, that makes it such a valuable tool on site. Vinci’s use of the Primavera P6 (Project Portfolio Management) to analyse the construction programme, and the use of Synchro project management software to look at “optioneering”, gives the BIM construction model a whole new level of functionality. In the construction phase, Vinci found

the system invaluable in its ability to be updated. When you are surveying as you excavate, or the programme changes, the model has to reflect the new conditions. “Ground modelling has been interesting for us as it is the one thing that no-one has a model for — we’ve had to carry out

“Younger members of staff take to the programme immediately. It’s just like playing a computer game, except

there’s no bad guys involved.” Lawrence Remmers, Vinci Construction UK

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