AECOM is a US$18.2 billion a year firm in the construction sector. It designs and builds infrastructure around the world for public- and private-sector clients including transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, oil and gas, water, high-rise buildings and government. For eight years running it has been ranked #1 in Engineering News Record‘s “Top 500 Design Firms”. I was very happily surprised at Geospatial World Forum 2018 to hear John Kizior, Global Director, Project Technologies describe how AECOM uses BIM + GIS on design, build, finance and operate (DBFO) projects around the world.
A number of years ago, in a paper presented at a conference organised by Britain’s Association for Geographic Information (AGI), Ann Kemp, then head of GIS at Atkins Global, a design and engineering firm, asked the question ‘BIM isn’t geospatial -- or is it?’ and then argued that integration of geospatial and BIM was essential to address the challenges of the 21st century construction industry. Kemp wasn’t the first one to speak about this. The need to integrate geospatial and BIM has been gaining traction for some time now and government mandated energy efficiency for buildings is a major driver of BIM/geospatial convergence. A few firms such as Parsons Brinckerhoff, Atkins Global, and several Dutch firms including Arcadis and Royal BAM, in the construction sector have realized that BIM+geospatial integration provide greater value to projects that involve not just design and construction but also operations and maintenance. A leader in this space, Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch highway authority, began offering design-build-finance-maintain (DBFM) projects a number of years ago which has motivated private Dutch engineering and construction companies to adopt an integrated geospatial + BIM approach for construction projects. For example, the firm Royal BAM Group nv/BAM Infraconsult adopted integrated BIM + geospatial because of market developments including more complex construction assignments and an increasing demand from customers for service provision throughout the entire life cycle of a project. As further evidence that the importance of integrating BIM and GIS is gaining recognition on the construction sector, Autodesk and ESRI, 800 lb gorillas in their respective areas of BIM and GIS, have announced an agreement to collaborate to help bridge the gap between BIM and 3D GIS.
At Geospatial World Forum in Hyderabad, John Kizior described several projects where AECOM realized the value of integrated BIM + GIS. John emphasized that the concept of using BIM and GIS together is not new, but one of the reasons it has been slow to be adopted in the construction industry is that it "requires a lot of effort" (John's words). With the recent focus on geospatial and BIM at AECOM, the discussion has shifted from CAD/BIM alone to include geospatial and its capabilities specifically for design, build finance and operate (DBFO) projects. This mirrors the Dutch experience with design, build, finance and maintain (DBFM) projects encouraged by the Dutch highway authority. AECOM has found that by adding real world coordinates they increase the value and types of data for all stakeholders across the entire lifecycle. Integrated geospatial + BIM connects data types together. BIM holds the utility content and GIS is a visual platform for maintenance linked to a maintenance workflow. AECOM has applied this approach to the external campus of Denver International Airport, and to lease management at Orlando, Hong Kong, and South West Florida international airports. For the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) in Hong Kong AECOM developed and maintains a central repository with district-wide data from various sources including all operational data - architectural planning and engineering- for the district. The advantage of an integrated BIM+GIS approach based on a centralized integration of information is that it allows the client to make strategic decisions during the design, build and operate phases of the construction lifecycle.