Case study: Sisk reaps rewards of high-tech approach at Wembley

  • Client: Quintain
  • Lead Contractor: John Sisk & Son
  • BIM Tools: Autodesk AEC Collection, BIM 360, Navisworks, ReCap, Revit, BIM Collab Synchro

Sisk UK has reaped the benefits of using a wide range of digital construction tools on the E03 Canada Court and E05 Quebec residential developments in Wembley Park. Andrew Pring reports.

John Sisk & Son has been working with Quintain for 15 years on a series of projects that have transformed an 85-acre site at Wembley Park, north London.

The contractor is working on two housing projects at Wembley Park: Canada Gardens, or Plot EO3 as it’s called, and Quebec, or Plot EO5.

In November 2017 it was awarded Block G, one of seven in plot E03, which will create a total of 750 new homes at Wembley Park, the majority for rent. Block G will deliver 216 apartments across 139,000 sq ft, and was topped out in November 2018.

In May 2019, Sisk was awarded its 10th construction project with Quintain at Wembley Park for Plot E05 which comprises 458 new build-to-rent homes across three blocks, ranging in height from 10 to 21 storeys. This will complete the ‘Eastern Quarter’ of the Wembley Park Masterplan, which includes Canada Gardens and a new seven-acre park.

It will come on stream in phases between December 2020 and March 2021 and is a focal point of the eastern approach to Wembley Park and the stadium. 

The scope of works and information requirements

Quintain has been committed to digitising the processes of design, construction and handover so that it can manage its assets more effectively and efficiently through its lifecycle.

Sisk therefore built and delivered digital twins which incorporate as-built data as well as asset information. This has allowed Quintain’s FM team to move away from traditional CAFM systems and use the 3D models as a single source of information for operation and maintenance purposes.

To ensure the quality of digital twins, Sisk has allocated a full-time project information management team to manage and validate the delivery of the data throughout project delivery stage. 

Plot E05 comprises 458 new build-to-rent homes across three blocks (Image: John Sisk)

Sisk’s on-site digital construction team

Sisk has invested significantly to provide its project delivery team with the right tools and knowledge to get the best out of BIM and digitisation. This has been driven through its Digital Project Delivery (DPD) approach.

Shervin Deh Bozorgi, Sisk’s digital project delivery lead UK, explains: “Digital Project Delivery is far more than delivering industry BIM standards. We are using DPD as a vehicle to transform the whole project delivery functions through digitisation. Our ambitious three-year company-wide strategy will ensure that all our staff, functional leads and key supply chain partners have the right capabilities, tools and procedures in place to harness the added value that digitisation will bring to the construction industry.”

A comprehensive training matrix tailored to various functions involved in project delivery has made staff more efficient in their day-to-day activity. This has helped Sisk trial 15 different technologies over the past three years and create innovative approaches such as  ‘digital containers’. In this aspect of the project, Sisk developed a comprehensive digital mapping solution linking project information produced by designers/suppliers in the BIM environment to smart containers in the BIM 360 Field platform. These containers are associated with a QR code, allowing it to link an unlimited amount of information to each asset.

Digital technologies – from design and planning phase through to delivery on site

Sisk has used BIM models as a vehicle to manage design, planning, site activities and asset information handover. It has used a comprehensive clash-detection process which indicates and assigns different clashes to the appropriate team members, and tracks them intelligently throughout design development stage, ensuring all the clashes are closed down prior to construction stage.

By using 4D planning as a virtual construction rehearsal tool, Sisk has managed its programmes much more effectively. The 4D models simulate different scenarios in the project, and identifies potential impacts, allowing the team to make more informed decisions prior to construction stage.

4D models also play a crucial role in Sisk’s H&S management. During planning stage, the models highlight any potential hazards and this information is used during induction meetings to inform the site team about potential safety issues involved in different activities.

On the earlier phases of the project, problems with 3D models led to reworks on the basement floors. Sisk’s digital team used dynamic reports to track and close these clashes pre-construction. This resulted in significantly reducing reworks and saving at least £90,000 of cost in concrete reworks alone.

Significant time savings

Before employing field data capture tools, Sisk was facing significant inefficiencies and delays, most evidently at the peak time of the project when the number of staff on site increased significantly.

Many of these issues were caused by lack of access to the correct project information at the right place. By introducing an iPad-based field data capture tool, it reduced the inefficiency and time savings by 35%. The digital tool provides staff with all the information they require, including drawings, site activity forms, 3D models and any relevant communications.

Shervin adds: “By introducing our innovative digital container solution we could monitor when the flat was checked, by whom, if any issues where found during the QA process (with images and location tags attached) and whether these issues remained or action was taken to rectify them. These live, up-to-date dashboards show data related to the flats as a collective or as singular elements.

