Balfour Beatty's £2m Innovate UK-funded project to create a BIM simulation tool along with a suite of three apps using “big data” analytics is preparing to kick off in January.
The contractor, whose recent project wins include the Dundee Station redevelopment (pictured above), was awarded a £1.1m grant for the two-year project from Innovate UK earlier this year as part of the latter's Digitising the Construction Sector funding competition.
The simulation tool will create a platform for contractors to simulate and benchmark their real-life construction delivery processes, comparing different construction techniques, materials, plant and equipment and personnel.
Mark Wray, Innovate UK’s lead technologist for its low impact building innovation platform, told BIM+: “Contractors will be able to use this tool to optimise the delivery of work in a totally simulated environment. The value is in the ability to rehearse the process before getting to site. This is especially useful for transport and logistics.”
The project received funding due to a convincing business case, says Wray: “This was one of the only funding applications that took a holistic view of the the wider spectrum of the site. It has a very compelling business case, which is why we gave it funding. It addresses both productivity and profitability.”
Alongside the simulation tool, Balfour Beatty intends to develop three apps.
Peter Trebilcock, director of BIM at Balfour Beatty, explained to BIM + that the project has four main objectives:
- To develop a desktop/laptop holistic BIM simulation tool that will enable simulation, visualization and creation of an optimised construction delivery model.
- To develop a mobile application for onsite visualisation, and enable onsite workers to have access to the right information and at the right time to better manage their tasks
- To develop a mobile application for project administration that will help Balfour Beatty manage payments, insurance, risks and contract documents, virtually along with the optimised BIM model.
- To develop a mobile application for onsite updates of the construction BIM model and alert relevant stakeholders on work in progress.
Asked why the construction industry needs this tool and suite of apps, Trebilcock said that “existing BIM tools are not doing enough to tackle these operational inefficiencies, and with a focus on collaboration and better design and build integration within the UK. This project looks to fill a gap required by design and build contractors.”
He explained that the project team will comprise representatives from across a number of Balfour Beatty special delivery units (SBUs) supported by an “innovation network” of contribution champions and subject matter leads.
“I see mobile platforms as having increasing value across our construction activities. Mobile devices using Autodesk Field 360 are the default across all our projects in the USA,” said Trebilcock.
He added that the new system would be used alongside other proprietary platforms, such as GPS software. “We are also utilising it in the UK alongside other platforms where necessary. But the new tools would also provide apps for site diaries, safety reports and daily activity reports, and for providing data to senior management across projects and the supply chain.”
I see mobile platforms as having increasing value across our construction activities. Mobile devices using Autodesk Field 360 are the default across all our projects in the USA.– Peter Trebilcock, director of BIM, Balfour Beatty