Increasing demand in the building and construction industry for digitally integrated design and execution requires the establishment of data environments. Processes and organizational measures must be established that support project execution, where data loss is avoided, the entire project life cycle is considered, and it can be monitored and analyzed directly from models. At the same time, customers and partners want to follow the project development to a greater extent on a transparent data platform using new forms of collaboration such as joint venture and client involvement. Added to this is the fact that automation is to a greater extent a crucial competitive parameter and an important factor in reaching project deadlines.
This article describes how a project can be established organizationally and digitally to achieve a high degree of collaboration across disciplines, companies, and software. It also describes some of the digital solutions that have been established. The Fornebubanen in Oslo, Norway is a multidisciplinary project with 52 disciplines and a construction budget of just over 1.6 billion euro. The goal is to have most information such as BoQ, commercial requirements, CO2 imprints, classification, operation and maintenance information linked directly to the models. These models are combined into several coordination models for holistic and multidisciplinary representation of the total digital project.
Processes, quality assurance, Integrated Concurrent Engineering (ICE) or simultaneous design, design reviews, tender documentation, and construction documentation are all based on the project's digital 3D information models. These collaboration models are produced as GIS models for overall understanding and as technical collaboration models for issue handling and technical assessments and communication.
The Project: Fornebubanen
Norway's Oslo municipality agency Fornebubanen (FOB) is about to add an extension to the metro system, creating a new tram line from Majorstuen to Fornebu. It will provide effective public transportation for inhabitants of the entire Oslo region.
Characteristics of this project are demanding ground conditions, construction completion with large construction pits in narrow urban areas, interface with existing metro / railway / tram, a complicated stakeholder picture and a formidable scope. This makes Fornebubanen one of the most challenging transportation projects in Norway in modern times.
Largest metro project in Oslo in 20 years
From city center to outer suburb in 12 minutes
First suggested 100 years ago
8.2 km tunnel
8 departures per hour
8,000 passengers per hour versus 3,000 today (bus)
Design-to-cost project; total cost US$1.8 billion | 1.6 billion euro | 16.2 billion NOK
To be completed in 2027
Builder: Etat Fornebubanen
The project Fornebubanen is owned by a collaboration between Oslo and Viken county municipality; Oslo municipality agency Fornebubanen (FOB).
Although Fornebubanen is a large infrastructure project, we say in short that it is “A building project with tunnels in between.” And really, our client is to build six stations with an 8.2 km tunnel, with technical infrastructure along its path.
Currently the path of the tunnel is underground and not straight in any direction, and is difficult to set due to demanding ground conditions and interfaces with existing trains, trams, and traffic. As long as the path is not completely set, the exact placement of several stations are still uncertain.
The six stations have different architects, and thereby unique expressions. They vary in size, shape, and function. The final station also functions as a maintenance base. The deepest station is Lysaker, 45 m underground.
The new metro line has complex technical interfaces both internally and externally.
Demanding ground conditions
The Fornebubanen project is just one of the larger infrastructure projects to be completed over the next few years in the same area.
Approximately 2 million cubic meters of rock, soil, and sludge is to be removed
Complex stakeholder structure
The scope is gigantic–it's a metro megaproject
To illustrate just how large this project is, here are some statistics from BIM 360:
26 official coordination models
2,075 discipline models
It would be really interesting to compare the chart above against file size, but unfortunately the document log function doesn't export file size.
Tip: For a quick overview on file statistics, use the Document Log functionality in BIM 360 as data set in Power BI.
For our data, we’ve used filters to sort out the desired information (i.e., the number of IFC files).
Common Data Environment
The adventure of finding the right platform.
Asking the Right Questions
Being an atypical infrastructure project with high ambitions in BIM delivery, it was decided at an early stage to “BIM-ify” as much as possible. That meant in practical terms using traditional infrastructure software like NovaPoint and Civil 3D as little as possible, as they lack the possibilities to customize the output the way we wanted to. So instead of seeing the project as a typical rail project, we viewed it as a series of buildings connected with tunnel segments. For building design, we mainly use Revit. So the initial idea was to do as much as possible in Revit. We quickly got some resistance due to available resources for the design group. When most discussions had landed, this was the result:
So, why all this focus on software early on? It is simply because the use of software is the key driver for how the digital collaboration can be executed. When choosing a platform for exchanging files, collaboration, and coordination, file types have to be taken into consideration. And along with that:
What is the best collaboration method for each software?
Where are the designers located (split-location or co-location)?
Is there one cloud solution that can handle it all?
Do we need multiple cloud solutions?
Do we also need a traditional file server?
What about office documents?
What about issue communication?
