Implementing BIM in large-scale sports stadia projects

Having worked on sports stadia projects for much of her career, Rebecca De Cicco, founder and managing director of Digital Node, dives into the impact of digital construction technologies on large-scale sports projects.

Rebecca De Cicco

As an architect and BIM consultant I have spent the majority of my career working on large-scale buildings and infrastructure projects, some of which have been sports stadia.

In more recent years, I have found that there was a real appetite for BIM on sports projects and how BIM can ultimately impact positively on these giant-sized structures.  

Obviously, a great benefit is to be able to coordinate all elements of the project in 3D models. However, the process of coordination in line with the regulations and briefing requirements that surround the design and construction of sports stadia, which is generally quite complex and detailed, is of far greater value. To see the project visually is crucial but mapping this with the build timeline and project costs using 4D and 5D technology really brings greater benefits to these giant structures.

Our most recent project in this field is with a US architect to support its BIM strategy on a large stadium project in New Orleans: leading on the scope of works and outlining the project information requirements and helping to support the implementation of a common data environment (CDE).

Why BIM?

When it comes to BIM there are many ways we can clearly define the benefits of digital construction methodologies to a project, and for sports stadia in particular we have found that implementing technologies with the relevant skills and knowledge is crucial to the process.

In particular, we have developed a capability matrix which we send out to all of our consultants to ensure they have the relevant skills in a particular BIM use before applying it. This process is effective for determining the right information for the right skills, as we are working on developing both existing models from scan data and then comparing these against the design models created by consultants prior to this activity being undertaken.

Our coordination activities based on the timeline of the project mean that we are working on the design model from existing information such as drawings and then reverting back to existing conditions models which are being used to support validation of the existing information and how the designs relate to them.

Not only does this ultimately support more accurate and relevant information but it allows us to work more closely with all consultants to ensure their design work coordinates accurately with existing conditions. When it comes to existing stadia versus the design and build of new stadia, this is incredibly important as we need to ensure the links between the existing and new elements are accurately coordinated.

Not only are we working on some of these processes, but also on the implementation of a CDE using tools such Autodesk BIM 360 Design and how consultants draw upon the information which resides on this server to ultimately access the right information at the right time.

It is common to see that the structure of a CDE generally follows the client/lead consultants’ folder structure in regions like the US as there is little implementation of BS 1192 and very few have an understanding or are even awareness of the international framework for the implementation of a CDE within ISO 19650. We generally find that although we recommend the use of this type of folder structure (eg WIP, Shared, Published, Archive) it is rarely implemented in this way.

From the beginning however, the implementation of BIM on these types of projects must come from the lead consultant who would create a solid framework and a strategic guide to other members of the team. Backed up with a strategy the second obvious document supporting projects of this scale is the BIM Execution Plan (BEP) which again must be managed closely by a reliable resource. We are finding that updating this document is also crucial to project and BIM developments as well as helping consultants understand the BIM elements of the project.

As we all know, updating and maintaining the BEP across the lifecycle of the project is crucial to ensure that all consultants and subcontractors are in line with the details outlined across the BEP and within the projects. BIM coordination meetings as well as workshops also aid in communicating this vision and we support these types of activities both virtually as well as in house to drive the BIM strategy across the project.

What technologies?

For sports projects crowd volumes and movement of people is a vital consideration. As such, the use of automated tools and technologies to support both design and structural and mechanical BIM is crucial.

To visualise this movement pattern, we regularly use virtual and augmented reality technologies to view 3D data and communicate with our clients and other members of the design team. These immersive tools allow project members to visualise different aspects of the design in a tangible way that can be shared with the wider supply chain in disseminating an understanding of the building’s needs – whether this is the intricacies of the completed project, how the space will be used or the way it interacts with the surrounding environment.

Although a multitude of technologies are being presented on projects of this scale, we do see that much of the work in developing the design and coordinating disciplines is within the context of both Autodesk Revit, Navisworks and BIM 360 Coordination. Whilst there are varying third party plug-ins that can enable greater productivity, we do push that our teams use these products well and support skills in its basic requirements before moving into more detailed and sophisticated external applications.

Early design stages, however, are still benefiting from using visual programming and tools such as Dynamo, yet for planning and coordination much of the work is managing how the models are divided, coordinated and managed to ensure there are no issues with project size and scale as well as coordination. Much of the work on a project of this scale is working out how the model is divided and structured to enable better coordination and more manageable file sizes.

Whilst there are still challenges in implementing BIM in sports stadia and across any project, getting it right can mean a lot of big wins for the project team and the client, to enable better design, more open communication and support for teams using the relevant skills and resources to draw upon. Advancing technologies and the use of BIM certainly make the building process more manageable and far more exciting.

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  1. Very interesting and well written article. Wireless technology is now ESSENTIAL in the field, my hope is that future projects and budgets are not affected by current economical struggles.
    Keep up the good work!

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