BIM Handles the Heavy Lifting

November 15, 2012

Model once, build once. A variation on the old saying 'measure twice, cut once'; might someday be adopted in the construction industry as it relates to BIM (building information modeling). Project teams are realizing that when it comes to building complex structures, the idea of being able to 'build' it virtually has reduced much headache, concern, and perhaps most important, cost.

One of the more infamous examples is that of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, an expansion of the Denver Art Museum that opened in October 2006. The project called for the use of more than 2,750 tons of steel—three times the amount for a conventional building of its size--and 50,000 bolts. L.P.R. Construction,, Loveland, Colo., the steel erector on the job, leveraged 3D modeling technology to simulate erecting the angular skeleton of the facility prior to coming on site.

By L.P.R.’s estimation, the use of these technology tools saved the field staff thousands of hours throughout the project. The software was able to pinpoint the exact center of gravity, giving much needed control over the angle which components were suspended while being erected. Having such control also mitigated a potentially dangerous scenario of trying to force drastically sloped steel configurations together perilously high in the air.

More recently, AECOM Technology Corp.,, Los Angeles, Calif., a company that provides professional technical and management support services for government and commercial clients globally has been extolling the virtues of BIM as it relates to structural elements for a project in the United Kingdom. AECOM, which was responsible for the civil and structural engineering, fire engineering, geotechnics, and sustainable consultancy on the project, leveraged processes and technologies associated with BIM in order to successfully meet the unique guidelines for the Marks Spencer Cheshire Oaks store, located in Ellesmere Port.

Steven Ferguson, regional director of building engineering, AECOM calls the project a great example of sustainable design reflecting unique influences and materials, saying the store presents a truly holistic approach to delivery. For example, not only did the team need to take into account the use of energy, carbon, and water, but also materials, biodiversity, and community engagement.

Also adding to the complexity was the fact this building features a special form and unique design. This includes curves of an S-shaped building that features glazed roofing panels, which promote natural ventilation and lighting.

In addition, the building features multiple highlights that can be considered 'eco-friendly.' Store personnel will be able to monitor and manage the energy and water consumption via an online system connected to metering in the facility.

Ferguson marvels at the way in which BIM processes and technologies have been able to keep this project true to its sustainable and unique conceptual design. He comments it has been incredible to watch initial sketch ideas flourish and develop using the very latest in design and BIM technology.

It is simply another example of the ways in which modern construction technologies are turning unique concepts into reality on a construction project. Taking into account environmental details and requirements is simply another factor to keep in mind when choosing the right tool for the job. In the end, it becomes a matter of modeling once in order to save time and cost out in the field.