Virtual reality and discussion look to BIM’s future

BIM can allow collaboration across the globe on projects, uniting clients, architects, engineers and consultants according to experts at the latest event looking at the best way of utilising three dimensional design technology.

Riyadh’s light rail system which involved around 3,900 people scattered across 14 countries was cited as a case in point by Aconex as part of a presentation on the practical applications of the design technology which was the overall subject covered at the fourth such event, held in Dubai.

More than 100 professionals from the design and build industry attended the event which took place at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel and included a virtual reality device which allowed the user to tour a building..

Ahmed Fahmy of Bentley was the first to speak and he referred to how BIM had become so much more than its initials – which stand for Business Information Modeling.

Fahmy said: “A project we were involved in was in the African state of Burkina Faso. It was a [manufacturing] plant and it was located 1,200km from the nearest seaport so bringing in materials was a challenge. But by using BIM to monitor the project we were able to decide exactly what was needed – and so saved the client $135,000 a month.”

Andrew Killander of Aconex agreed that BIM must be made available to all parties on a project after explaining that his company has used the technology on more than half of its projects during 2013..

He said Aconex had used the technology on its work on the Riyadh metro.

“There are 3,900 people involved in the project,” he said. “They come from 14 countries and they may tackle up to 14,000 issues a week – 2,000 a day. They are collaborating across the world and that is through BIM.”

Andrew Milburn of GAJ was the third speaker at the event and he emphasised that BIM should be taught as a practical tool in architecture school – not just one of the many courses which students are made to take.

“Get your BIM pencil’s out – here’s a problem – now solve it,” should be the approach he told the audience.

Bill Thomson is project delivery director for Aecom and a former lieutenant colonel in the Australian Army’s engineering corps.

He was involved in construction and planning projects as well as intelligence and disaster recovery.

“You can take a man out of the military but you cannot take the military out of someone who has served,” he said as he outlined how lessons could be learned from a soldier’s approach to problem solving in construction projects.

“If you are a coalition you need to learn to work together – it is the same in any development project,” he said. He said how BIM could be utilised “from pre-feasibility to operation and management” of a project.

A recent feature of the events has been break-out roundtable discussions and subjects covered this time around were BIM and engineering, an owner’s perspective, faults and problems with the technology and how the Dubai Municipalities design mandate – which stipulates all government projects must use the process – will impact the construction business.

Speaking after the event Fahmy said: “there was an excellent range of subjects covered by a very high quality level of speakers and attendees.”