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The digital age is also steadily advancing in the construction industry. More and more often, projects are being implemented using the Building Information Modelling working method. This is because many companies and also the government realize the benefits of BIM. In part, however, it may also be because many projects went wrong in the past that were not built with BIM. With costs skyrocketing or deadlines not being met, it is time to change something. Construction projects are becoming more and more complex. Not only the size of construction projects is increasing, but also the number of parties involved in a project. This can lead to lack of transparency, planning uncertainty and cost confusion.
In the past, for example, projects such as Berlin Airport or the Elbphilharmonic Hall in Hamburg could not be completed as initially planned. However, there are also large projects where planning and execution could be carried out without major complications. In most cases, BIM was used. Therefore, we present here two projects that were planned with BIM and two that were not. With the help of these comparisons, we would like to show the advantages of planning with BIM.
Projects Built with BIM
While the implementation of BIM in Germany is still at an early stage, other countries have been using the digital working method for some time. Therefore, our first example is a hospital complex being built in Denmark. It is currently one of the largest construction projects in Copenhagen.
The project is a merger of the hospitals in Frederiksberg and Bispebjerg into one huge hospital complex. The hospital is located in Copenhagen, in the Bispebjerg district. Initially, it was to be completed in 2025. But the faster construction of a partial building shortens the schedule, so that the hospital can be put into operation as early as 2023. To give you an idea of the dimensions of the complex, here are a few data: The total floor area is 217,000 m². That corresponds to about 30 football fields. Of this, 121,000 m², or a little more than half, will be newly built. A total of 96,000 m² of the old space will be used and renovated. There will be space for 1,100 cars on the site in outdoor car parks and in two covered multi-storey units. The cost of the project is around €530 million. Once completed, the hospital will be able to treat 416,000 patients annually.
A particular challenge in this project is the large number of parties involved. Medics, clinicians, engineers, project managers, architects and many others have to work hand in hand to ensure a smooth process. This involves a lot of communication, which is facilitated by the BIM model. By managing all data centrally, all participants are on the same level of information. The resulting advantage is that all medical and economic factors are taken into account in the planning from the very beginning.
The integration of new buildings into already existing building units is also a particular challenge. In addition, different functional areas, such as operating theaters or emergency rooms, come together during hospital planning. BIM creates transparency with the central storage of all data, which enables more efficient work. Compared to office buildings, the building structure is particularly important in hospital projects. They have a high influence on operational processes and thus also on the speed and quality of hospital care and patient safety. The more intelligently the structure is designed, the more efficiently the hospital can be operated later. In such a complex construction project, BIM makes the design, planning and implementation much more efficient, which also makes the operation more sustainable and safer.
The Office Building of Volkswagen Financial Services AG
The office building of Volkswagen Financial Services serves as a second example of the use of BIM. The five-storey building in Braunschweig has a total floor area of 8,000 m² with a training area. Construction began in 2008 and the final phase of the project was completed in 2014. As part of the “BIMiD – BIM Reference Object in Germany”, the building serves as a reference project and was scientifically accompanied throughout the entire planning and construction period. The aim was to demonstrate the BIM method on a concrete object and also to develop reference processes. The BIM working method could be used for many purposes. On one hand, for design decisions in relation to the architecture. But also for collision checks of various specialized plans, cost planning or construction site monitoring. An AS-Built model was also created for the project. This meant that all information about changes was bundled in one model.
Insights from Working with BIM
The Building Information Modeling working method promoted communication between the individual participants. In contrast to conventional projects, a high degree of planning and cost certainty was guaranteed at a very early stage. In addition, there was a high degree of transparency between the client and planners and thus greater control of the client over his project. Among other things, this was due to the fact that the dimensions of costs and time could be included in the planning.
Projects That Were Not Built with BIM
The Stuttgart 21 Railway Project
Stuttgart 21 is a transport and urban development project aimed at reorganizing the railway hub of Stuttgart. It involves the construction of 11 new, mostly underground lines and four new passenger stations, including a new main train station. The planned completion date was initially set for December 2019 with a cost estimate of 2.5 billion euros. But after many postponements and cost increases, the current date for completion of the main station is 2025 with a cost of 8.2 billion euros. Other parts of the project will follow later. Outsiders even consider costs of up to 10 billion euros possible.
