Mott MacDonald

Mott MacDonald
Christopher Tebb
BIM Practice Leader
" Christopher Tebb was interviewed by the team at Information Exchange Group (IXG) ahead of their upcoming event The Middle East Prefabrication and Modular Construction Summit 2016. "

1. How has advancement in BIM helped to support the design and construction lifecycle process in compliance with sustainable development?
The introduction of BIM has enabled designers to utilise their time more effectively on design and less on the production of deliverables (e.g. 2d AutoCAD drawings). This means that designers can focus on not only providing compliance with sustainable development but also innovation to meet and exceed current requirements.  The ability to model and reuse information for analysis and evaluation means that energy analysis, water usage and other sustainable measures can be modelled using the asset’s design without the need to recreate the information in analysis software, this particularly enables more time to be spent on optioneering as potential solutions can be efficiently modelled and evaluated to find the most appropriate solution. This not only enables a quicker process but allows for coordination between designers and sustainability consultants. By using this method and the Soft Landings pillar of BIM we will be able to not only predict sustainable measures more easily but also predict them more accurately.

2. What are the main drivers of the adoption of BIM at a desired scale in the construction industry? What are the challenges faced in a large scale construction projects involving BIM?
The main drivers for adoption of BIM within any construction industry member should be to provide better value to our Clients. The construction industry as a whole is wasteful and inefficient; engineers have always been trying to change this but without much success to date. The global financial crisis has exacerbated the glare on the construction industry and adoption of BIM will be a necessary step towards making the industry more efficient. Using BIM allows us to adopt and apply consistent standards, working methods and processes which through the use of digital data enables better visualization, better analysis and better communication of our ideas. It also provides a less error-prone method of cost prediction, one of the main blights on our industry, for example the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium.

The main challenges faced on large scale construction projects at the moment involving BIM is the level of maturity across the entire supply chain. BIM is a collaborative process and must integrated at every level of a project; this means that BIM is only as strong as its weakest link and greater collaboration, communication and education is required by those capable to those less capable within their project teams, regardless of who they are. Another major challenge is expectation, particularly here in the Middle East, BIM is not a cure-all panacea;especially not during the early adoption phase. Practitioners should not be frightened of failure nor innovating interpretations of guidance. Like any “skill”, practice makes perfect. We also must ensure that we do not over sell either what BIM could do or what our BIM capabilities are; if we do Clients will become disenchanted with BIM and we will lose an opportunity to improve our industry.

3. How has the absorption of BIM evolved in Middle East vis-à-vis global markets?
The Middle East market is very much a melting pot of global best practices and this is no different in regards to BIM. That said, perhaps only the UK market has progressed to the point that BIM absorption is more common than not. All global markets, from the US to Australia, via the EU, Middle East and Singapore are all taking steps to include BIM within the construction industry markets and even beyond, (e.g. BIM can play a key part in a retail company’s decision process as to whether a new store gets constructed in a certain area).

What the Middle East market is currently lacking is a common approach to BIM across the various states or even within them. Whilst steps are being taken to rectify this issue, until this is achieved we run the risk of a fragmented approach to BIM developing. We also need to be wary of charlatans that seek financial opportunity through the misunderstanding and misuse of “BIM” to their advantage; a mandated standard would ensure a fair and level playing field and assurance of quality to investors.

4. As per your interaction with construction industry, how has BIM helped the developers in enhanced quality and safety pertaining to project delivery?
BIM is an enabler for better quality assurance as we are required to build the asset twice, once digitally and then once in reality. The construction of the digital asset allows designers and contractors to assure that the actual construction is constructible and coordinated. It also allows for potential site logistical challenges to be modelled and mitigated prior to construction commencement. This is allowing us to target the inefficiencies that are associated with the construction industry.

Safety is just one of the areas that the introduction of BIM has been able to improve on existing processes and systems. Through the creation of safety models, i.e. graphical design models with embedded safety data communicated through tags that enable better communication at tool box talks or site safety briefings. By designer identification of these safety risks, it also enables more effectively the elimination of these risks.

5. What are your expectations from the summit and how do you rate the topics of the discussion at the summit?
It is already a good sign that a summit like this is integrating BIM into the agenda; through experience in the UK we have found that the most successful projects that we have delivered using BIM are those that have utilised design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA). Early contractor and manufacturer involvement allows the designer to bring to the design the knowledge and experience that is not normally evident on a project until construction begins. Collaboration between consultants, contractors and manufacturer’s provides the opportunity to get it right first time and as a by-product provide benefits such as less wastage, less safety risks, better predictability and innovative solutions.

Expectations from the summit, especially the BIM roundtable discussion, are that common direction can be discussed and, perhaps, established on the implementation of BIM within the pre-fabricated and modular construction sector of the industry.

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