Arched bridge over the River Isarco, rendering by Net Engineering
BIM – Applied experience of Information Modelling in the infrastructure sectorA pilot project
The International OICE Forum on BIM, whose second edition was held in Rome on 22 June, was the opportunity to take stock of the latest developments in the digitalisation process in the engineering and construction and Building Information Modelling sector. The results of two Italian pilot projects, developed by the engineering companies Net Engineering and Politecnica, starting with the writing of the reference guidelines for the drafting of the Exchange Information Requirement (EIR) and the BIM Execution Plan (BEP), drafted by the European Federation of Engineering Consultancy Associations (EFCA) and the BIM Task Force, were presented to the Forum.
The project that Net Engineering covered in the work group organised and co-ordinated by OICE, concerned the technical-economic feasibility of the single-track railway link of Val di Riga between Rio Pusteria and Bressanone. The operation concerns about 4 km and features two important engineering works – the arched bridge over the River Isarco of 172 m and the natural tunnel, 850 m long, under the A22 motorway. The cost of the work amounts to € 69.5 m.
The aim of the research during the development of the pilot project was to increase the level of digitalisation of the design stage through an effective, gradual evolution of the existing practices and tools currently in use, aligning with international Best Practices and fully exploiting the concepts and techniques of Project Management and Information Technology. The work, co-ordinated by Mr Vettese, a member of the EFCA, started in November 2016 and involved Net with a work team of 5 technicians and a Project Manager. The Val di Riga project was chosen both because it represents one of the main types of engineering services of the company and because the public customer, Trasporti Alto Adige, showed that it was very interested in the world of BIM, looking at the development of the pilot project with curiosity. As it can count on an innovative push towards this method of design, the Alto Adige transport company is promoting a series of tenders in which it requires the use of computer modelling in addition to the more traditional requests for engineering services.
To deal with the commitment on the project, Net Engineering invested in the training of the resources and the hardware and software consulting the leading software houses like Autodesk, Bentley, Nemetschek, Novapoint, etc., so that the choice could be oriented to the most suitable tools for the purpose. As far as the training of the resources was concerned, the members of the work team attended courses for BIM specialist, BIM Co-ordinator and BIM Manager, in addition to a tutorship in project coaching with an external consultant.
The project development path divided into two parallel spheres. The first, more methodological, saw the commitment of the Project Manager in the development of the BIM Execution Plan for the pilot project, starting from a general template developed by the co-ordinator of the BIM-OICE project. The second, strictly operational sphere, concerned the design processes carried out between February and May 2017 and was powered by the results achieved in the methodological sphere. The technical team was face with a completely new management of design processes which shifted the focus of the work from the drafting of graphic printouts to three-dimensional design of items and, in particular, the need to get the design disciplines to interact in a structured manner.
To facilitate the transition to this new approach, Net Engineering acquired a project management software to structure the information and have an integrated environment to share the project documents (the Common Data Environment). The team immediately used the tools attached to the reference BEP starting from the project sheets drafted during start-up, which are the first opportunity for the digitalisation of the data from the re-examination of the engagement agreement in the CDE. This is a document kept constantly updated as the Project Manager acquires information useful for the project. At the same time, another two tools set out in the BEP were developed – the PBS and the Processes Spreadsheet. The Project Breakdown Structure (PBS) was obtained by breaking up the work in accordance with the feasibility study, indicating 4 batches, subdividing them into sections of kilometric progression and pushing the breakdown to a sufficiently representative level of the design stage indicated in the engagement. The Processes Spreadsheet is the real heart of all the organisation of the project. It is a very powerful tool because it is able to intercept and map all the necessary information and ensure the integration of all the design disciplines.
At the same time as the development of the tools, the team worked in-depth on the study of the models of three of the main design processes – topography, the modelling of the railway and the largest and smallest engineering works. Appropriate operational procedures were also devised for the connection of the models to the computational tools.
The results of the trials, presented during the convention, were undoubtedly positive from the point of view of the methodology and the tools used. On the operational side, there is still a long way to go. Unfortunately, the software used is not fully mature for the management of infrastructure engineering projects in BIM. During the research, we realised the limits of dialogue and exchange of information both between the authoring software from the same software house and the other tools used. To this, we can add the known lack of an open format for the exchange of information like, for example, IFC for construction. Therefore, these limits had to be overcome by structuring IT procedures to recondition the data from one item of software and make it usable by the others.
Overall, the study was very encouraging because the limits of the software were brilliantly overcome counting on an effective structuring of the information which touched all the tasks of the project. In addition, various book-cases of items that can be re-used in other projects were built and templates were developed in Excel and Dynamo able to manage the exchange of information between railway designers, structural engineers and those people making the relevant calculations. An improvement in the level of maturity of the software used is hoped for in the medium term and this should reduce the problems of communication between the different platforms, enabling concentration with greater commitment on the development of the project.