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Infrastructure in 2014: Why harvesting data is the new BIM

Getting better solutions by better managing information is rapidly emerging as the real power behind building information modelling. And this desire to manage and share information is going to accelerate in 2014, aided and abetted by some rapidly advancing technology.

Sharing data throughout the project lifecycle, optimising design performance, reducing errors and speeding delivery are rapidly being recognised by clients, contractors and consultants as the real benefit of building information modelling (BIM).

The market’s understanding of BIM is advancing rapidly and the view of it as little more than a 3D model is fading. As those in the know will explain, having a 3D model is a basic form of BIM - Level 1 in fact. Level 2, the UK Government Construction Strategy mandate by 2016, requires fully collaborative 3D BIM, with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic, as a minimum. The three key deliverables identified being: the individual domain 3D models in their native file formats, the 2D reviewable design deliverables cut from the models, and Construction-Operations Building information exchange (COBie) UK 2012 data.

And it’s the data that people are interested in, not the products that crunch the data and turn it into visualisations, detailed structural analysis or project programmes.

Because if this data is in a common language, shareable with all in a project team from client down to the smallest specialist designer or contractor, the possibilities for using it and benefiting from it are limitless.

What’s held this up is partly the inability of different modelling products to talk to each other; partly the inability of different companies’ servers to talk to each other; and partly the absence of computing power to handle the data.

That’s rapidly changing, with technology providers rolling out better and better options.

Bentley Systems used its recent Year in Infrastructure 2013 Conference in London to unveil its newest offering - Bentley CONNECT. And it is exactly the sort of technology that is needed to share data collaboratively among all project participants, behind and beyond firewalls to include project teams, supply chains, joint ventures, and disparate vendors, as well as between project environments and enterprise environments.

“Imagine being able to start large projects where different organisations come together and form a collaborative joint venture”

Ron Gant, Bentley

It allows users to share project-relevant data and modelling software by creating a shared environment in which the data can be stored and managed that still respects the firewalls of the different organisations involved.

Speaking at the conference, chief executive officer Greg Bentley reviewed the effective strategies emerging this year to take advantage of information mobility for better performance of infrastructure projects and assets. By now comprehensively “connecting through cloud services,” he said, projects could effectively, securely, and immediately augment the information mobility returns on their successful existing internal collaboration initiatives.

Bentley also announced a new commercial innovation, Open Access, which provides all SELECT subscriber organisations - even the smallest - access to any Bentley information modelling application at any time, by any user. It’s a big move that also provides quarterly term licenses, availed automatically for usage exceeding subscribers’ perpetual license pools, along with Bentley LEARNservices.

“With Open Access, just as we’ve already done for our largest accounts, we are completing the elimination of application software procurement obstacles to project success for all of our users,” said Bentley.

For Bentley global marketing director Ron Gant, this is his new focus. He’s keen on both offerings. “This is very exciting,” he said, speaking at the conference.

“Imagine being able to start large projects where different organisations come together and form a collaborative joint venture. Bentley CONNECT will allow these organisations to connect in an environment where everyone works together while still protecting their respective security measures. Connect two, or 14, or 15 organisations through the cloud…

“And Open Access allows all users - even the smallest - access to Bentley technology on a pay-as-you-go basis. So it opens up technology to everyone, not just the biggest who can afford Bentley’s Enterprise License Subscription providing economical fixed pricing for unlimited users of our full software portfolio.”

It’s a timely move as a report by Bentley and US researcher McGraw Hill Construction on information mobility in the construction industry shows contractors to be chomping at the bit for ready access to data, particularly on the construction site outside of the site hut.

For example, 60% of respondents expected to use cloud services over the next two years, compared with only 37% today. This will allow smaller firms that don’t have resources to invest in servers to more easily share information — and allow for easier remote access of data. However, the industry acknowledges that they will need to address security factors as they more heavily invest in remote information sharing, with important features considered, such as document security (by 71%), secure access (68%) and version control (56%).

And for those that are already there, the results are worth a look: “There are proven results in the value of information mobility investments, with contractors reporting shorter schedules by 9%, project cost decreases of 10%and increases in project ROI of 2%,” said Harvey Bernstein, vice president of industry insights & alliances at McGraw Hill Construction. “We need to encourage the industry to track and report these benefits so they can justify investing in information mobility, thereby improving their profitability.”

“There are proven results in the value of information mobility investments, with contractors reporting shorter schedules by 9%, project cost decreases of 10% and increases in project ROI of 2%”

Harvey Bernstein, McGraw Hill Construction

HDR professional associate John Quintero spoke at The Year in Infrastructure Conference and set out how collaborative technology is key to his operation. “It has allowed us to harness technical resources globally to assist clients locally,” he said, adding that with complex projects no one office can provide all the solutions that a client might need.

He cited the Denver Eagle $2.1bn PPP transit project, which is extending the rail system from city centre to airport. It was designed in 15 months, with ProjectWise technology from Bentley used to integrate 210 engineers with a project team residing in 77 offices.

It managed 230,700 files located in 28,900 folders - CAD files, engineering calculations, spreadsheets and more. Using a “virtual office,” returns included allowing 150 team members to stay based at home offices, cutting relocation costs and saving $3.1M.

He also cited two other ongoing projects - the Tappan Zee bridge, a $3.9bn project, largest design and build project in US - and the reconstruction of IH35E corridor in Dallas, a $1.1bn in JV with Parsons.

The benefits are similar. “Tappan Zee and IH35E are going on right now, at same time, and consuming our resources,” he said. “The crews are working, but most of our people supporting these projects are working from their home office.

“We have not eliminated the need to travel - the key people are in the project office. But many can stay at home, because the happiest people work from home.”

“B/IM” for asset management

At its Year in Infrastructure Conference, Bentley Systems executives explained that while the benefits of BIM (Building Information Modelling) are important, it believes even more value can be created for users through the broader concept of “B/IM”.

This means a reach, represented by the slash, to greater depth of information modelling that provides better decisions leading to better performing infrastructure assets (or the “B”), as well as to greater breadth of information mobility (or the “IM”) for collaboration across the lifecycle of infrastructure, from design to construction and even into operations.

It’s in the latter phase that asset management comes into play. One of the real benefits of B/IM is recognised to be with the client, and its ability to reduce the whole-life cost of the asset during operations.

Utah Transit Authority professional engineer Paul Edwards set out how his authority had teamed up with Bentley and its InspectTech solution to develop a bespoke asset management model.

Focused initially on the rail network, it found financial information to be badly lacking. Once addressed, it was used to work out an inspection regime in line with the regulatory regime.

Sixty tablet computers are used by inspection teams to make better-informed assessments.

The model then has many outputs, the “crown jewel” of which is specific deterioration forecast curves based on age and condition of the assets.

The return on investment is, in short, “significant savings” based on improved efficiency, he said - “easily a 100% return”. Extra, less quantifiable, benefits include less unplanned outages, which would hit revenues and push passengers back to their cars.

 

 

 

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