History, Experience, and Rules
The more comprehensive work for a common data environment (CDE) started at the beginning of detail design in December 2018 / January 2019. Previously we had completed tender design using BIM 360 Team (the version before 360 Docs + Design) for Revit models, Bentley ProjectWise for all common CAD files, SharePoint for all common documents, and a mix of company-specific file servers, C-drives, and personal OneDrives. We had to do something.
Being a joint venture of two companies and constantly having the need to work both co-located and split-located, BIM 360 Team enabled us to do just that. However, BIM 360 Team did not have sufficient permission and version management. Due to the vast amount of Revit and Civil 3D, going further with Autodesk Cloud was the obvious choice. That being said, we had a significant job in front of us.
The new solution BIM 360 Docs + Design was brand new. We had to move all our early design models from BIM 360 Team to BIM 360 Design, make up a reasonable folder structure and a thoughtful approach to permissions on a system we didn’t have knowledge about (or, at the point, didn’t know if we could fully trust). Nevertheless, we felt that we needed a big change, so we started to draft the ideal data flow, bringing all the software and file formats together.
This work resulted in the following rules:
No one is allowed to store anything locally (C-drive, OneDrive, etc.) or on a local company file server
Email should not include attachments, only link to source
We must be true to the project's defined data flow
Creation of Common Data Environment
Based on the rules above, we took action. We decided to discontinue:
Emails with attachments
Local file servers on separate companies LAN
Bentley ProjectWise for CAD files
BIM 360 Team
We decided to add:
BIM 360 Docs
BIM 360 Design
BIM 360 Sync
SharePoint website (Project Information Portal)
We decided to continue using:
SharePoint as document portal (later transferred to Trimble NovaPoint Quadri as cloud service for Rail, Road, and Sewer)
Office 365 / Teams
Those changes were in fact the creation of our common data environment.
BIM 360 Folders and Permissions
In January 2019, the BIM team, or digital collaboration team as we call it, gathered in a meeting room with two major tasks to solve (below). We had limited time, as the rest of the design team was eager to get started, but they had no formal guidelines regarding:
Where to save what?
Who should be able to change what (view, upload, edit, delete)?
The team responsible for carrying out those tasks had never before:
Used the chosen cloud service
Been in a project so large and complex
The pressure was on...
Luckily our most strategic member (Magnus Christensen) was quickly able to present the main flow as a mind map, which in turn would set the guide lines for how the folder structure would look like.
Based on the map above, the main pieces of the folder structure were formed.
But given that, in reality, there were seven projects in one project, the arrangement of the subfolders was a more thorough discussion. Questions that were raised included:
Order subfolders by disciplines? Type of construction? Area?
In this process, we tried to predict the most efficient way to work and for the designers in each station to find the available files easily.
And there it was! We had to treat the project as seven separate projects and reflect that in the subfolders. Our conclusion was that this breakdown would benefit the project most. So the hierarchy below each main folder became:
Once the folders where in place, there was time to make it work, hence setting permissions.
We knew that there was a need for strict permission control for the project. PGF, the engineering team itself, is a collaboration between eight companies: COWI, Multiconsult, Future technology, Johs Holt, Scan Survey, Nordic Infra, Jotne, and LINK Architecture. Our client is FOB (Etat Fornebubanen) and the metro infrastructure owner is Sporveien. Add to that five different architecture groups (nine companies) and 10 different external stakeholders.
The first thing we had to figure out was how to collaborate internally in PGF and which permissions are needed to make it work. Engaging model resources using Revit was important to get started. Then we had to look into the design model delivery folder, hosting all the exported files from all software. As the scope of permission settings expanded, we saw that we needed an overview, and an Excel sheet was created to keep track.
After some trial and error, we found that the best way to control permission settings involved the following:
1. Add permissions per company
2. Start with the most limited permissions possible for the top folder, then expand further down on subfolders, as needed for that company or role
3. Limit the use of roles
4. Limit the number of admins
It is important to know that permission settings in BIM 360 Docs is applicable for BIM 360 Design (that is, access and permission when using Revit cloud models). A Revit user needs View + Download + Upload + Edit as permissions for the folder where the Revit file is, in order to make design changes.
Tip: New users often get confused by the version and Last Updated version of the Revit file when viewing in BIM 360 Docs. This is simply because BIM 360 Design is in another cloud, only accessible through Revit. The Last Updated in BIM 360 Docs reflect the last time the Revit model was published from Revit to BIM 360 Docs.
Since the BIM 360 Docs + Design was so new to us and the organization so complex, we didn't dare use the Design Collaboration module in BIM 360. Hence we don’t have the 'shared' and 'consumed' folders. We “live link” Revit to Revit and the other we just link from the delivery folder. We do have a system for element status in the model. This clarifies the model maturity so each discipline can see the model maturity of the linked models. This system reduces the need for shared and consumed packages.
