Chuck Eastman stresses the safety of BIM

Chuck Eastman stresses the safety of BIM

BIM prophet Charles "Chuck" Eastman is currently visiting Finland. I really enjoyed his presentation for Tekla on BIM and its effects in changing the structure of the construction industry. Chuck strongly emphasized the safety benefits of implementing BIM, as this is something that they are currently doing research on at Georgia Tech.

Any inconsistencies in a construction project are a pain for the project owner, Chuck reminded us. As we know, the problem of construction drawings is that they can only be interpreted by people, and not by just any people, but by just a few experts on the construction site, who then explain to others what needs to be done. That's why without using 3D building information modeling it would be impossible to build the kind of iconic, curvy and complicated buildings that Frank Gehry, for example, is designing. "Tolerances can not be found in construction drawings," Chuck added. "And all in construction is affected by tolerances."

Chuck referred to the new Helsinki Music Center as a good example of what can be done by virtual 3D simulation. For this building they used modeling to do a physical simulation with nitrogen to test the airflow inside to ensure the right kind of acoustics.

Presenting about BIM implications

Professor Chuck Eastman of Georgia Tech, USA, presented BIM for Tekla in Espoo, Finland October 4, 2011

The development of design is augmented by automation, Chuck continued, and the level of automation keeps growing, which will increase safety on the construction site. Prefabrication of mechanical assemblies, for example, is becoming more and more automated and more common. Having the right information in the model, i.e. the quality of the building information model, is terribly important, Chuck prodded.

Five years ago clash detection was recognized as a huge pay off for the construction industry. For that, different software applications are coming together and the models of different design and construction disciplines are being integrated. The implications of creating a full 3D layout of a construction project are that more of the construction can be done off-site (again, increasing safety on site), the total percentual value of the project increases by increased efficiency, and new business emerges as more and more of the building's assemblies can be prefabricated, such as bathrooms and kitchens, even in projects that were not originally designed to be modular.

Construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the world. We hear that in the US alone, every day five people die in construction. Falls account for 33% of all construction fatalities. Chuck and his colleague Dr. Jochen Teizer with their team are currently investigating and developing a rule-based checking system for safety planning and simulation at the Georgia Institute of Technology, USA. They are trying to resolve the time-space-activity conflict involved in construction that causes these kind of fatalities.

Installing parts to a building requires a certain time and physical space between different elements or assemblies, and information about them can be added as extra dimensions to a 3D building information model. The Georgia Tech team has developed a Safety Plugin to Tekla Structures software using the Tekla Open API .NET programming interface. They are modeling openings, edges, holes, slabs and barriers to make it possible for a future building to be built as safely as possible.

"Would you buy a car that was not fully checked? Or a kitchen or personal appliance?" Chuck asked. "The rest of the man-made world is generally reliable. Buildings can and will adopt the practices of electronics and manufacturing where appropriate," he stated in his material. He also mentioned the first court case in the USA where not following 3D modeling as the best practice of mechanical design led the company in question to pay.

During his presentation, Chuck referred to laser-scanning the as-built conditions for retrofitting existing buildings and for preconstruction, but that's a another story that I will hopefully be able to return to soon.

After Chuck's presentation I had a quick word with Tekla's own BIM prophet Ragnar Wessman. There's no sense in calculating the ROI of BIM in this or that or in any individual project or aspect, he said - a fact is that the more you model, the more benefits you will get on any aspect of the building, including safety, he pointed out. "The spin-off effects of BIM are huge", as Chuck put it.