Doha Underground Station, Red Line, 3D Revit Frame
Flows 2.0New ways of designing infrastructure
The philosopher Zygmunt Bauman’s expression ‘liquid’ modernity is perhaps the one that best represents the prevailing condition of contemporary society. According to Bauman, everything has become ‘liquid’ in the current world, relating man’s social behaviour to the features of fluids and their inability to maintain a definite shape in time. The new forms of production and social relations are, in effect, fast, anonymous and variable. Therefore, social geography is variable and ephemeral and produces a new ‘liquid matter’ that moves in each instant not only through virtual networks but also through the physical ones of infrastructure, tangibly changing the landscape surrounding us – the liquid landscape features an increase in the mobility networks and their growing speed of connection.
The new needs for movement and the consequent infrastructure form the main element for drawing the contemporary landscape. Society is increasingly mobile and dynamic also in Italy; there are almost 29 million people (48.6% of the resident population) who move to go to work or study every day. So mobility grows with ‘liquidity’ and, with it, research and digital and technological innovation linked to this specific sphere.
By its nature, the process of digital transformation of the infrastructure involves many aspects ranging from the analysis of the area of influence and social-environmental impact to the assessment of interferences through to the interaction with structural, architectural and systems works. This multi-disciplinary nature requires the handling of data in different formats.
Building Information Modelling, BIM, is the tool that adapts best to these new operational requirements in the different spheres and all the states of progress in the life cycle of the work, from conception to construction, management and, in the end, its disposal, creating the bases of a definite, ‘circular’ project.
The infrastructural BIM platform enables all players to interact with a single shared model and allows each one to operate within their relevant area. As a result of this technology, the various operators share the modifications they make to the model and, at the same time, they receive those made by other users; thus, all the operators take part in the development of the model in a dynamic, interactive and multi-disciplinary way. This enables the management of the different parts of the work to be simplified, to guarantee continuous monitoring of the progress in the modelling and the work of each of the users to be checked by interacting directly with them.
The support of BIM is essential for the configuration of a container of topographic data management, i.e. Point Clouds and PCs, and laser scanner measurements for the intensive acquisition of data. The BIM platform allows a three-dimensional model of the infrastructure to be generated, including additional characteristic elements – special systems, complementary works and underground utilities. Therefore, BIM enables the characterisation of each of the elements of the infrastructure model to be constructed through the definition of classes of items. A structure of this type assumes the sub-division of the infrastructure into a definite number of components and the resulting association of an adequate information content with them.
One of the main strong points of the parametrical modelling of infrastructure is, therefore, interoperability with other BIM platforms, or the ability to transfer information content generated by different software applications using open systems (OpenBIM); the most widespread format among these is known as Industry Foundation Classes which has reached a notable degree of maturity in the architectural and structural fields.
So BIM, in its structure, is a methodological and technological device intended for the management of the processes and operational stages in the digital modelling of the works increasingly found in the most innovative works, with such tangible advantages in terms of quality and process that European Directive 2014/24/EU recommends its use in all construction processes.
The 3D digital transformation of infrastructure can be extended to the analysis of performance times (BIM 4D), cost management (BIM 5D) and the management of the maintenance of the work (BIM 6D). Lastly, beyond this, two specific spheres, communications and safety, are evolving in which we could certainly have significant results in future. There is often a block on the acceptance by users of many infrastructure works due to poor communications and sharing of the process. If open and shared, the BIM platform can allow continuous monitoring of the work by the community, activating greater awareness of the project and more effective exchange. Safety can also be amplified through BIM, both during the site stages and use – dynamic simulations deriving from the digital model can introduce users to conscious use of the infrastructure in its different stages and also simulate appropriate behaviour in the event of an emergency.