The successful and broad-based research conducted in the PRE program has helped Finland maintain its position as a global leader in the research and deployment of BIM. In infrastructure construction modeling we have even been able to increase our lead. However, the situation is changing because in many countries, such as the UK, the government is actively promoting BIM as a way to improve considerably the productivity of construction.
The most significant results of the PRE program from the perspective of industry were achieved in the development of technologies and concepts supporting open BIM-based cooperation models and distributed management and sharing of information. Requirements, instructions and a data transfer format for modeling were created for the infrastructure sector, all of which together speed up the breakthrough of BIM. BIM-based tools and processes were also developed and tested in practice which can improve supply chain management and work safety considerably. In the future, the results of the PRE program can also be used in many ways in interactive land use planning and reform of work environments.
In Finland, BIM expertise has for quite a long time been based on the development work of leading software houses and top design and construction sector enterprises. The PRE program complemented and provided new insights for this research cooperation. Nevertheless, effective deployment of the research results is also needed before they can have the desired effect on the productivity of construction and the profitability of companies. For this reason, it is essential that the research results produce concrete product development projects and the companies that participated in the program, and Tekes, play central roles in their launching.
On the other hand, sufficient research input in BIM must be ensured also after the PRE program. It is vitally important for the productivity and competitiveness of construction – especially when the market outlook is bleak.
The objective of the first research program of RYM Oy, the PRE program (Built Environment Process Re-Engineering) implemented in 2010–2014, was to create completely new procedures and business models for the real-estate, construction and infrastructure sector. The basis of their development was increasingly user-driven procedures supported by BIM-based data management during the entire life cycle of properties, infrastructure and communities. The aim of the new business processes was to improve productivity and quality considerably.
The program consisted of six thematic work packages:
The work packages were made up so that their contents would complement and support each other. The result was a rather comprehensive and representative cross-section of the utilization of BIM at different stages of built environment processes both in building and infrastructure construction.
My assessment of the results of the PRE program is based on the information I received from the work package leaders and experiences from the BIMCON work package led by Skanska.
|New procedures and business models||BIM-based knotworking and spearhead alliance cooperation modelNew office space design concepts that support new work methods and efficient use of spaceBIM-based cost-optimizing design of an asphalt pavement|
|More user-driven procedures||BIM-based cooperation in common spaces
Virtual visualization solutions in land use planning
|Product model-based data management over the entire life cycle of properties, infrastructure and communities||Web of Data Technology for distributed data management and exchangeModelling requirements and instructions for the infrastructure sector as well as international standardization based on the InfraModel data exchange formatTools that enable use of modeling in calculation of carbon footprint|
|Improvement of productivity and quality||Tools that enable use of modeling in
Harmonization of the Lean Approach and Last Planner production control system with BIM tools
BIM-based machine control in infrastructure construction
Part of the PRE research and projects focused on the development of processes more from the point of view of social action than technology. A process that exploits modeling cannot become more effective if new technology is used the old way. According to the research results, the biggest benefits of modeling to date have been achieved in the areas of visualization of projects, quantity data and inspection of designs. Efforts were made to expand the field to various implementations of cost and energy simulations.
The elimination of activities that do not add value according to the Lean approach and mutual cooperation between the parties were underlined, for instance, by the harmonization of the Last Planner production control system and knotworking with BIM tools.
One result of the research work in the PRE program was also a new project type, the spearhead alliance, that requires close cooperation between clients, designers and implementers and efficient and carefully planned use of BIM tools. This kind of an operational model also requires working in shared team premises. This BIM based operational model not only helps improve the management of the overall process but also takes the end user better into account and creates clear added value for the owners in production.
The technologically most advanced R&D took place in the DRUM work package of Tekla and Aalto University. It studied and developed solutions for genuinely distributed information management and sharing in construction projects. It resulted in the concept of an open operational model which allows linking BIMs and sharing of information online quickly in real time. The information sharing is based on the newly developed Web of Data Technologies.
The new distributed operational model is more compatible with the distributed organizational model of construction projects and reduces the number of errors in design. Instead of being stored in centralized model servers, information can be found and shared easily online.
