While Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been around for more than a decade, it’s only in the last five years that we began to focus on this technology as it was still relatively new in the infrastructure market.

Investing in this technology has been a wise decision, it has helped us transform the way we design and has streamlined processes throughout the project lifecycle, while in turn allowing us to provide more value to our clients.

My role involves putting new digital engineering strategies and technologies into practice and by doing this, establish new workflows and tools to assist the team throughout the duration of a project.  My team design and implement virtual objects that contain information about how a piece of infrastructure is designed, built, operated and maintained. Carrying a high level of value through the nature of reusable models and information, provides additional uses such as construction management and asset management all from the same data (models and information) we’ve created during the design phases.

In simple terms, we seek out ways to make what we do more effective, efficient and valuable.  It’s for this reason that BIM is an attractive offering to our clients. We can put information into real and virtual models to gain more out of them and we, as a team, can streamline and pass on these efficiencies and provide greater value to our clients.

As technology evolves so too do the outcomes for our clients. The principles of BIM remain, however, it’s inevitable that technology is going to advance and we need to be agile enough to respond. Having built strong relationships with our software providers, we can shape the entire tool so we can tailor it to a specific project.

BIM has allowed us to make great strides on projects. We can now take a holistic view of the complete design and construction processes virtually, which is only made possible with BIM technology.  We can use new technology to integrate all our disciplines in a virtual 3D model so we gain a clear, overall picture of a project before it is released for construction, providing a greater understanding of the design, how it fits together, performs and even optimise it on the fly in ways that have not previously been available. This also adds value by bringing a very technical set of engineering drawings into a 3D model that is easily understood by the project teams, stakeholders, clients and the community; and that’s only scratching the surface. What we can then do with the data, connected environments, the power of generative design (computers generating thousands of design iterations to be analysed in seconds), among many others things will revolutionise the way engineers, designers, drafters, and wider project teams think, interact and produce engineering projects. The possibilities are far from completely discovered yet.

And where to next for BIM technology?  At the rate it’s developing, there seems to be no bounds.

There is already plenty of hype around adaptive interfaces where the software learns your habits and then produces an interface that is more aligned to how you operate. Cloud collaboration is already being embraced by my team.

Cloud collaboration allows us to share and co-author complex online files. Being completely secure, it means previously stagnate documents and files can evolve in real time through true collaboration and provide almost anywhere access to files. Considering the volume of files and documents that we work with, cloud collaboration is already revolutionising and streamlining how we operate on a global scale.

In general terms, software will undoubtedly become more intuitive and at the same time it will produce more efficiencies. While the fundamentals needed day-to-day will remain, technology companies are forever pushing the boundaries of hardware and software, so our teams must be enthusiastic and willing to adapt. Being left behind in an ever-competitive market is not an option.

The message is simple, embrace BIM fully, it’s no longer a nice to have, it’s an absolute must have if we aspire help shape the future of our industry.

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Author Chris Steer

Digital Engineering Practice Lead – A civil designer by trade and DE leader by nature, Chris is always looking for new and innovative ways to improve efficiency and productivity and enjoys putting new digital engineering strategies and technologies into practice at SMEC.

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