Russian BIM revolution at Gutenborg

The UK companies working on a BIM and Design for Manufacture strategy for St Petersburg’s £10bn housing project have parted company with the client after it U-turned on the innovative approach, amid dramatic falls in the rouble’s value and economic sanctions. 

Mace was appointed as delivery partner to client SPb Renovation on the 10-year project in May 2013, while innovative architect and technology company Bryden Wood was devising the underlying methodology for the BIM-enabled offsite DfMA solution.

It was also acting as lead architect and structural and M&E consultant for the project, which Construction Manager previously featured here

The project was vast in scope, with plans for 15,600 apartments, three schools, five kindergartens, a polyclinic and supporting roads and infrastructure on a 65ha site on the banks of the River Neva. There were plans for 50 apartment blocks, ranging from five to 25 storeys. 

Architect Aedas, now rebranded as AHR, was also appointed as one of several design firms on the project, while Turner & Townsend was appointed as commercial management partner in July 2013.

According to GCR, its role covered cost modelling, option appraisal, procurement support and systems development.

The client for the project, SPb Renovation, appears to have back-tracked on its commitment to the innovative UK-led approach in late summer 2014, shortly after the DfMA approach won an important official approval.

The first wave of economic sanctions by the EU and US against Russia took effect in March 2014, following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. But this was followed by more severe restrictions from a wider range of countries from July 2014 onwards, following the escalation of fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Sanctions have helped to create an economic crisis in Russia, with the value of the rouble halving since November 2014.

It’s thought the project is continuing, but the client has switched to a Russian-led traditional design and construction approach. 

In a statement, Mace said that it had now parted company with SPb. “For the past two years, Mace has worked with SPb Renovation to successfully deliver the initial phase of the Gutenborg residential development in St Petersburg, Russia.

“However, with market changes and following a consequent change in strategy and design concept from the client, Mace will not be involved in future phases of the project. We are proud of what our team have achieved, including the use of new and cutting-edge BIM and pre-construction techniques.”

It is understood that Mace has been able to redeploy most of its staff working on the project to other schemes, including around half a dozen elsewhere in Russia that are still continuing. At one time, it is thought to have had 80 people working on the project.

A Turner & Townsend spokesman indicated that the firm had only been involved in preliminary work on the project, while an AHR spokesman said the project was “postponed”.

At Bryden Wood, director Jaimie Johnston said that the firm was not currently in correspondence with the client, but was progressing its relationship with other major clients in Russia, including a healthcare group that it had met while working on Gutenborg.

The BIM and DfMA strategy was based around an integrated model that included all cost and procurement data, and construction sites akin to an “assembly plant” with semi-skilled labour bolting together components in a pre-designed sequence. 

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