Interview: Kier’s Andy Radley – Innovating to stay ahead of the curve

We see the biggest benefits in integrating BIM with our service offerings, making sure we are designing alongside our asset management and FM teams so the information they want is included and we end up with a living Digital Asset Model, a form of dynamic O&M manual, that can be used during operation.– Andy Radley, Kier

Andy Radley, group BIM director at Kier, on mandating BIM across the business, the benefits of using an integrated software platform, and future innovations – including digital piling.

How embedded is BIM at Kier?

It runs through everything that we do, rather than being a workflow separate from peoples’ day jobs. We now unambiguously state that every project is a BIM project, and the only way teams can opt out is to get approval from the senior director within their business unit. That’s a step up from our previous mandate, in 2013, which imposed a minimum £10m project value threshold for the use of BIM.

However, practically speaking, BIM will not apply to every project. For example the Scape National Minor Works Framework includes small projects worth £25,000 and up to £4m, there will be no benefit using BIM on a project where we are just replacing doors and repainting walls. Loosely speaking, BIM will be required where there is a design element to a scheme or if the client is specifically asking for it.

Are many of your projects now at Level 2?

We have a mix of projects at different levels, some of which we would define as Level 2 in the spirit of PAS documentation and the related deliverables. The University of East Anglia campus project is one of our “showcase” Level 2 BIM projects, where the client had a detailed set of requirements for information capture during the construction process.

Some of our legacy projects are less advanced, where the client’s procurement route wasn’t particulalry refined and we had only a mix of 2D drawings and uncoordinated 3D models to work with, or where the modelling demand on the supply chain did not reflect what is needed for aspects such as quantity take offs or to demonstrate the construction methodology.

What types of conversations about BIM are you having with clients?

We are definitely experiencing a greater pull from clients, who are getting better informed and putting more demands upon us. I recently spoke to a long-standing client, York and Scarborough NHS Trust, which has seen the BIM Execution Plan required by the Department of Health and want us to help them respond to it.

During a recent workshop with clients on one of the regional Construction Hubs, one topic of discussion was whether it is necessary to bring some of the money allocated for operations back to the Capex stage so we have a means of funding the large amounts of information clients want captured for a good Asset Information Model for use by FM teams.

Alarmingly, 11 of the 12 clients there said they had no visibility of operational funding, which is handled by completely separate departments. They said it could be a major challenge to get operational teams to understand that spending money upfront will enable a better outcome in the longer term.

Kier is using the Clearbox BIMxtra platform. What advantages does it have over other Common Data Environments and model federation methods?

It is an enabling force within the business, providing a single integrated platform through which we can deliver training across all the different functions of using BIM without having to break into different types of software, such as Navisworks, Synchro or Solibri, all of which require separate training, which can put unrealistic demands on our employees. It’s a step change from other organisations I have either worked at or with, where it was necessary to employ an IT specialist to work out how to make the different vendors’ software talk to each other and export files correctly.

The latest release of BIMXtra now combines a document manager, a model viewer and an application that enables onsite mobility, which helps us easily maintain a single workflow. Everything is stored within a database, including any changes to a drawing or a model, so managers on site don’t have to scratch their heads to identify the latest drawing.

Kier has a stake in Clearbox and controls the software’s development… are any updates planned?

We are currently running a trial to embed all work package information within the model so that when we go out to tender, suppliers can access that data then send us accurate, formatted pricing information. 

In addition, we are updating BIMXtra for the infrastructure sector, where BIM authoring technology is less mature. Infrastructure BIM models are often not very data rich, topographical geometric information usually arrives as surface models rather than solid geometry, and as a consequence, it is difficult to get volumes out and elements cannot be broken down into more manageable lengths. We’re developing BIMXtra to take these “vanilla” models, split them up into different levels and layers and feed in new data.

BIM is often discussed in terms of design management and 4D planning, but less so in terms of cost control, procurement, and logistics. What is Kier’s approach?

Some people are still talking about clash detection and 4D as if it is advanced, but to us these are things everyone should be doing by default.

We have a real aspiration to generate logistics models to inform on all of our projects’ health and safety plans and daily activity briefings. When buildings have to remain live during construction, we can use them to demonstrate to the client how their asset can continue to operate and how staff will be protected. They can also be used by the supply chain to identify lay down areas to ensure that materials delivered on site are not going to have to be moved again.

In general, a BIM logistics model should make conversations with all our stakeholders a lot easier.

We see the biggest benefits in integrating BIM with our service offerings, making sure we are involving our asset management and FM teams in the design process so the information they require operationally is specified and captured, and we end up with a living Digital Asset Model, a form of dynamic O&M manual, that can be used to deliver efficiencies during the building’s operational lifecycle. 

On projects where we are handing the asset to the client’s FM team, where the new FM team is using a completely different CAFM system, our BIM processes by default will help package up more detailed and robust information at the end of a project ready to deliver in the format they require.

Are you seeing trackable financial and programme benefits to BIM?

That is difficult to demonstrate, but we are reducing clashes and improving our understanding of projects. Traditionally, when we handed over buildings to ourselves we had to go through a lengthy and costly process of reappraising the asset and a lot of snagging issues were picked up post-handover. Now our FM teams are influencing design in BIM, and can check the data being recorded during the entire construction process, a complete asset record is ready at handover.

One good example of programme savings enabled by BIM is the Chelsea River Bridge project, where the client, Network Rail, asked us to appraise the condition of the bridge and recommend actions required to restore it. During the first half of the project we used a traditional paper-based process, taking photos, returning to the office to file reports, then emailing them to the client for approval.

However, halfway through, when BIMXtra went mobile, we started using it to record surveys of the structure, to action whether different elements needed replacing, repairing or simply painting etc, and to enable site teams to immediately contact the client to get faster approval. As a result, we knocked 36 days off the programme from the second half of the bridge, compared to the first. The time saving was all about improving the flow of information.

What are your BIM targets over the coming year?

The aspiration is to deliver all suitable projects to meet the Level 2 mandate. We will be working with Kier’s overseas teams, in Dubai, Australia and Hong Kong, to help them deliver to the same standard as in the UK, using BIMXtra.

We want to get commercial teams more embedded in BIM to help them extract better costing information from models. Forecasting the use of materials is also a massive area to be addressed. It is possible to use BIM software to link different projects with similar deadlines together, even those under different frameworks, and package all the various materials together to get a better return on our investment. However, this will depend on getting good-quality upfront information from our consultants and supply chain.

Is Kier pushing any other digital innovations?

Kier’s acquisition of Mouchel Consulting brought the use of drones in-house and they are trialling drone-mounted LIDAR remote sensing technology, which could be used to more easily scan any assets we maintain to identify issues. 

On a major civil engineering project involving a large amount of ground pinning, we are looking at using BIM to send the coordinates and angles of nails direct to a drilling rig, which would save a lot of time compared to setting it out manually.

Another area of innovation being explored is real-time monitoring and one of our supply chain members is working with Clearbox to trial a system linking sensors on critical temporary works, monitoring  stresses and strains, to a BIM model. The idea is that if any anomalies are detected it would trigger an alarm and potentially identify the location within a BIM model, allowing swifter, more accurate decisions to be made about the event.

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