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Skanska explains how its use of BIM has improved rail industry projects
Skanska explains how its use of BIM has improved rail industry projects

Skanska explains how its use of BIM has improved rail industry projects

Building Information Modelling – or BIM – is driving standards in the construction industry on the design on major infrastructure projects.

By generating, building and managing data during the life of a development, the model-based technologies create an “environment” that vastly improves the planning, delivery, safety and environment of a project.

The government’s mandate of Level 2 BIM focused organisations to ensure their processes of delivering projects included this greater technology and collaboration.

With its large scale infrastructure projects, the rail industry is just one that will see its developments greatly enhanced by BIM.

Skanska, one of the UK’s leading contractors, has vast experience of using BIM. Linda Colman, Technical Director for the organisation’s infrastructure arm, which deals with rail, spoke to Transport Britain about how the sector is adapting to BIM and the challenges of developing this further.

The full interview is published in issue 6 of Transport Britain. 

How has Skanska’s use of BIM specifically for rail projects developed? Did this emanate from another arm of the company?

There are two ways in which the BIM journey’s development has proven invaluable to the rail environment; the first is the use of software to assist with our work in the rail operations scheme. Visualisation through this software has given us the ability to engage with drivers and the signalling team.

The feedback has been really positive from Network Rail, to the point that they have used our visuals as part of driver training – a hugely positively progression for us.

The second way that has proven really invaluable in the rail sector is the use of 4D imaging for the blockade inhibition work. When you’re undertaking a piece of work in a limited time frame, in which our possession period may have ended, and you’re under real pressure to finish that work in order to get the rail network up and running again, the use of 4D BIM provides a far higher level of detail than used in other parts of the industry.

It is extremely powerful to be able to effectively build the blockade work prior to physically building it, and ensuring the rail network can reopen safely, and on time.

Is the use of BIM an approach that you have seen in the wider industry?

Network Rail and its clients have been very engaged and are knowledgeable on delivering in a BIM environment. However, as you go further down the supply chain, greater challenges exist.

Tier 1 contractors have invested heavily in technical capabilities, resources, software and hardware, working with clients with mandatory requirements for BIM Level 2.

But the further down the supply chain you go, there are challenges, because the level of investment proportional to the workload is far greater.

The major organisations we work with have invested heavily, but beyond that, it really varies; there is a significant difference between the major players in the industry and further down the supply chain, when you compare investment in software and technology.

However, we see a lot of the viewing software available for the supply chain to use to model, which is so valuable. Even if companies aren’t designing in it, the value of visual information cannot be overstated.

What else have you seen regarding Skanska’s work and how using BIM has benefited the projects you’ve been involved in?

There have been real benefits in terms of health and safety, and engagement with the workforce; as an industry, we always talk about how you engage with more people to get involved with computer design work in the early stages.

In a BIM environment, when you’ve got a 3D model with accurate data, or a 4D construction sequence, people can understand very quickly and simply through the engagement with a much wider community of people.

This level of engagement has extended to community stakeholder management, the general public, and the supply chain; getting people involved in a project from an early stage, getting ideas and contributions has been a great benefit of the whole process, and technology has helped people engage better than they have previously.

For future developments, do you see technology advancing more, and how can that be achieved?

I can absolutely see the technology developing further. From the time BIM became a mandatary requirement, to where we are now – in terms of software platforms, level of information between these and the applications of that – huge growth has been achieved.

From a contractor’s perspective, I can see many ways in which development will grow; carbon is one, which I have already touched upon.

The second is mobile data; access to that rich information in your BIM environment at the fingertips of the construction team on site, so they can use the information in their work environment, deal with a contractor, all in the middle of solving a problem on site.

It provides access to far more information, allowing construction teams to move forward more quickly, making informed decisions.

The third area I see growth is in design for machines. One of our health and safety initiatives has focused on reducing the people/plant interface on projects.

Thanks to the BIM environment, we are able to look at designing for machines, to build or deliver elements to work.

Although this began predominantly outside the rail sector, the same technology can be applied in rail, reducing the number of surveyors needed on site in close proximity with any plant.

This reduces the interface on site and is perfect for rail projects.

The full interview is published in Issue 6 of Transport Britain. 

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