Designers Reap Rewards of BIM

19 Sep, 2007 By: Heather Livingston

The AIA recognized architects of nine projects for their designs at this year's BIM Awards.

The 2007 BIM (building information model) Awards, sponsored by the AIA Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Committee, were bestowed on nine outstanding projects earlier this summer. Created in 2005 to highlight proven strategies and the latest trends in design and technology in the building industry, this year's program totaled 32 entries, down from last year’s high of 41.

Five projects were awarded citations from the jury and five received honorable mention, with KieranTimberlake Associates receiving three awards in two categories. Onuma also received two honorable mentions for its U.S. Coast Guard Web-Enabled BIM Projects and Open Geospatial Consortium Open Web Services. Projects were submitted in seven categories, but two categories — Academic Program or Curriculum Development and Outstanding Sustainable Design Using BIM — were not awarded because no submission met the necessary criteria.

The jury was composed of Chair Stephen Hagan, FAIA, director, Project Knowledge Center, Property Development Division, GSA Public Buildings Service; Robert Ivy, FAIA, editor-in-chief, Architectural Record; Renee Cheng, AIA, head of the School of Architecture, College of Design, University of Minnesota; Lachmi Khemlani, founder, AECBytes; Douglas Garafolo, AIA, principal, Garofalo Architects; Michael Kenig, vice-chairman, Holder Construction; Deke Smith, acting executive director, buildingSMART, National Institute of Building Sciences. All winning projects and their architects will be featured at the December 2007 AIA conference, "The Future of Professional Practice."

Winning Entries
Below is a list of the winning entries. Click on any link to see a photo and detailed description of that project.

Categories: Creating Stellar Architecture Using BIM; Outstanding Design for Fabrication Using BIM
Project:Loblolly House, Taylors Island, Maryland
Design firm: KieranTimberlake Associates

Category: Design/Delivery Process Innovation Using BIM
Project:Benjamin D. Hall Interdisciplinary Research Building, University of Washington, Seattle
Design firm: M.A. Mortenson

Category: Support for Human Use and Innovative Program Requirements Using BIM
Project:Royal London Hospital, London, United Kingdom
Design firm: HOK and Skanska

Category: Jury’s Choice
Project:GSA National BIM Program Highlights from 2006 and 2006 Pilot Project Successes
Design firm: GSA

Category: Design/Delivery Process Innovation Using BIM
Project:U.S. Coast Guard Web Enabled BIM Projects
Design firm: Onuma Inc.

Honorable Mentions

Category: Design/Delivery Process Innovation Using BIM
Project:Food and Drug Administration Headquarters, White Oak, Maryland
Design firm: RTKL

Category: Outstanding Design for Fabrication Using BIM
Project:Noyes Community and Recreation Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Design firm: KieranTimberlake Associates

Category: Support for Human Use and Innovative Program Requirements Using BIM
Project:Open Geospatial Consortium Open Web Services
Design firm: Onuma, Inc.

Category: Jury’s Choice
Project:Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House, and Western Colonnade, Sydney, Australia
Design firm: Arup

Loblolly House
The architect’s design strategy was to deeply fuse the natural elements of this barrier island to architectural form. A desire to better understand the building and its elements led to the application of BIM as a tool for design, development, fabrication, and assembly. BIM made the simultaneous off-site fabrication of this project possible. Without the geometric and dimensional certainty afforded by the closure of the parametric model, parts could not have been assembled to the required tolerances in advance. In addition to the advantages of designing in 3D, this holistic method allowed for more efficient structural and mechanical coordination, greater management of parts and schedules for procurement, a clearer approach to assembly sequencing, and a way to control fabrication and decrease assembly and construction tolerances.

Exploded image of Loblolly House’s conception and detailing, including the scaffold, the cartridge, the block, and equipment. (Rendering courtesy of KieranTimberlake Associates.)