BIM Strategies and Processes
With an organization of over 400 people and about 80 designers (those who model), it's clearly not enough just having a common data environment. Every client demand, internal and external processes, and data flow has to be written down in a series of documents that belong to a certain hierarchy.
Not only does it have to be written down, it also needs to be validated and approved both internally and externally and then repeated again and again in order to make everyone in the project aware that these are important documents. Why? Because they ultimately describe our final product, the building information model, which is the subject for design optimization, analysis, 4D, 5D, construction, and facility management. Despite all of this, you will likely encounter a challenge getting everyone on board and taking it seriously.
Client Demands: BIM Strategy
The ambitious goals and requirements for this model-centric approach are written by our client in the BIM strategy document. Let’s look at some highlights from that document:
“BIM is the key information element in our collaboration.”
“In this project, the client wants to contribute to the industry development in a digital perspective, including developing new products and improving processes using BIM and other technological tools.”
“The BIM model shall be adapted for ongoing updates of data to calculations for construction costs."
“A link between the construction schedule and the model shall be used to perform build-ability analyses of the construction phase and for visual communication with stakeholders.”
“The source of information must be gathered in one central database.”
“The use of drawings must be reduced to an absolute minimum for all phases of the project and also towards approval authorities.”
“Information from the construction site to the BIM model must be continuously returned.”
“The public must be informed about relevant project information in the project's GIS portal.”
“The experience of the digital project can easily be conveyed through different types of visualizations, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and gaming technology.”
BIM Execution Plan
The BIM Execution Plan (BEP) describes in a general manner how the demands in the BIM strategy are to be carried out. There is one BEP for the design and several BEPs for each construction contract, and a third BEP for the operational phase.
BIM Execution Plan for Design
The purpose of this document is to specify at a general level (not software-specific) what is stipulated in the BIM strategy. In addition, a separate "BIM implementation plan for construction" and "BIM implementation plan for handover to operation" have been prepared jointly with Sporveien.
Further on, the document describes the BIM organization and connected support functions. It briefly describes all the BIM-related roles in the project and points to all relevant documents in the operational segment of the BIM framework.
The document points out the need for a “last planner” approach, ICE sessions, and thus the need for a work breakdown structure. All of this is covered in the the design team Project Execution Model document. BEP for design also gives an introduction to the CDE, software in use, and other services connected to BIM.
Important parts of the document include defining:
Project Status System for model elements
Properties and property sets on model elements
Classifications of BIM elements
These topics are covered in more detail in the Digital Production Manual (DPM).
BIM Execution Plan for Construction
This document describes for the contractor (in each contract) how BIM is used during construction, instead of traditional drawings. It also sets demands and requirements for the contractor regarding BIM knowledge, survey data, and how to collect and deliver as-built data back to the design team.
BIM Execution Plan for Handover and Operation
This document is created, but we are expecting adjustments in the coming years. We would like to prepare our BIM as early as possible for demands and requirements regarding this phase.
Digital Production Manual
The Digital Production Manual, or digital design manual, is a thorough and specific document that goes into detail on all BIM requirements, yet it is not software-specific. Software-specific procedures are created as separate documents for each topic.
The Greater Purpose of Metadata
Besides the actual model geometry, the importance of the 'I' in BIM cannot be emphasized enough. The information in the BIM is used in different purposes in all phases of the project.
Model Maturity Communication through Element Status
Communication of model maturity is key to inform all others how far each model element has come in the design process. In this project, we use element status. The definition (and color coding) of element status is described in the Project Execution Model (PEM). Color coding is visualized in specific views by filtering in the model software and in the coordination software.
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Cecilie Irgens is an electrical engineer with a master's degree in Organization and Management. She had her first encounter with BIM in 2007. She brings project experience with technical know-how after 14 years in construction as an advisor in the fields of electrical engineering, BIM management, and software development. She loves to explore new tools and learn how to work smarter with the right methodology. Cecilie is specially focused on collaboration and what really works out there. Since January 2020, she has led the Digital Collaboration team.
Magne Ganz has a master's degree in Structural Engineering and since 2006 has had a strong focus on BIM and connected technologies. Revit, Dynamo, data flow, and task automation are his passions. Being in the industry for 18 years and working with VDC and BIM for the last nine years gives Magne the perfect background for contributing to the digital collaboration and BIM-based approach for this metro megaproject.
Increasing demand for digitally integrated design and execution in the building and construction industry places great demands on the establishment of data environments. Processes and organizational measures must be established that support project execution, where data loss is avoided, where the entire project lifecycle is considered, and where it can be monitored and analyzed directly from models. At the same time, customers and partners want to follow the project development to a greater...