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Global Construction Race Heats Up

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BIM Grows Globally

Countries such as France, Germany and Japan continue to be leaders in high-level BIM usage, and 97% of contractors in those countries perceive their return on investment in the use of BIM to be moderate to very high, according to new research that Stephen Jones, senior director with McGraw Hill Construction, introduced at this year's summit.

Economies with higher labor costs are seeing a greater return on investment with greater BIM use, which feeds into higher trade contractor engagement. BIM usage in countries such as Brazil and South Korea are forecast to grow by as much as three times in the next two years, Jones said.

Turner Construction Co. is operating heavily in Southeast Asia and is soon expecting to expand into Brazil, said James Barrett, Turner’s director of integrated building solutions. Challenges on large-scale global projects in those and other regions include the use of seasonal workers who don't have consistently developed skill sets; language differences; fragmented global teams; and lack of hardware infrastructure. Therefore, much of the modeling services must be provided by the contractor since BIM infrastructure and usage is not as high in these global areas, Barrett observed.

Investment in the use of BIM can help overcome many of these global project hurdles. “BIM is a tool to communicate very clearly our plan for building,” Barrett said. If there are multiple languages spoken on the jobsite, translating paper documents and drawings is difficult and, often, workers are illiterate anyway, so, Barrett said, BIM “has been huge to visualize and communicate the sequence of work.”

BIM also can provide more accurate material-quantity surveys to help manage the global supply chain. For example, Turner recently modeled the concrete quantity to within 1% accuracy at its record-breaking concrete mat pour at Los Angeles' Wilshire Grand Center by laser-scanning the site and then modeling the rebar and cooling pipes. “We are taking that same approach to the international market,” Barrett said.

On the infrastructure side, one of the best uses of BIM has been with model data-driven visualization, said Jay Mezher, director of virtual design and construction with Parsons Brinckerhoff. For example, on the recent Presidio Parkway project in San Francisco, Caltrans requested that the model be exported into a gaming engine. Using a driving simulator, people could test-drive the alignment and inspect the design and safety elements via a file posted on iTunes and other mobile devices.

The future of BIM usage in infrastructure is to incorporate it into risk management, Mezher said. As the general engineering consultant on the Eastside Access Project in New York City to connect the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal, PB created a 4D model to validate the construction schedule in order to mitigate risk during delivery of huge precast-concrete panels that could be delivered only via a single entry point—in Queens—to the jobsite.

The panels had to be transported through tunnels, which are being built underneath the East River to Grand Central, while multiple other contract packages and a master schedule with 15,000 separate activities were going on all around the site, he said. Combining the schedule and the BIM model in the risk analysis provided the optimal path for the panels, a path that would not delay other work. Furthermore, since each of the 15,000 activities had a specific tag ID in the model, the simulation could be quickly run again to accommodate schedule changes in other areas.

With the advent of design-build and other shared-risk alternative delivery methods, it has become more important than ever to combine risk analysis with BIM, Mezher said.

Importance of Infrastructure

In a second day keynote, Trevor D’Olier-Lees, director of corporate ratings at Standard & Poor’s, wrapped up the conference by discussing the role of infrastructure, which he said was essential to reaching any nation’s economic potential. S&P assesses infrastructure projects globally—hospitals, power projects, transportation projects—and assigns credit ratings, talking to many investors and policymakers in the process.

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