BIM models give customers rich experience

The pervasive influence of technology is felt across our modern-day workplaces and working practices - BIM has been one of the most influential for Siemens’ design engineers.

Building Information Modelling and 3D designs drive construction projects to successful delivery

Advancements in technology are being made at a rapid rate across all industries and all aspects of our everyday lives. And none more so than in the world of engineering. Gone are the days when designs were drawn by hand by desk-bound design engineers and physically passed through departments.

Technological progress has enabled our engineers to move from analogue to digital; to work at a level of pinpoint accuracy we’ve never seen before. It allows them to operate in a safer environment, eliminating the need to visit high-risk construction sites and enables them to render cost-effective 3D designs that visually connect customers with their projects.

One such process that has revolutionised design engineering for substations is Building Information Modelling (BIM).

So, what is it and why do we use it?

BIM is a collaborative and iterative process that promotes a multidisciplinary method of working through the sharing of design information and models. The civil construction industry has used it extensively over a number of years, proving its worth through design process savings, increased productivity and risk mitigation.

Siemens adopted BIM several years ago, during our development of offshore substation platforms, when it saw the potential to create value through collaboration across the entire lifecycle of a project. It brings together every element of a construction project into one place where every member of the project team can work on the same design - from the same concept - and use the same information.  

Reece Costella, Design Engineer, says: “BIM brings all disciplines together to work on one design. The biggest problem we faced before was having to manually check through all aspects of a design when a change is made. When you’re dealing with the design of large transmission substation, multiple design changes can be both labour intensive and the source of potential error.  

Now, all stakeholders – design engineers, structural engineers, project managers – work from one design from which we develop a 3D model. We can tag information like components, specifications, type, to the model to reduce the risk of error. We’ve found that it significantly decreases project execution timescales and costs which means we can serve our customers more effectively” 


Customers reaping the rewards from BIM

BIM has been transformative for Siemens customers. Not everyone is an engineer; not everyone can understand engineering drawings. The 3D model is a friendly and effective way for all customer representatives to review their design and see their projects in real-world situations. The model provides opportunity for design improvement and can speed up the approval process as the customer can see how their asset will operate once it is built.

Jonathan Bray, Primary Design Engineer, says: “BIM helps to integrate all documentation of a project and allows the information to be easily shared and updated. This cuts the time spent on administration and design changes, delivering a cost benefit to the customer. The 3D model is invaluable as a tool to highlight problems or inconsistencies to the customer. It gives them a level of transparency that a drawing never could and makes their decision-making process easier as they can see all elements of the design for themselves.

It’s also great for our teams as we can easily see potential risks on site and draw attention to any hazards. It allows the construction team to see where they’re going to be working in relation to live equipment.”

Environment and cost savings

Decarbonisation is high on the government’s agenda and energy networks are constantly under review to ensure we provide value for money along with sustainability and a positive impact on society. BIM allows customers the option of easily evaluating their asset’s carbon footprint and reviewing – alongside Siemens engineers - the different technologies and materials available to improve performance and reduce impact.

Equally, BIM allows accurate estimation of operational costs and evaluation of systems to provide the customer with a transparency that allows them to budget effectively and develop accurate cost estimates.   

Changing the way we work

BIM is a process for creating and managing the huge amount of data generated on a transmission construction project. Its power lies in the collaborative, inclusive process. Members of construction project teams have moved away from traditional transactional methods of communicating to working in a single project environment within the model. This has led to full transparency of  design decisions across all stakeholder groups, leading to fast and efficient decision making.

Reece Costella, says: “Siemens is ahead of the curve with BIM and 3D modelling. Our customers appreciate the value-add it brings to their projects and the cost savings it delivers. For us, it’s about keeping our workforce safe and minimising the element of constructional risk. We’re able to provide a smoother delivery for our customers as we’re able to see where clashes in the programme might occur which drives our decision making on where different resource groups are deployed at site at any one time.”

Overall it is the collaborative process of BIM that has been the real driver for success. The 3D and 4D models offer a richer experience that customers value (almost) as much as the cost benefit and speed of delivery. BIM and other developing technologies will continue to influence the design and delivery of construction projects as we embrace the benefits they bring.  

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