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    BIM Across Borders

    July 23, 2014

    In an age where bounds of information is available at the simple swipe of a screen, it seems there are no limits to where technology can take us. Chad Thelin, BIM manager for Balfour Beatty Construction’s national Mission Critical team, recently had the opportunity to exchange experience and knowledge surrounding BIM/construction technologies with industry leaders over 3,700 miles way in Dublin, Ireland.

    This past April, Dr. Alan Hore reached out to fellow Irishman and Balfour Beatty employee, Dermot Carroll, to inquire if he knew any BIM/technology experts who would be willing to represent the United States on a discussion panel for the Construction IT Alliance’s 5th Annual Client BIM Series Event. Chad, with over 14 years of technology and construction industry experience, was the perfect candidate.

    The Construction IT Alliance was formed in 2001 by construction industry professionals who were passionate about increasing the extent of IT knowledge within the Irish construction sector. Dr. Alan Hore serves as one of the directors of CITA and is the head of the Department of Construction Economics at the Dublin Institute of Technology. CITA’s 2014 BIM Series Event features six conferences throughout the year that focus on how BIM is improving and shaping the efficiency of projects across every construction sector, including: education, government, healthcare, retail, data centers, and property development.

    BIM in Data Centers was held on June 25th in Dublin, Ireland. The conference had several hundred attendees and began at 8:00 a.m. Irish Standard Time, which is 3:00 a.m. US Eastern Standard Time. Chad was not able to attend the actual conference and made arrangements to video in to the presentation, requiring him to be at Balfour Beatty’s Charlotte office at 2:30 a.m. to prepare! Despite having not been to sleep and facing technical challenges due to the distant connection, Chad presented for nearly 30 minutes on how general contractors utilize BIM and technology for data center construction in the United States.

    Chad presented alongside Emily Spink, director of marketing for ArcMC Ltd. in London, and Bryan Hickson, senior services executive at IBM in Ireland. Chad, Emily, and Bryan presented on the use of BIM in their respective fields. Emily, from an architectural firm, focused on the use of BIM for design and Bryan on how valuable BIM is to an end user such as IBM.

    Chad’s presentation, entitled “BIM in Data Centers: From a General Contractor’s Perspective,” focused on five topics that show how BIM/construction technologies improve processes, reduce risk, and bring increased value to our clients:

    1) Improved access to information: There are many pieces and parts that go into managing a successful paperless jobsite, but the attention to detail in setup ultimately dictates how efficient and accurate the tools can be. One example is our standard process of hyperlinking drawing sets to a secure cloud server and then syncing them to our field team’s mobile devices.

    2) Improved systems coordination: Systems coordination, also known as clash detection, is a common use of BIM across all construction sectors. Clash detection is unique to data centers due to the high mass of underground routing and the critical system redundancy required.

    3) Improved installation process: Many contractors focus on clash detection and maintaining a three dimensional model reflective of record conditions but lose focus on the fact that if the subcontractor cannot execute and install those tolerances, then the 3D coordination process loses much of its value. It is essential to align ourselves with key subcontractors who utilize model based layout as their preferred method of installing their systems. This attention to accuracy ensures those tight tolerances are met when installed in the field.

    4) Improved visual communication: Studies show that a person only processes 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, and 80% of what they see. Therefore, using technology to visually communicate to project teams helps to eliminate confusion onsite and maintain a safe jobsite environment. One example is how 3D renderings provide an additional level of visual communication that promotes improved understanding.

    5) Improved QA/QC closeout: By placing QR codes on equipment in a data center, facility personnel can access critical owner and maintenance information simply by scanning the code with their mobile device. The O&M data can then be edited downstream for years to come without needing to update and place new QR codes. This ultimately improves both the QA/QC process and provides efficient access to close out information.

    The construction industry has seen a new era of accuracy, quality, and sophistication through BIM/construction technologies. By understanding how BIM and other technologies are being interpreted and adopted globally, we are giving our clients the opportunity to be a part of the ‘next best thing’ that will ultimately revolutionize the industry as we know it.