CASE STUDY: STI Engineering
Stefano Massarino, CEO and Chairman, STI Engineering.
Credits: images courtesy of Vetropack
STI Engineering offers multidisciplinary engineering and consulting services in the field of civil construction and industrial plants (STI stands for Soluzioni Tecnologiche Integrate [Integrated Technological Solutions]).
STI Engineering’s services aim to support the customer in transforming their ideas and requirements into complete and functioning projects. STI Engineering has now added digital tools and skills to a consolidated set of services ranging from varying degrees of in-depth design (from feasibility studies to construction drawings) to the management of construction activities (Project and Construction Management). These tools and skills allow STI Engineering to significantly improve the quality of what it provides and to present an innovative range of latest-generation digital services to the market.
Credits: images courtesy of Vetropack
STI was created over 30 years ago with the idea of building a company that could support its customers with multidisciplinary technical services. Today, STI is an international company that is part of the holding company STI Corporate S.p.A. and is operational across different continents through eight engineering companies (present in Italy, Russia, Slovenia, Oman, Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina and the USA), 12 offices and over 350 engineers.
STI, which operates through four different business lines (Building, Industrial, Energy & Chemicals, Marine), has always considered its ability to pool experiences gained across markedly different sectors as one of its strengths. Thanks to the trust shown by its customers (which include leading world players in the various sectors in which it operates) and to the complexity of the projects carried out, STI Engineering has been able to fully test and implement the collaborative and management approach based on BIM tools.
Innovation and digitization have always formed part of STI Engineering’s DNA. “We started writing code in the world of automation and consider ourselves pioneers in parametric modeling and computerized management of design processes,” says Stefano Massarino, who today is CEO and Chairman of the company. “Our experience in the petrochemical sector, a cutting-edge field in the early 2000s, has enabled us to acquire digital skills that we have applied to the world of civil and industrial construction.”
It was clear from the outset that the greatest limitation of parametric models was the difficulty in making the vast amount of data collected within each object available and easily shareable.
Despite the technology available not yet being fully developed, STI had the clear objective of finding a way to share the data present in a three-dimensional model between the disciplines involved, directly in their original form and without using traditional, and clearly outdated, 2D drawings. Spurred on by this belief, STI invested in research and development and developed digital prototypes which allowed its customers to experience navigating and interacting with 3D models through rudimentary immersive systems.
“We closely followed the evolution of the market,” says Mr. Massarino, “and we were able to identify the companies interested in applying fully digital solutions in the monitoring and control of construction activities and investment management. The opportunity presented itself and drove a qualitative leap with the choice of BIM as a multidisciplinary and multidimensional operating environment, used to refine the Digital Construction Management and Digital Project Management services, which are STI’s flagship services.”
The integration of Autodesk’s Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection was the natural evolution of this process and provided STI with a BIM platform supported by a cloud-based common data environment in which to develop projects effectively, from the initial stages to the execution model.
STI Engineering’s experience with Autodesk’s AEC Collection includes the
construction of the new production plant for Vetropack – one of
Europe’s leading manufacturers of glass packaging for the food and
beverage industry – in Boffalora sopra Ticino (MI), which demonstrates a
multidisciplinary professional company that has made BIM, understood as
a smart, functional, simplified and sustainable unified design process,
into an operating standard, tailored for organizational processes.
The task of designing the new Italian headquarters for Vetropack was commissioned in 2018 by GSE Italia, the Italian branch of the French general contractor specializing in the logistics, industry and tertiary sectors. “This is one of the largest plants built in Italy in recent years: a production site covering an area of 347 thousand m2, about half of which assigned to construction,” explains Valentina Guagenti, Branch Manager Milan. The project required development, from the preliminary stages to execution, in all the necessary components and encompassing all buildings/areas of the site (production, storage, warehouse, technical rooms, offices, laboratories, and external and perimeter areas), in which the AEC Collection suite of tools was crucial.
“Architectural, structural, electrical and plant models for each area were prepared using Autodesk Revit,” says Umberto Beneventano, BIM Manager. “The models were then combined with Autodesk Navisworks, which enabled us to check for interference through immersive reality technologies which made a difference to the interdisciplinary control operations of such complex designs.” Thanks to the functionality offered by parametric modeling, all disciplines can work simultaneously on a single multidimensional environment.
The architectural project developed by A2N Studio Associato Architetti thus came to fruition hand in hand with other disciplines, starting with HVAC and MEP systems. “The routing of the hydronic and discharge systems was subject to continuous adjustment,” says Federica Crivelli, HVAC Engineer. “Using Revit, our model automatically adapted to the changes made and each discipline could always work with the most up-to-date version of the project.”
This is also an essential feature for the structural component. “The use of BIM tools has allowed us to constantly update the structural elements based on the loads provided by process engineering,” explains Marco Scattareggia, Structural BIM Engineer. “Consequently, we were asked to revise the size of the structure, something which would have been unthinkable with a traditional approach.”
Credits: images courtesy of Vetropack
Using Autodesk’s AEC Collection tools has made a single platform for modeling and managing the different disciplines available to all teams involved in the design of the new Vetropack plant. Collaboration between multiple people working simultaneously on different areas of the project is a new approach to design. And that’s not all. A substantial part of the model was developed remotely during the toughest period of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Remotely managing such a large amount of modeling for such an extensive site from multiple domestic locations would have been very complicated – if not impossible – during the lockdown, without a single data exchange environment such as Revit,” says Mr. Beneventano.
But, even under normal conditions, even the largest components of a project can change if requested by the customer. “Some changes to the architectural model involved plant distribution and adaptation of structural choices,” continues Mr. Beneventano. “Using software such as Revit, which provides a single and shared platform, allows us to make comparisons in real time and provide responses quickly.”
There are also benefits in terms of sustainability. “Having a model that is shared between the various disciplines makes it possible to streamline systems, thus avoiding oversizing the components connected to them and providing both economic and energy savings,” says Ms. Crivelli. A separate article talks about using Revit to calculate the metric estimate of materials and the time savings that digitization of a process like this entails. “Several variations have been made during the two and a half years we have been working on the Vetropack project,” says Mr. Beneventano. “Revit has enabled us to keep our contractor and the end customer constantly updated on costs and quantities.”
Navisworks has also been instrumental in managing and coordinating combined models, a function that is already enabling immersive VR tools to be used in other projects for a more detailed analysis across all disciplines – including with partners and customers – and to resolve issues early. “A natural evolution of design with BIM methodology within STI Engineering involves the use of augmented reality,” says Mr. Beneventano. “This, applied thanks to the use of Navisworks and related plug-ins, allows us to monitor any discrepancies between digital and physical in order to update the model, apply additional data and obtain the as-built digital twin of what has been created.”
The experience gained through such a complex project allows STI Engineering to look to the future even more ambitiously. “Data management is the next level in construction digitization,” says Mr. Beneventano. “The information collected during design and corrected on-site can open up new business scenarios in the management of what we build. This is the direction the future is taking us.”
And GSE’s opinion aligns with the success of this experience. “We are pleased with the work carried out with STI Engineering on such an important project as the construction of the new Vetropack production plant,” says Valentino Chiarparin, Country Manager GSE Italia. “A shared vision for a fruitful collaboration that has allowed us to achieve the objectives set.”