BIM and HS2

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Feb/Mar 2014

Building Information Modelling is going to be a vital part of getting HS2 delivered efficiently. RTM spoke to HS2 head of management systems, Jon Kerbey, to find out more.

At the recent HS2 Supply Chain Conference in Birmingham, which attracted 800 attendees from 600 organisations, and which was covered in the Dec/Jan 2014 edition of RTM, one of the biggest topics under discussion was Building Information Modelling (BIM) and its role on HS2. It was the subject of a dedicated seminar, putting it on an even footing with business disciplines and topics like collaboration, skills, and sustainable construction methods.

A few months on from the conference, RTM got an update on how BIM is being used for HS2 from head of management systems Jon Kerbey.

He told us: “Data collection is one of the most valuable assets of a project on the scale of HS2, and BIM is a way of working that enables the exploitation of this data in new ways.

“BIM is therefore so much more to HS2 than an intelligent 3D model; it covers all the details, from stakeholder interactions to design data and asset information. The ability to understand the railway better – both in a virtual environment and then in a physical environment – is critical to reducing waste.

“This enhanced understanding not only applies to design and construction, but also to operations and maintenance; BIM will enable us to test, operate and maintain assets in a virtual environment – before we put a spade in the ground. Greater understanding leads to greater certainty in the schedule and the cost. All of this is underpinned by validated, accurate data.”

A way of working

At the conference seminar, Kerbey and fellow speakers on this topic – including Bill Grose of the efficiency challenge group at HS2 (who wrote for the Oct/Nov 2013 edition of RTM on design standards), Adam Matthews of the BIM Task Group at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, and Bob Thompson of Keller Ltd – highlighted the fact that it is not so much a technology, as a way of working.

We asked Kerbey to expand on this thought, and he told RTM: “BIM is more than just technology. It is also about how, when, and why we do things; how we intelligently procure and instruct the supply chain to do what HS2 Ltd as a client needs, not what others perceive it needs; and how we get people to work more closely together in a more transparent way.

“Digital technologies help with this way of working, but generally, implementing technology solutions is the easy bit. It’s the business change aspect that is challenging.

“We strongly believe that better, more efficient collaboration, which allows the rapid sharing of accurate, assured information, aided by a robust, integrated technology platform, will reduce a lot of the waste that is found in traditional engineering and construction processes.”

As well as cutting waste, its proponents say BIM will reduce risk too – and with an infrastructure project on the scale of HS2, and with its political, logistical and financial sensitivities, reducing risk is vital.

Kerbey said: “Risk is driven by uncertainty; therefore by using data more intelligently and aligning data requirements to decisions that need to be made, greater understanding at an earlier stage in the project can be achieved.”

He gave examples including clash detection and sequencing and the higher confidence during the construction phase this brings; the greater certainty in cost because quantity take-offs can come directly from the 3D data; sustainability assessments via direct analysis of embedded carbon; and more understanding of potential health and safety risks even before anyone reaches a work site.

Learning from others 

BIM is an established part of infrastructure and construction projects in the UK now. Other major client organisations like Crossrail, Network Rail and TfL also make use of it, including at a project discussed by Keller at the seminar – the Victoria station upgrade.

In the government’s Construction Strategy, published in May 2011, it is stated that BIM is mandatory for all public sector construction projects over £5m. Early adopter projects include a healthcare facility at Catterick Garrison, HMYOI Cookham Wood, and Waterlooville School. The government’s own target for 2014 is that all departments have published BIM/GSL (government soft landings) strategies, roadmaps and forward pipelines, helping to embed it across Whitehall. By 2015, all government departments should be “100%  Level 2 BIM/GSL enabled”, with benefits being realised, according to Adam Matthews.

Kerbey told us: “It can be argued that HS2 is the first major infrastructure project in the UK to be implementing BIM at such an early stage in its lifecycle. This does give us the opportunity to learn lessons from others who are further down the path than us and we are working with colleagues from other major programmes like Crossrail, London Tideway Tunnels, and the London 2012 Olympics, all of which are being assessed and incorporated into HS2 Ltd’s way of working.

“Due to the scale of HS2, I believe that we have a duty to be innovative, driving best practice rather than just adopting it. This
is not just applicable for technology, but also to more efficient processes, better contractual arrangements and commercial agreements, and a more collaborative, transparent culture.”

Another dimension

RTM has reported before on the use of BIM in practice, and tools such as 4D modelling, as used on the Reading railway upgrade (see below). It also opens up technologies like augmented reality, overlaying digital information on real-life scenes using tablets and other mobile devices. Kerbey said: “Integrating time into the 2D or 3D design is an invaluable method of validating a construction schedule, but there are many other uses, from rapidly running what-if scenarios, including onsite vs offsite manufacturing, to providing stakeholders with an understanding of what is going to be constructed, when, where and for how long. 

“4D models provide a much more real and understandable view of the construction schedule, enabling interface issues to be highlighted more easily which would cost time and money if not picked up until on site.

“The use of Integrated Concurrent Engineering (ICE), where interdisciplinary reviews are conducted with a dynamic view of the
design, schedule and cost, move 4D modelling from an output of the design process, to an input into design development – this is where it is most powerful and issues are picked up earlier in the process.” 

Level 3

Advancing BIM to its highest level of maturity – known as ‘Level 3’ – means project-wide approaches and common tools, and an incredible amount of integration [see below diagram and table]. We asked Kerbey whether this is realistic with something the scale of HS2, or whether it will be better imagined as a series of smaller ‘projects’ that each use BIM in their own ways.

He said: “Yes, HS2 is really a series of projects and if there is not a common data environment for all of these projects to operate within, then there is a greater risk of data duplication, data errors, interface issues, and inefficient information sharing and exchange. Again, it comes down to the premise that technology is the easy bit. A robust IT infrastructure that is scalable to deal with the demand of the proposed future supply chain is perfectly feasible. What becomes increasingly complex, when you begin to isolate projects, is collaborative working across disciplines – some of which may be route-wide – and across contracts.

“It also becomes more onerous to control and assure information from a number of environments that are not project-wide and are not common HS2 tools, regardless of whether you have robust standards and procedures in place and instructed through the contracts.

“Another facet to this is that the concept of big milestone data deliveries is not feasible with a project the size of HS2, therefore
iterative or phased deliveries will ensure that data can be assessed, decisions made and corrections made at the earliest opportunity. This promotes the requirement that everyone is working in the same way, to the same standards and within an efficient and transparent manner to deliver a 21st century railway network that will free up much needed capacity, shorten journey times between our biggest cities and help boost the economy.”

 BIM maturity level  Information Management Information Modelling
0  No project wide common standard for flow and production of information  2D CAD and paper issue
1  A project wide consistent approach to flow of information  2D/3D CAD produced independently by team members
2  A project wide consistent approach to flow and production of information  3D models produced by all team members to common level
3  As BIM level 2  Single project model


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