“This approach led us to a 35% time saving of the QA process versus traditional paper methods as staff no longer needed to travel between site and office to print the latest information and the daily reports are published automatically.” 

Shervin says Sisk’s unique differentiator was going beyond the standard services currently offered by Autodesk products. “Our innovative digital smart containers are a demonstration of this, where we integrated several process that were traditionally executed in silos into one single environment to enhance the efficiency and understanding throughout the site. “

Sisk has used BIM models as a vehicle to manage design, planning, site activities and asset information handover (Image: John Sisk)

Drone technology

Sisk used drones in four key areas:

  • Monthly progress reporting. Drone footage is fed into monthly progress and cost value reconciliation reports to give the senior management team more context for the latest site conditions. The team also use footage to provide “planned vs actual” comparisons by having the snapshot of the contract programme from 4D model on one side and current site condition on the other side.
  • Cut and fill exercises. Traditionally it would take an engineer as much as three weeks to conduct a cut and fill exercise. By using drones and photogrammetry technology, Sisk reduced that to two to three days, with the majority of exercises are being done virtually with the help of cloud-based software. By highlighting the selected excavation area on the drone footage, the software would automatically provide the results. This cut the time taken by 80%.
  • Safety and quality checks. Sisk used drones for high-altitude quality and safety checks on façade cladding, piling heads, crane components and any other high-level activities. It minimises on-site hazards and risk for all staff.
  • Weekly inductions. Instead of using static power point presentations, Sisk used edited drone footage to explain the weekly tasks during induction meetings. Drones also give new staff a broad understanding of the site within minutes, rather than the previous half a day.

Through the use of drone inspections, Sisk was able to eliminate the need for scaffolding, reducing deliveries and time on site. By creating a 4D simulation, monitoring health and safety issues was more efficient, with no major injuries recorded throughout the project.

Delivering such innovations enabled Sisk to erect the concrete structure for both buildings eight weeks prior to the deadline and complete the first block 25 days early.

Sisk won the Autodesk AEC Excellence Award for medium size construction projects

Shervin says the main challenges of this project were primarily focused on how to get the data from the site office to all operatives on site and main stakeholders not located within close proximity to the area with relative speed and ease. “With support from Autodesk, we developed a cloud based API between its Common Data Environment (Viewpoint for Projects) and Autodesk BIM 360 which automatically transferred information from VFP to Autodesk BIM 360 Field.”

This ensured information on site is up-to-date and approved. It allows any Sisk operatives access to the information from any location with the use of digital tablets installed with the Autodesk BIM360 application. Access to the model with location tags allows the site team to confidently locate issues within the building.

Sisk’s digital team continually pushed the envelope of Autodesk products, notably through using digital containers to map multiple site activities that were being performed in silos into one single environment. This was done with the intention of having the 3D model at the core of all site activities, one source of truth for everything on site.

In addition, by hosting this information on a central platform, Sisk has been able to create automatically generated visual reports that are sent to the project team to inform them on progress of construction – again, one source of truth.

Another Autodesk cloud product used by Sisk was BIM360 Glue, which played a key role in the tracking of live models from the consultant’s and subcontractors, ensuring that the information required at each stage of clash detection and submission is available online and free to download.

BIM360 Glue also gave consultants the freedom to comment on real-time models with any concerns they may have subverting potential health and safety issues and clashes from hindering progress in the future of the project.

BIM360 Field has noticeably increased the efficiency of site activities by allowing Sisk to track in real time, materials coming to site (including installation and QA), delivery of pre-fabricated elements and the current status of separate areas/rooms throughout the project.

Shervin says: “By having all of this information hosted on a central platform, confusion between parties is minimised and anyone wishing to access this information is able to with limited training in the use of the platform.”

Hosting this information on this central platform also enables Sisk managers to create automatically generated reports to be sent to the project team to keep everyone informed on the progress of construction and also create visualisations to summarise large quantities of data.

Key learning experiences 

Shervin concludes: “Achievements and innovations across our projects help to reshape the company’s future business models. Its biggest step change in recent times has been introducing DPD, which as explained above has been crucial in delivering the Wembley Park projects. “

All aspects of Sisk’s performance – design, engineering, planning, commercial, legal, quality, environment, and health & safety – are being digitised to move on from the traditional silo approach. Consistent and continuous data production has become a core driver of its internal processes, meaning all project parties create and use standard set of data throughout the project lifecycle.

As part of this process, Sisk is developing business intelligence and data analytics systems which can harness this data to transform current planning, project management and reporting procedures. It is testing and developing prototypes that enables it to create digital twins across all projects, not only to optimise project delivery but to provide clients with a set of digital assets that can be further utilised during O&M stage.

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