The virtual house became the sole source of information from which all details, schedules, parts lists, and fabrication drawings were derived. Virtual construction allowed the team to refine the design prior to its assembly on site. The design process was further integrated with the fabrication process and better coordinated with the mechanical and structural systems. Incorporating all the information required building the project within a single file, blurred the boundaries between design and construction, and resulted in a better coordinated, cohesive product that included the expertise of all teams involved.

Benjamin D. Hall Interdisciplinary Research Building
The University of Washington needed to design and build a laboratory facility to accommodate numerous science initiatives that didn’t fit neatly into the traditional university environment. The planners wanted to deliver this building more quickly and cost-effectively than usual, with a 30-year fixed cost of operations. Through their detailed Design-Build-Operate-Maintain RFP, the university defined building performance levels extensively. Program requirements meant a large design team had to work closely together from the outset, especially given the building site’s curved shape, significant slope, and shallow water table. Other concerns included noise and vibration from an overhead interstate highway bridge, on-site parking requirements, and building access. Although zoning regulations implied a maximum of five stories, the team delivered a six-story building by careful integration of mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) systems. BIM technology allowed development of appropriate building setbacks to meet zoning requirements and assisted in the development of a one-and-one-half-story, below-grade parking garage with entries on two grade levels.

The detailed BIM featured complex underground conditions, including existing and proposed utilities, allowing coordination and communication with local review agencies and utility companies that struggled to understand the intricate routing of underground work from their own 2D documents, and enabled the project to proceed without costly delays. (Rendering courtesy of M.A. Mortenson.)

By enabling the team to confront problems early, foresee problems before they developed, and rapidly solve problems that did arise, BIM was a key factor in the project’s end result. BIM also played an effective, regular part in project team collaboration, fostering communication and understanding in owner’s meetings, design discussions, trade/subcontractor meetings, and in ongoing operations and maintenance.

Royal London Hospital
When completed in 2012, the Royal London Hospital will be the largest new hospital in the United Kingdom. This 905-bed facility will be London’s principal trauma and emergency center and its second-largest pediatric unit, and it will house 100 other specialist medical departments including the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service. The new building is being configured as a pair of 20-story towers containing 6,225 rooms across 1.2 million square feet of floor space.

To reduce the risk of creating a cumbersome central model, the Data Management Group accepted that the portal accommodated three principal, parallel models: architectural, structural, and MEP. This image models the main service distribution from a basement plant room. (Rendering courtesy of HOK and Skanska.)

Before any design was contemplated, the architects and the principal contractor established a working methodology based on sharing a BIM dataset via a virtual “portal.” Setting up a BIM-based working method entailed an element of risk preparation because BIM required an upfront investment that was not paid for by the customer (the UK’s National Health Service). The business case for BIM, built around costs versus perceived value, shows that this working method should shave $120 million off the project’s total cost for an investment of $3.5 million in additional costs. Cost benefits are already coming through even though construction has barely begun. The business model forecasts that BIM data reuse will save $460,000 on the cost of producing an operations and maintenance manual. The client’s long-term financial interest in the scheme also has driven innovative thinking. The architect has taken advantage of new technologies to help manage risk during both the construction and operation of the building. The data generated through BIM, therefore, is designed to be useful beyond the completion of the hospital.

GSA National BIM Program
As a building owner, GSA is interested in a building's lifecycle, but the reality is that construction or operations budgets are constrained. So GSA implemented a top-down, as well as bottom-up, approach. It set minimum requirements for implementation of technologies that have demonstrated viable business cases for improvements in quality, accuracy, coordination, and/or efficiency during a building’s lifecycle. In addition, they encourage implementation of technologies above the minimum requirements. They achieved considerable success through an incremental, strategic pilot project initiative adopting an array of BIM technologies on a range of projects countrywide, including spatial program BIM models for spatial program validation, 3D-laser scanning for accurate as-built documentation, 4D phasing for schedule optimization, BIM-based energy analysis for predicting energy performance, and circulation validation studies for testing security and adjacencies.