Web-based BIMs can be linked to any other information available online, building information can be shared openly with users and software developers, and use of the model between work phases can be streamlined and made easier. Dialogue between users and software developers improves the quality of BIMs and promotes innovation and new ways of using the models.
The Infra FINBIM work package conducted ground-breaking, goal-oriented and practical research in the development of modeling guidelines, standards and practices of the infrastructure sector. The research results have had a major impact on the wider introduction of modeling in public infrastructure projects, thanks especially to the active participation of the Finnish Transport Agency. Together with a few big cities it implemented several pilot projects during the program to further develop and test the requirements and guidelines of modeling.
One concrete research result concerned design and implementation of asphalt pavements that optimize costs by using BIM and machine control automation. The solution is based on laser scanning of an existing surface. The laser scanning method is also useful in monitoring the condition and wear of roads and optimizing the timing of repairs.
The wider introduction of model-based machine control makes all civil engineering more efficient and enables a significant productivity leap in the sector. The use of models in infrastructure construction requires developing the compatibility of the design process and tools, as well as data management solutions and related tools. One of the major benefits of model-based design is attained in quantity surveying which becomes more effective and accurate and will in the future enable model-based procurement.
Processes must be developed in both infrastructure and building construction so that all advantages of BIM can be used in all phases of the process, from design input data, actual designs and quantities derived from them to construction and the subsequent maintenance phase. In the future, model-based as-built data will be a significant factor in making the maintenance of infrastructure networks more effective.
The BIMCON work package tested the applicability of design-build subcontracting of precast concrete panels to the modeling process and tools. This procedure allows the supplier of building elements to adapt designs more accurately to its own manufacturing even if the general COBIM modeling requirements and guidelines of the sector are used. Shared use and synchronization of used software must nevertheless be improved so that both the supplier and the main structural designer can be sure of the compatibility and up-to-dateness of their designs.
Another central research theme was the analysis of designs to assess constructability. A model was developed for assessing constructability during the project from several different points of view. It improves the efficiency of construction and work safety by eliminating structures that are difficult to implement.
The improvement of work safety is one of the most important focuses in the construction sector. Consequently, the analysis and design of work safety as a whole was one of the main research subjects. Automatic analysis of the need of fall protections and their positioning in designs were also developed in this context. The utilization of modeling in the improvement of work safety requires further research and development by software suppliers.
Modeling can also be exploited in many ways in supply chain management. One tested solution allowed using a model to monitor the different stages of precast concrete panels from design to manufacture and installation on site. The method offers all parties to a project a transparent view of the project schedule which reduces risks and the need of buffer times.
The modeling of building elements on the product level has largely been limited to detailed modeling of products related to the frame phase while the interior work phase products have mainly been evaluated generally on the structural type level. With certain architectural design softwares, however, it is possible to go much further. For example, detailed modeling of the surface materials of a bathroom enables clearer specification of commercial products and steering of procurement with the model.
Calculation of the carbon footprint was also developed in the BIMCON research which expedites and promotes the consideration of environmental issues in design. An overall solution for this purpose is yet to be found, so approaches dependent on the modeling software must still be used. Yet, the research showed that the method works.
The researches also addressed company-specific product data management in modeling software as well as more generic data management and the transition through general design, product selection and specification and construction to maintenance and the requirements of the later phases of the life cycle. This approach worked with the products of some companies, such as steel frame structures, but there is no clear-cut general solution for model-based maintenance and life cycle management.
BIM also allows more effective land use planning, visualization of design solutions and zoning. The BIMCITY research projects included various city modeling experiments and used augmented reality tools in the visualization of design alternatives. Virtual visualization tools develop rapidly along with new technologies and will in the near future become common methods of communication between design teams, clients and users. They also give residents and other people affected by construction better possibilities to participate in the process and are likely to reduce misunderstandings and related complaints at the zoning phase.
The New Wow work package examined how new design concepts of office premises enhance work in offices or offer distance work opportunities. This is only natural since all types of teams need communication, cooperation, or, alternatively, peace and quiet to concentrate on their work. New activity-based concepts are entering the market, making the use of spaces more efficient. The main thing then is the visualization and illustration of solutions in advance with modeling tools.