Arup Consulting Engineers has been using 3D modelling in an intelligent way since the early 1990s, particularly in relation to projects in the pharmaceutical sector.
Typically before that time, plastic models were constructed for large projects in the pharma industry.
Arup Consulting Engineers has been using 3D modelling in an intelligent way since the early 1990s, particularly in relation to projects in the pharmaceutical sector. Typically before that time, plastic models were constructed for large projects in the pharma industry; Arup were quick to move from this to constructing digital models, typically from multi-office locations. “Back then we were modelling using PDS and PDMS MicroStation platforms which even then had sophisticated add-ons like hard and soft clash detection,” says Sean Clarke, director of Arup in Ireland. “That’s been a normal part of our business for a long time. Over recent years, the focus on BIM has kicked in bigtime in the industry, and it is now Arup’s vehicle of choice for design and construction information delivery for building and civil projects. There was a time when we felt we were involved in ‘lonely BIM’, when we were preparing 3D models for a project but no-one else would be involved in that 3D process. That is now changing rapidly and BIM is being used extensively in the design and construction phases. This has been helped by the UK government mandating BIM for public projects, meaning Contractors are embracing BIM systems for fabrication and construction management purposes, Typically, projects now adopt a BIM Execution Plan from the beginning, and we are aiming for a single model being developed right through to the facilities management phase as our standard platform for delivering projects.”
Over the past couple of years, Sean has seen a strong embracing of BIM across the industry. “Back in the 90s we weren’t calling it BIM, it was just 3D modelling. The introduction of the term BIM is a relatively recent one, where we go beyond the 3D modelling environment to provide a single, holistic, multidisciplinary intelligent model/platform, frequently looking at 4D (Cost) and 5D (Time). It captures all the things we have been doing in our business in a coherent and unified way, and potentially can lead to significant improvements in terms of efficiency and collaboration.” Overall as a method of delivering designs and construction documentation, BIM is impressive but like any new system, it will take a while for the industry to realise its potential. “It’s like driving a car, we’re probably in third or fourth gear at the moment but we want to get to fifth gear. We need to get to the stage where there would be a single model that starts at the very beginning with the architect when he puts his thoughts on paper. That model develops as it goes through the design cycle into contractor procurement and then into construction. When we have that rolling from start to finish, we will have a very efficient procurement and construction system.
In Arup, all projects are now delivered on a BIM format; for buildings they use Revit. For other areas in civil, Microstation and Autocad Civils 3D are used. A clear and full embracing across the board helps the firm deliver projects in a fully BIM environment. “Our company has always pushed the boundaries in terms of what we do, it’s part of our philosophy to really be out there at the cutting edge of technological advances. We’re comfortable taking on board those new ideas and approaches to delivering projects. Where the challenges come in is encouraging and coaxing others to make the same commitment. At times there is a reluctance to make investments in such tight times.”
Sean believes that once teams are clued in and are used to working with BIM, it has the capacity to improve transparency and create a more efficient environment for firms. The time for debating the pros and cons of whether or not we should, as an industry, embrace BIM is over. “I think that decision has been made. The industry has made a determined effort and decided to use BIM as the primary method for delivering design and construction. I would like the debate to move on and focus instead on how we maximise the benefits that BIM can bring. Let’s see how we can do it in the best possible way. For that to work you need all parts of the team – the Client, Architect, Engineers, Manager, Quantity Surveyor, Contractor (including Sub-Contractors) and Facilities Manager on the same hymn sheet to ensure we’re all working together to find a project procurement system that is the most efficient and cost-effective.”