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Field report: BIM in the build phase on the construction site

Users are increasingly focusing on the economic potential of using BIM in construction in a safe and consistent manner. In order to make BIM the future standard in these projects, comprehensive experience must be applied. One of these highly innovative projects from a BIM perspective was entrusted to pde Integrale Planung GmbH by HOWOGE as the client and Baumschlager Eberle Architekten as the general planner. PORR Deutschland, as the construction company responsible for the build, was also closely involved in the BIM processes.

© PORR

There’s no getting away from it: digitalisation with BIM must be incorporated into the working environment of the designer, the construction company, the subcontractors, the service providers, the lawyers and the clients and operators. The networking of all data generated during the construction process must be recorded in a transparent and verifiable manner. 
The goal? To leverage potential for savings and to transfer the comprehensive data for operations in a meaningful way. In addition to functioning software systems, clear standards and defined interfaces, this also includes framework conditions for joint project management.

Furthermore, it includes rules for cooperation as well as clear ideas about where and in what form the new methods, tools and accumulated data should be used in the operation phase of a building – because this is where the greatest potential for value creation can be achieved. 

In many projects undertaken in recent years, especially in building construction, BIM has now become an established option in a variety of applications. On the one hand, in design and planning, where structured cooperation has made huge progress in the main disciplines of architecture, structural planning and building services planning. On the other hand, in construction, where BIM methods and tools have become indispensable for the processes of determining mass and costs, scheduling, and the use of models for evaluation and documentation purposes.

New builds in an urban location

The urban location of the residential construction project Frankfurter Allee 218 – between the railway tracks at Berlin Lichtenberg station and the elevated, busy Frankfurter Allee – required a special design. This involves a 64m-high residential tower with 22 floors and around 400 apartments as a solitaire, providing a clear and strong end in the direction of the station. The different levels between the north and south sides are closed off in the building by means of a multi-storey business zone with co-working areas. The difference in levels is also embraced architecturally in the exterior, whereby no undesigned residual areas have been left in the direction of the station.

BIM use cases and coordinating trades

A huge passion for innovation in the project was plain to see in the project organisation, the selection of designers and planners, and the technical implementation. The foundation here was the active decision to opt for an open BIM structure (open-BIM). This allowed planners from different disciplines such as exterior planning, architecture, structural planning and building services engineering to work together directly with different software systems. This flexibility in the choice of technology and tools was important to allow efficient modelling in each discipline, as each expert could continue to use their familiar systems. The use of IFC as the project standard greatly improved interoperability and ensured reliable data exchange. Sustainability and archiving were ensured through long-term interoperable data standards. Building on the requirements for modelling and exchange, an integration platform was set up as a central data location.

During the planning phase, coordination models for all project participants were made available on the platform for the key BIM milestones in the project, in addition to sharing work status info. In the quality assurance phase, these were then checked for any collisions between the trades, but also in manual model inspections, comparable to classic construction site inspections, and all problems and tasks were exchanged via the BIM Collaboration Format (BCF). This meant all communication was transparent and clearly documented. The result was clear workflows and unambiguous processes.

Once PORR started the build phase, the benefits of having the data structured in advance became particularly visible, as conventional working methods are often accompanied by a huge loss of knowledge during the transition between project phases. Especially for the as-built documentation required, it was important to be able to build directly on this and not have to laboriously sort through data a second time.

A virtual glance at the future

The basic prerequisite for using the models on the construction site was the coordinated specialist models from phase 5 and the open formats. For direct use, tools and techniques such as augmented reality (AR) were connected to the systems. Augmented reality allows the visible surroundings to be directly and intuitively enriched with information and presented to the user in an accessible way. During building inspections of the shell construction, it was possible to see visualisations of the planned construction directly on site. The next steps in the construction process could easily be displayed in the app – making it possible to take a virtual look “into the future”.

Combining BIM and AR gave the employees on the construction site a simple and direct way to precisely locate planning information on construction sites and thereby create a target-actual comparison. The project drew on GAMMA AR software for this target-actual comparison. This software allows geometric deviations in the project to be detected easily and recorded based on the object. This procedure made it possible to feed the data back into the BIM model, as BCF continued to be used as the sharing format here – just as it was in the planning phase. This made it far simpler to produce the as-built documentation. It also meant that, for example, the inspection and documentation of the building’s shell could be precisely documented and thoroughly completed in about 20 minutes per floor.

Basis for efficient building operations

The consistent working method in the design and planning phase coupled with the retention and continuation of structures and content in the build phase clearly show the added value that BIM delivers. The measures introduced at the beginning of the project, i.e. “what has to be documented, by whom and in what form and how”, with the aim of creating a reliable basis of as-built data for the building operation, were an important component that contributed to the success of the digital implementation. All processes were clearly formulated, decided collaboratively and also implemented.

Any requirements from the client or the operator could be addressed and incorporated in a timely manner. The challenge now is to continue to operate the building digitally in an efficient manner – and the foundation for this has already been laid.

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