The project was first presented to the public in 1994. A feasibility study rated the project as feasible. But even in the planning phase, some supporters dropped out. After a new review by the railway, the entire project was not classified as completely feasible. Partial solutions were sought. After many negotiations, the federal government, the state, the city and the railway were able to come to an agreement, but by this time the costs had risen to 4.1 billion euros. In 2009, the first Monday demonstrations against the construction project also took place.
Despite all this, the start button for construction is pressed in February 2010. Shortly afterwards, the first planning errors were discovered. The citizens’ protests also increased. In autumn, the clashes escalated. The police used heavy forces against the demonstrators. After several attempts at mediation, a new review of the plans was initiated. Construction work was put on hold during the mediation. The result of the audit: the current plan remained in place with a few improvements. In 2012, further problems emerged as a result of changes to the plans. The commissioning was postponed.
Due to construction work around Stuttgart Central Station, there were also some accidents on the tracks. Consequently, the affected track was closed, leading to numerous diversions and train cancellations. After further plan changes, postponements, cost increases and discussions, the opening of the main station is currently planned for 2025. Further sub-areas will gradually be opened.
What went wrong?
Quite a few things went wrong in the planning phase of the project. The study, which confirmed that underground planning was more efficient than the existing terminus, was incorrect. Changes were also made in the planning instead of completely planning the entire project, as is the case with an application with BIM. Postponements of the opening dates and cost explosions are the result of bad planning. Additionally, there were the demonstrations that protested against the project even before construction began. A huge dispute that is far from over.
The Berlin-Brandenburg Airport
Shortly after reunification, the idea for a central airport in Berlin arose to replace the airports in Tegel and Schönefeld. The plan was to build an airport on the site of Schönefeld Airport, partially encompassing it. The planned capacity should amount to around 20 million passengers per year. The costs for the construction are initially set at around 1.7 billion euros. Initially, the opening was planned for autumn 2012. But as we know, the deadline was never met.
Even before construction began, there were initial difficulties due to noise complaints. In 2006, construction of the airport began in spite of everything. Due to further lawsuits and requirements, the situation got worse and worse over the course of time. In addition, the costs were not realistically planned from the beginning. In 2012, there were serious problems with fire protection, and the deadline had to be cancelled as a result. This was followed by further postponements and cost increases. The airport managers also changed several times over the years. The many delays of the opening also meant that costs skyrocketed. Currently, the opening date is planned for 31 October 2020.
What went wrong?
In a nutshell, faulty construction planning, inadequate building supervision and extensive technical deficiencies were to blame for the situation at Berlin Airport. It was partly planned and built in parallel. A construction stop in 2012 and an inventory for a reoriented planning would have helped BER a lot.
The whole project was doomed to failure just by the planning. With such enormously large projects, it is therefore advisable to plan with BIM right from the start. The working method stands for an interacting planning, execution and management. This also means that the entire project is initially planned to the end and only then is construction started. In this way, problems can be identified and changed at the planning stage.
When using BIM, the planning, execution and management of buildings are made much more efficient. By digitally recording and modeling all building data, a virtual building model can be created that everyone involved can use to work effectively. It is, therefore, a central management of project information over the entire life cycle. BIM aims to simplify individual, recurring steps in the planning and construction process, and not to reinvent them over and over again. This means that standardized, more efficient processes are developed, from which stakeholders benefit. Structured planning and construction is essential, especially for large projects such as Berlin Airport or Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie. BIM would have made a decisive difference in these projects. The previous projects that have been built with BIM so far, show that it works.
For BIM to be used further, stakeholders must be able to apply the subject. So you can’t do it without further training in the field. That’s why we offer training courses that help people to understand and apply BIM. This ensures more efficient work, with an overview of the costs, so that no surprises arise during a project. Learn more about the BIM working method here! To get started with the working method, we recommend our free webinar.