Several years ago Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch highway authority, initiated Design, Build, Finance and Maintain (DBFM) highway projects. Private Dutch engineering and construction companies bidding on these projects found that adopting an integrated geospatial + BIM approach on DBFM projects yielded significant benefits. I blogged previously about the firm Royal BAM Group nv / BAM Infraconsult that adopted an integrated BIM + geospatial full-lifecycle approach to construction because many of its projects were DBFM projects. In Canada public–private partnership (P3) have been remarkably successful for building and maintaining infrastructure. At the CanBIM 2018 Regional Session in Vancouver I had a chance to chat with Thomas Strong, Managing Director VDC at EllisDon, who said that at EllisDon integrated BIM + geospatial was considered best practices on full-lifecyle projects including P3 projects in Canada.
McKinsey & Company suggests that the construction industry is ripe for disruption and two of the technologies that it believes will be key in that anticipated transformation are geospatial and BIM. Large construction projects typically take 20 percent longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80 percent over budget. Construction productivity has actually declined in some markets since the 1990s and financial returns for contractors are relatively low and volatile. McKinsey has identified five technologies that it believes will be transformative in the construction industry. Two are geospatial technologies and BIM. Integrated BIM + geospatial is essential to enable the full capabilities of both technologies.
Geospatial + BIM at EllisDon
Thomas Strong has an interesting background that prepared him for the 3D digital construction world. He started his career in plastic injection molding making steel molds to fabricate plastic parts for cars. In this world engineers use 3D models to fully define to the fabricators what they are going to fabricate. In 2002 he transitioned to the construction industry and found that design business processes were quite different - in the construction industry things don’t get fully defined until they are built. When he joined EllisDon, he got involved with a couple of Frank Gehry projects including the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) where contractors worked from 3D models that were provided by the architect right from the beginning. After that experience, EllisDon started to implement the use of 3D models for design, quantities, and logistics to produce schedules. Now when EllisDon tender work, they use 3D models to define the geometry and the scope of work.
Thomas has been tracking trends in the geospatial + BIM world since joining EllisDon. The use of Laser Scanning is an important new technology driving significant business at EllisDon, who did their first 3D scans in 2003 on the AGO project. EllisDon now routinely conducts scans for deviation analysis, progress tracking and to capture existing conditions related to their core business construction work as well as offering scan-to-BIM as a service. They have developed a leading edge capability for converting LiDAR scans to 3D BIM geometry very quickly and accurately. They use this capability to reverse engineer existing buildings for renovation or heritage projects. The EllisDon VDC group, which was established in 2008 and which Thomas leads, provides consulting services around 3D scanning and developing as-built models.
EllisDon was involved in its first P3 project in Canada fifteen years ago. Since then the P3 business has grown and now P3 is a big part of EllisDon's business. For P3 projects EllisDon builds a wide variety types of structures including hospitals. In the P3 world the contractor often shares the risk of operating and/or maintaining a facility for an extended period. This means that people who are going to be running and managing a facility need to be involved in designing the facility right from the beginning. It is necessary to cost out the lifecycle of each piece of equipment whether it be a carpet, baseboard or cooling unit because you have to be able to maintain it and at the end of the 30 year period you are expected to turn over a hospital that looks brand new. For this reason P3 projects are very different from design+build projects.
Integrated geospatial+BIM is critical during the operations and maintenance phase of a building. Utilities, transportation, emergency planning, first responder access, energy performance, and evacuation management all require information about internal and external infrastructure. A common geospatial coordinate system enables a comprehensive operational view of all infrastructure including internal and external structures. Thomas explained to me that at EllisDon best practices on full lifecycle projects is to use real world coordinates. He has found that it is sometimes necessary to put a little pressure on architects and others to do because there is predilection among some architects for (0,0) coordinate systems.
It was P3 projects that got EllisDon into full lifecycle projects and led to them developing their own in-house facilities management (FM) group. As EllisDon's P3 business has grown, their FM has also continued to grow. Since they are in-house, the FM folks are at the table right from the beginning of a project. EllisDon recognizes the value of the data that is collected over a project lifecyle, and the entire team is aware it's important to deliver the data for the asset in a way that can plug and play in an organized way into the asset management/facilities management platform.