Coastal defences, North West – Modernising data management

  • Client: Wyre Council
  • Lead Contractor: na
  • BIM Tools: Sitedesk

Software that makes it easier for facilities managers to locate information about their assets has been adopted by Wyre Council for a coastal defence project in North West England.

The system, called Sitedesk, will enable future maintenance teams to zero in and find relevant locations and elements with a single click.

Wyre Council, Blackpool Council, Fylde Council and the Environment Agency are collaborating on the 6km coastal defence scheme that will protect several communities, more than 12,000 properties, and historic and natural environments, including several sites of special scientific interest.

Until the defences are completed risk of flooding represents a liability of £100m for the three councils.

Sitedesk helped the project team to specify and capture the right information through automated and templated processes during the project and to act as a complete solution for construction information management as well as an asset information/CAFM system.

The software also gave the client the ability to generate COBie output in line with BS 1192-4: 2014 to support data transfer to another CAFM system, should it wish to do so in the future.

Sitedesk thus eliminated the costs of purchasing a CAFM system, as well as the time and cost of future data transfer. Team members were equipped with Sitedesk software, a SaaS solution that runs on PCs and tablets.

Because Sitedesk delivers an in-built 3D viewer, and also eliminates the need for many 2D viewers, document viewers and mark-up tools, every team member was immediately empowered with the same access to information that they would expect back at HQ – but on the beach.

This multi-party construction project was initiated in 2012 – before the BIM specification PAS 1192-2 came into effect and before PAS 1192-3 was even published.

There was a realisation that conforming to these proposed standards for BIM part-way through the project might cause some issues, but it had been identified at the outset that 3D modelling and information management would play a critical role in delivering the desired outcomes for the client and the community throughout the lifetime of the asset.

Carl Green, head of engineering services at Wyre Council, leads the programme. With more than 20 years’ experience in design, construction, operation and maintenance of major civil and coastal engineering projects, he recognised a number of key challenges early on. He chose Sitedesk to help explore and resolve many of them.

Lost and missing information

As project planning began it became apparent that some critical documents were missing, destroyed, damaged, thrown away or simply lost, which meant some expensive searches had to be undertaken. A significant amount of time, money and resource was expended simply relocating certain critical infrastructure which passes through the coastal defences.

Green explains: “The main issue is that the information in our archives isn’t complete. Some information had been lost, some had been borrowed over the years and not returned, and some wasn’t captured in the first place.”

Capturing reality

As with any construction project, identifying any areas of future risk or capturing specific details to help minimise operational expenditure and commercial risk was a vital part of augmenting the “as built” information provided by the contractor.

Future council officers and service providers would need to oversee, maintain and repair the resulting scheme, and that meant they would require easy access to information — not just about design but about resulting infrastructure.

“I was determined that the next generation of people who would be renewing the defences in 50 years’ time wouldn’t face the same challenges as my team,” says Green.

Information volumes

A project of such huge scale generates a huge volume of information. Left unmanaged it could quickly give rise to a similar future inability to find critical information when it was required. At the same time, there was recognition that capturing the right information, not just all information, would be a critical success factor.

This was particularly true with its complex workflows, where information would need to be captured in the right combinations and aligned with specific processes or compliance standards, to be of value.

Green comments: “The natural view of many in the team was to attempt to capture all the data possible. It quickly became clear that, on a project of this size, this approach would be unsuccessful due to the sheer volumes of data that could be generated.”

Site fluidity and expansion

The scale and location of the project’s construction sites meant that construction operatives were spread over a wide area with multiple workstreams being delivered concurrently in different locations.

The project work area primarily consisted of beaches where 3G and 4G telecom signals were unreliable and wi-fi non-existent. This created the need for site managers and project teams in the field to be equipped with tablet computers to capture and deliver the required information.

A solution for the long term

The Sitedesk consultancy team took on board all of the outlined challenges – but added a significant additional dimension. Via a workshop, it explored with Green and his team the real long-term aims and objectives. These were not simply to construct the defences but to minimise costs and risks over the entire lifetime of the assets, as well as to comply with BIM standards.

The team was very keen to gain one of the major benefits of BIM: a much clearer view of total expenditure. All councils will recognise that, left unchecked, the maintenance cost of assets only rises, eating away at precious budgets which are constantly under pressure from new needs and demands.

The scale and location of the project’s construction sites meant that construction operatives were spread over a wide area

The team defined its own data needs. Green explains: “We looked at our requirements during the pre-design, design, construction and operational phases and decided on the data we would need to capture at each stage to meet these and optimise asset management and minimise maintenance costs throughout the lifecycle of the project.

“We formalised this into a document to use as a template to ensure and verify that we captured the required information. What was most interesting was how different the new EIR was from our initial Employer’s Information Requirements document.”

Armed with a far clearer picture of the challenges it was setting out to resolve, the Sitedesk team supported the client to create simple, easy-to-use templates in the software’s workflow creator.

These would help all team members capture the right information, including pictures, video and audio, that could be attached to specific elements or areas of the scheme. This will enable future maintenance teams to zero in and locate the relevant location and element in a single click. It will allow them to work faster as well as provide the supporting documentation they will need at their fingertips.

Green said: “We are creating bespoke digital forms for each of these workflows, so we can automatically assign the work to a council officer or subcontractor with the correct information and drawings.”

With such a sizeable scheme it was critical that all information provided by the contractor could be validated while the project progressed.

The form-based approach provides an immediate validation mechanism to enable team leaders to verify progress during the build, enabling tighter expenditure control and risk management, and delivery of decision-making information in real time.

It also ensures greater data accuracy and quality and avoids a costly, less accurate and less reliable post-project validation process, says Green.

Sitedesk and Wyre came up with the idea together of overlaying the coastal defence scheme with a grid system to create a more granular way of attaching building information to the project. This allowed the project to be broken down into pieces that were manageable from a data capture and workflow management standpoint.

“The grid scheme has helped minimise errors by breaking a large scheme into understandable pieces which has helped make the evolution into BIM workflows far less challenging,” says Green.

Sitedesk software benefits to the programme include:

  • Project visibility and control for a wide variety of stakeholders.
  • Protectction against future document loss with digital data capture.
  • Manage and deliver complex workflows with custom forms and templates via in-built form creator. Automated risk control with contemporaneous notes.
  • Time and user-based task assignment
  • Validation of progress and expenditure in real time.
  • Appropriate user access to information – anytime, anywhere, via standard kit.
  • Delivery of the CAFM database and solution at the same time as the build Unlimited data type capture, even in the field — image, video, audio, spreadsheets, PDFs, MS Office, scanned paper, laser scans, 2D plans, 3D models.
  • Ease-of-use for all internal and external stakeholders and supply chains.

“This exercise made us think about and define our workflows, particularly in relation to planned maintenance schedules and how we cope with unexpected reactive maintenance,“ says Green.

Although the Sitedesk tool itself is intuitive to use and fast to learn, Sitedesk’s team also provided tailored training to help users recognise the importance of information capture and ensure that the transition into digital data capture quickly became a natural and time-saving part of each person’s role.

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