GSA’s 3D Laser Scanning Pilot Project produced superior accuracy, quickness, noninvasiveness, redundancy, and cost savings. (Rendering courtesy of GSA.)

Relying heavily on more than 20 pilot projects to test the soundness of BIM applications, GSA adhered to a business and result-driven approach toward the introduction of BIM. To date, through the use of 3D, 4D, and BIM, GSA has reduced costs while improving quality and efficiency. In 2006, GSA established policy to incrementally adopt 3D, 4D, and BIM for all major projects; led 3D-4D-BIM pilot applications and incentives for current and future capital projects; through their spatial program validation process, created process change within the AEC industry through innovation and collaboration; implemented 3D-4D-BIM technologies based upon business drivers; realized quality, efficiency, schedule and cost benefits; partnered with BIM vendors, professional associations, open standard organizations, and academic/research institutions; and formulated a BIM Toolkit.

FDA Headquarters
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consists of approximately 7,000 employees spread throughout 40 buildings in 18 locations around the Washington, D.C., region. A state-of-the-art campus currently under way will consolidate most employees in one location and serve the agency’s needs better from an efficiency, space utilization, workflow, and knowledge-sharing basis. The current plan calls for a 4.7-million-square-foot campus of 20 structures to be constructed in phases over 11 years. Included in the plan are laboratory spaces, offices, a credit union, conference areas, training spaces, and cafeterias. When completed, the Office of the Commissioner/Office of Regulatory Affairs (OC/ORA) complex will be an essential component of the FDA campus, housing 1,258 employees in an 82-foot-wide footprint.

The wings of the OC/ORA complex are connected through two atria that enclose the full height of the building between a pair of bowed curtain walls. Each curtain wall is equipped with horizontal sun fins that appropriately limit or accentuate the amount of light entering the spaces. (Rendering courtesy of RTKL.)

OC/ORA is the first structure on the campus that involved collaboration between architects and engineers on a BIM platform. Revit offered the ability to quickly generate and calculate both massing and floor area totals for numerous options simultaneously, and, using the tools within Revit, the design team performed solar studies on shading devices. The project team worked together to create a single, unified model that would more accurately represent the building in its completed state. From edge-of-slab dimensions and duct locations to column sizes and curtain walls, the models that were developed resulted from the dialogue between team members in the initial stages of development, rather than late in the construction documents phase. The collaboration that was achieved through the use of Revit Building, Structure, and Systems allowed designers to focus on the problematic areas of the building together.

U.S. Coast Guard Web-Enabled BIM Projects
The Sector Command Center (SCC) and Off-Cycle Crew Support Unit (OCCSU) ranged from 3,000 to 20,000 square feet. The SCC managed assets and operations and required multiple spaces, complex equipment, and 24-hour usage. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) needed to merge the operations of the two units into one unified command center. The project was to design one 3,500-square-foot SCC and repeat the process for 35 unique projects with one methodology. Time and resources were constrained and the solution was a design approach using Web-enabled BIM. The architectural charrette was turned inside out, as each session accumulated knowledge of the group, built upon the last, and unified decision making. All decisions were captured in the Web-enabled BIM, creating a virtual ongoing process and unifying all projects in real time. Critical decisions were made very early on in design and captured for the full lifecycle of the project. New workflows were defined, and data exchanges made possible. The integrated practice was made possible using interoperable standards: Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) and Open Geospatial Consortium.

Capturing decisions in Web-enabled BIM allowed a virtual ongoing process and unified the projects in real time. (Rendering courtesy of Onuma.)

The return on investment using the integrated process on the 35 SCC projects yielded numerous benefits, including a ten-fold increase in expediting the design process, decreasing meeting and travel time, and achieving faster turnaround and decision-making power. Travel expenses were reduced by $25,000 per SCC and the associated value of the knowledge captured in the daily business processes were increased. Such returns on investment were not possible using traditional architectural methods. The integrated process achieved a “common operational picture” for the entire team.

