The Building Information Modelling or BIM mandate

Dubai Municipality (DM) mandated the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools for most large-scale projects in the emirate last year. The new regulation will apply to buildings that are 40 storeys or taller.

Facilities and buildings that cover at least 300,000 sq ft, hospitals, universities and other special buildings, as well as those being delivered by an international party are also subject to the new rule.

The regulation comes in the wake of increasing global adoption — the European Union made BIM a mandate last month, while Singapore has made it mandatory for all public housing projects.

In announcing the regulation, DM said the decision was taken based on the ability of BIM tools and workflows in improving construction quality, enabling collaboration between project participants across phases, lowering costs, reducing time, unifying specifications and standards as well as cost planning.

Experts view the move as an opportunity for Dubai to embrace sophisticated design technology to build its projects more efficiently and even establish a technology-driven construction industry.

The purpose

Steve Anderson, Design Systems Manager at Atkins, says, “BIM is the purposeful management of information through the whole life cycle of an infrastructure project, not just for a building or during design and construction. BIM starts with the end in mind — the intent and context for an asset and how it will be integrated, operated and maintained. It describes the activity, not an object, and is much more than a single technology or tool.

“It’s a quantum change in practices, processes and behaviours around the infrastructure industry.

“This benefits the construction market to drive efficiencies in the design and construction process.”

The growing importance of BIM stems from governments collaborating with stakeholders to modernise

the industry. “The key objective is to reduce capital cost and carbon burden from the construction and operation of the built environment,” says Anderson.

According to a report by Kuwait Finance House (KFH) Research, a subsidiary of KFH, the UAE’s construction sector is set to grow at an average annual rate of 5.1 per cent until next year. Dubai’s new mandate proves to be both timely and strategic as the KFH Research study also indicates that contracts to build roads, airports, seaports and other infrastructure in the UAE could cross $30 billion (Dh110.19 billion).

With the Dubai Metro expansion and World Expo 2020 in the pipeline, Suhail Arfath, Head of Autodesk Consulting — Middle East, says the emirate will be seeing a lot of major infrastructure developments, and the key challenges when building such huge ventures mainly include delivering the projects on time, at optimum cost and making an impact on residents.

“With the use of BIM, Dubai can improve its overall project deliverables by developing more sustainably, on time with safety and quality in place.

“BIM can help the emirate continue and expand on its global leadership in building and infrastructure — not only improving productivity but also becoming a role model for the rest of the world in terms of sustainability as various successful projects worldwide affirm.

“The region offers the perfect opportunity to demonstrate BIM’s implications for the creation of efficient, sustainable and beautiful buildings that can set a global standard.”

The technology

BIM is an intelligent model-based process that allows architects, contractors, engineers and property owners to plan, design, construct and manage building and infrastructure projects faster, more economically and with less environmental impact, says Arfath.

“The BIM technology turns information into insight, which helps professionals deliver the infrastructure and building project in a much more cost-effective and timely manner.

“The model also aids in predicting what will happen at varied phases of development before the project actually hits the ground, hence the elements of clashes are eliminated.”

Arfath points out that there are between 500 and 20,000 clashes in a typical project. With BIM, these clashes, which could include wrongly intersecting building parts, are easily detected by a computer model. He cites the example of the team behind the Shanghai Tower project in China, which used BIM for early coordination of the major design disciplines. The team combined the BIM-based design and fabrication models for project coordination.

“As construction proceeds, BIM is helping coordinate the subcontractors’ fabrication models, leading to better-quality design and the avoidance of rework costs,” he says. “During design development, the project team found only seven clashes. During construction, there were no clashes at all. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to get results like that without BIM.

“The technology is not only useful in planning, designing or constructing but also helps in managing and communicating, since it takes every stakeholder to the same page.”

As BIM addresses several other aspects in building construction, it ultimately benefits the occupants of the property. For instance, it can be used to allow developers to construct a residential building that can receive maximum sunlight to leverage solar energy.

“BIM can run ten to 20 years of weather data, which can be analysed for a decision to be taken based on historical data,” Arfath says. “Earlier, these were done on assumptions. BIM can provide insight into reducing transportation congestion, managing water treatment, incorporating triple bottomline analysis into early-stage planning tools to help justify green infrastructure project costs, increasing grid efficiency and renewable energy generation, and protecting sensitive habitats as well as landscapes.”

Data generated by BIM also helps all stakeholders to view and understand the progress of the project, how it’s built and how much energy and cost will be saved. BIM-based visualisation of the property allows buyers to get an actual look and feel of the property before making a purchase. For instance, BIM can provide information about how an apartment will look like on the 30th floor of a building, offering both internal and external views.

Cost savings

Dr Assem Al Hajj, Academic Head at the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society at Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus, says, “There is evidence that savings related to BIM implementation can be in the range of 8-18 per cent through the design, post-construction and construction phases.”

This is primarily due to BIM allowing all key design, construction and costing decisions to be made digitally prior to the project ever breaking ground, resulting in a higher degree of certainty in all aspects, including quality, cost, scheduling, sustainability and targets.

“Following on from these anticipated benefits, the UK’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills states that one key competitive advantage of BIM is its ability to promote greater transparency and collaboration between suppliers and thereby reduce waste [procurement, process and material] through all levels of the supply chain,” says Al Hajj. The department also states that the benefits of BIM are shared by end users and the entire supply chain, and this will be a key driver of the rapid adoption of the technology.

Al Hajj points out some of the challenges in adopting BIM, especially those described in books by Eastman (2008) and Arayici (2009), which will equally apply in Dubai.

• Changing the cultural mindset of construction professionals and overcoming their resistance to change.

• Educating and training the industry and its people to understand the potential that BIM provides over traditional methods.

• Providing training and education programmes to understand BIM, or finding employees who have experience working with it.

• Understanding the economic and financial impacts in terms of investment required for implementation.

• Building interoperability between the designers, engineers and building services engineers, as well as other stakeholders within the project and industry.

• Technology- and process-related risks.

“In order to provide solutions and remove obstacles when adopting BIM, guidelines, as well as strategic and practical frameworks, must be produced,” says Al Hajj.

“For BIM to be implemented and accepted across industries, it has to be recognised and enforced by owners and there should be a balanced framework for implementation considering both monetary and managerial outcomes.”

Anderson believes there is a need to establish standards at a national level, which will set the stage for consistency in BIM delivery. He says there is also a need to firmly establish an industry education programme around Building Information Modelling.

Al Hajj says, “Practitioners should look for professionals to assist them in the transformation process, and governments should look for ways to assist the industry as we have seen in Singapore, Scandinavia and more recently the US and UK.”

Source: Building Information Modelling |

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