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WSP embraces BIM to deliver one of London’s smartest office buildings


For the JJ Mack Building, embracing digital construction from the outset streamlined construction and delivered a sustainable office space that anticipates and responds to the needs of its users.

Named after the grocer whose store once stood on the site at 33 Charterhouse Street, The JJ Mack Building offers 200,000 sq ft of office space over 10 floors. It also includes a basement, lower ground mezzanine and ground-floor retail spaces. Advanced technology has helped the building achieve BREEAM Outstanding – the highest-possible rating, with digital construction driving the project from inception to completion.

For this building, consultant WSP, developer Helical and contractor Mace have revolutionised conventional project and asset management by creating a foundational dataset and committing to coordinated design at every stage of delivery and operation. They have brought to life the concepts of digital twins first tabled by the Centre of Digital Built Britain, underpinned by using the UK BIM Framework and ISO 19650 during design and delivery.

Understanding the need for structured data

The automated data collection that powers the heart of a smart building is often only addressed towards the end of the design process. For the JJ Mack Building, the team built it into their process from the start – creating a BIM model that could facilitate digital construction and transition smoothly to become an operational ‘brain’ for the building.

WSP brought experience in design, sustainability and advanced digital technology in construction to the project. It drew on this to manage the BIM process and the transfer of BIM information and data into a digital twin – a virtual representation that serves as the real-time digital counterpart of the physical building.

Starting with the facilities management and building monitoring requirements, WSP created client-side BIM documentation to establish the asset tags, data structure and BIM processes. Crucially, they included data fields specific to the digital twin and created a plan to include that data in the virtual model of the building through the design and construction process.

Working remotely during Covid-19

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck during the construction process, digital technology rose to the challenge. It enabled the site management team to plan for the number of people required on site, while staying fully informed and in control, through web-enabled tools.

For example, WSP’s highly detailed 4D simulations used the construction programme and the asset tags of each component to locate exactly where and when each offsite-manufactured MEP module was to be installed. This approach shaved 14 weeks off the programme. It also helped to ensure that, despite the challenges of the pandemic, the building was still completed within the original budget and timescale.

In addition, all components could be tracked and inspected for quality compliance. This was particularly helpful during lockdowns when resources for manual checking were limited.

Empowering building users

The BIM models form the backbone of the operational digital twin used to empower building users and for ongoing maintenance and asset management.

WSP established and led the governance and standardisation required to ensure data was transferred seamlessly from the construction phase models to the active operational twin. Because the data was designed with the digital twin in mind from the outset, it did not need to be reformatted to transfer to operational use. This greatly simplified the creation of the operational twin, which is connected to wireless and other Internet of Things sensors and smart systems in the building.

“Building users can download an app to control all the features in the building – lighting, climate control, access control, booking meeting rooms, calling lifts and more,” explains Jamie Hunt, digital construction consultant at WSP. “This gives them much more control over their working environment and sets a benchmark for other developers in using advanced technology to enhance people’s experience of a building.”

At the same time, the digital twin collects data on the building’s temperature and air quality, which provides real-time statistics on building performance. Users can then be encouraged to adapt their behaviours to reduce energy use, with suggested actions, such as adjusting temperature and lighting levels as occupancy and weather changes through the day, delivered to them in real-time. This helps the building owner to improve occupiers’ experience and reduce energy use by running systems at optimum efficiency. 

While users and operators can take proactive measures to optimise building performance and address challenges promptly, real-time feedback also informs the building’s maintenance and management. When the building eventually reaches the end of its life, a digital legacy includes details of component parts, making it easier to reuse and recycle these parts into a new building.

An industry game changer

The BIM process for the JJ Mack Building won SECBE’s Digital Construction Project of the Year in 2021. It points the way forward for the industry as the holding and tracking of data will inform the operation of buildings particularly with development of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

WSP’s digital construction specialists are working on further developments following this successful playbook. They are also collaborating with industry partners, policymakers, and stakeholders to drive adoption of this technology on a broader scale.

“The JJ Mack Building collaboration with the WSP digital team was built upon a previous success story which allowed the team to explore the boundaries and possibilities of the strategy and output for the project from a place of experience and innovation” said Maria Asenjo, associate director at Mace. “We must also mention that the JJ Mack Building was designed and delivered during covid times, which added challenges of course, but also digital opportunities which WSP and Mace embraced.

“We are now embarking on the fourth collaboration with the WSP digital team, allowing us to innovate in the world of compliance and proving once more that we can continue to build on the achievements and experience of the teams and projects.”

By advocating for its benefits and sharing what they have learned, the digital construction experts at WSP aim to create a shift in the way buildings are conceived, constructed, and managed. Their ambition: to see this approach become the new industry standard, setting a precedent for intelligent, sustainable buildings worldwide.

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