Noyes Community and Recreation Center
This community and recreation center is part of Cornell University’s West Campus Residential Initiative and serves residents of the west campus as well as members of the Cornell community. The program includes a gymnasium, fitness center, multipurpose room, convenience store, climbing wall, and public space. Digital Project, the parametric software package by Gehry Technologies, was used as a design and coordination tool.

Gehry’s Digital Project design/coordination models with glazing system constraints for the Noyes Center. (Rendering courtesy of KieranTimberlake Associates.)

A building model that included structural and MEP systems was used to study design options for several geometrically complex portions of the building. Additionally, structural and MEP systems were coordinated during the construction documents phase for spaces where tight tolerances were required and organization of exposed systems was integral. Digital Project allowed for real time exploration of design options for several challenging building components. A series of parametrically linked details ensured that form manipulation remained within the constraints of the chosen building systems and details. Coordination of MEP systems in highly organized exposed and concealed ceilings was greatly enhanced by the parametric model, with ceiling layouts worked to very tight tolerances for duct and plumbing runs. Additionally, a site-cast, tilt-up concrete screen wall was modeled for an early design study. The software enabled real-time manipulation of a design model that adapted the geometry of complex formwork, quantified volume of concrete, and helped establish and maintain structural constraints. In each design study, the rapid manipulation of composition and pattern options saved time, provided precise coordinates, and revealed solutions that may have been missed using more conventional methods.

Open Geospatial Consortium Open Web Services
In December 2006, the Open Geospatial Consortium held a live demonstration showing how open data standards connect geospatial and building information through Web-enabled applications. This demonstration highlighted a seven-month project that accomplished advancements in interoperability between BIM and geospatial data. The Open Web Services (OWS 4) project developed interoperability across many different systems. As architects and developers of the Web-enabled BIM system, Onuma’s focus on this project was to create a link between BIM and GIS, which effectively enabled two industry standard exchange formats to connect.

Communication between groups was made possible using the same, common data standards. Teams with expertise in various fields could be assembled quickly and still share knowledge about the common operational picture since they speak the same language regarding the data structure. (Rendering courtesy of Onuma.)

Geospatial data includes information like mapping, geographic, and topological data as well as dynamic real-time information like weather and traffic patterns. It also encompasses video feeds and data gathered from atmospheric sensors programmed to relay specific particulate information. Similar to geospatial data, the process for developing, capturing, and employing an open standard for BIM also has gained momentum. The General Services Administration recently made a requirement for all A/E firms’ deliverables to be IFC-compliant BIM. Onuma was one of four BIM-authoring vendors to participate in the development of this BIM guide. In their participation in advancing the interoperability of geospatial data and BIM, they developed tools and processes that combine benefits of both data sets to support a common operational picture, revolutionizing the capabilities for 21st-century architects.

Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Over recent years, an international partnership of architects and a local team of consultants including a structural engineer have been working closely on the review and study of the Opera Theatre interior as part of the Strategic Building Plan. Initially, the architect and structural engineer used a single platform package to facilitate interoperability between their models. The MEP engineer later joined them on the same platform. The structural engineer and MEP engineer were both involved in the original building design and construction and therefore held large amounts of recorded information that was invaluable in creating the “existing conditions Opera Theatre BIM.” BIM holds all of the original and newly obtained information, which can be extracted in the form of a HTML report. With one mouse click the relevant component drawing can be displayed, removing the need for a tedious search through drawing registers.

Cutaway section through the Sydney Opera House’s Opera Theatre. (Rendering of Sydney Opera House courtesy of Utzon Architects/Johnson Pilton Walker, [architects in collaboration]–Arup.)

One of the most significant achievements with this complete BIM process was the linking of the structural model directly to the Opera House master door schedule which indicates fire compartmentation, designation of space, and functional use of space. For example, by attaching the official door number designation in the master door schedule database with a unique identifier tag from the structural model door component, a direct link between the model and database was achieved. The benefit of this integrated process is that the client can use the BIM for documentation as well as building management, therefore creating a powerful “interactive window” between the physical model and the building.

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