A green BIM process shapes construction of iconic sports venue in China

In Chengdu, China, an innovative arena is going up on time and on budget thanks to a well-coordinated, eco-friendly BIM process.

Phoenix Mountain Sports Park

Betty Wang

April 6, 2021

min read
  • A multisport arena in Chengdu, China, is being built with a strong commitment to green techniques.

  • Phoenix Mountain Sports Park is using BIM (Building Information Modeling) to coordinate collaboration and address design challenges.

  • The project also employs virtual and augmented reality, visualization, drones, and sensors to improve lean construction practices.

model of building structure and MEP curtain of Phoenix Sports Arena
Chengdu's Phoenix Mountain Sports Park, a renowned venue for international sporting events, prioritizes green-building techniques and utilizes BIM for collaborative construction, earning recognition and awards for its innovative approach. Image courtesy of China Construction Eighth Engineering Division Corp. Ltd.

In recent years, huge sporting events such as the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup have ignited a fitness boom across China, driving the country’s overall sports development. High-profile venues are springing up around the country in picturesque city landscapes. One highlight is the Phoenix Mountain Sports Park in Sichuan’s provincial capital, Chengdu, the “Land of Abundance.” The Chengdu municipal government’s mission is to speed the city’s urban development and make the city a renowned host for international events.

Phoenix Mountain Sports Park, set for completion in July 2021, will be the main venue for the 2021 Chengdu 31st Summer Universiade (FISU World University Games) and a primary venue for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

China Construction Eighth Engineering Division Corp. Ltd. (CCEED) is leading construction for the venue, with a strong commitment to green-building techniques. Despite many technical challenges, the team is using BIM (Building Information Modeling) to facilitate close collaboration during the building process.

The Phoenix park won first place in the Construction—Large Project category of the 2020 AEC Excellence Awards, from a field of more than 260 entries from 35 countries. Due to the project’s innovative building techniques, 21 patents have already been granted, with 17 more pending. The project has had 36 papers published about it and has garnered three provincial-level construction-method awards from Sichuan Province.

Scaling new heights through engineering

Model of construction site on tablet
Phoenix Mountain Sports Park overcomes construction challenges with the use of BIM, 3D scanning, and smart construction technology, ensuring efficient and safe practices for the innovative membrane structures. Image courtesy of China Construction Eighth Engineering Division Corp. Ltd.

With a planned total floor area of approximately 456,000 square meters, Phoenix Mountain Sports Park comprises a 60,000-seat, FIFA-standard stadium for professional soccer; an 18,000-seat NBA-standard arena; green landscaping; and a supporting commercial complex. Upon completion, the site will host top international sporting events and domestic leagues—and provide an exemplary model for modern sports arenas in urban park settings.

The professional soccer stadium will have a futuristic, high-tech membrane structure; its massive, sunflower-shape cable-dome roof is a global first. The single-layer ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a fluorine-based plastic) membrane structure is also the largest of its kind, reaching 25,000 square meters when fully unfolded.

These designs have presented enormous challenges to the construction team. According to Qin Zhang, BIM director at CCEED Southwest China Branch, building the membrane structure’s dome roof was a highly technical process, a first for the team. There were no precedents for the steel-grid structure and massive, open cable dome, within or outside China. Without relevant construction experience to draw on from completed stadium projects, the construction has been fraught with difficulties and unpredictability.

The CCEED team researched dozens of technologies to address these challenges. Using BIM, 3D scanning, and smart construction technology has helped ensure lean and safe practices when building the membrane structure. Planning was optimized via strict monitoring to improve construction quality and shorten lead times.

BIM process used across design, fabrication, construction

The project’s engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract presented many challenges to the design, fabrication, and construction teams, including close collaboration requirements, short schedules, and tight budgets. Despite these challenges, the BIM process has been used successfully throughout the project lifecycle to facilitate efficient collaboration between teams.

The construction contractor’s design-management team intervened early in the design process, using BIM and green-analysis software to help designers improve quality and practices. This process has played a crucial role in reducing time and costs for the project. The team used BIM to previsualize, simulate, and analyze the fabrication process digitally before starting physical fabrication. Every stakeholder viewed models and relevant information throughout the project.

The design team used Autodesk Revit and Navisworks to coordinate and integrate multidisciplinary designs, connect design and construction, optimize architectural renderings and construction methods, and resolve construction technology and management issues. The lead time has already been shortened by 132 days, cutting building costs by more than $15 million.

Advanced technologies help construction stay lean

Model of engine room
The Phoenix Mountain Sports Park project implements advanced building technologies like BIM, virtual reality, drones, and sensors to enhance lean practices, streamline processes, and improve collaboration. Image courtesy of China Construction Eighth Engineering Division Corp. Ltd.

In addition to implementing BIM throughout the lifecycle, the Phoenix project used advanced building technologies—such as virtual reality, augmented reality, visualization, 720-degree panoramas, sensors, drones, GPS positioning, and GIS—to improve lean practices in the construction process. “A lot of cutting-edge technology has been incorporated in the Phoenix Mountain Sports Park project from the beginning, from design to the construction phase,” Zhang says.

The team used Autodesk Dynamo to automatically generate templates matching the curved spectator stands, which saved time on manual measurement and calculation. Real-time, artificial intelligence–powered drone monitoring helped ensure safety and controllability in the construction processes. And with 180-degree holographic projections and real-time sensor-data collection, various stakeholders could interact and cooperate on critical solutions, maximize efficiency, and reduce safety risks.

Building green for better user experience

Image of intelligent model
Intelligent models are used to guide assembly on-site. Image courtesy of China Construction Eighth Engineering Division Corp. Ltd. 

The Chengdu Phoenix Mountain Sports Park project presents a sustainable green building model for future venues. Interactions between the buildings and the surrounding environment have been fully considered throughout the construction process, with the goal of ensuring the best possible user experience under natural conditions throughout the year.

The construction team used green-building-analysis software to optimize natural ventilation, daylighting, building acoustics, and line-of-sight effects. The team analyzed the temperature, air distribution, and thermal comfort in winter and summer, then continuously optimized the design based on the simulation results.

Image of construction happening on-site
The success of BIM in the Phoenix Mountain Sports Park project is expected to drive industry-wide adoption, promising economic and social benefits for owners and contractors in future construction endeavors. Image courtesy of China Construction Eighth Engineering Division Corp. Ltd.

Zhang says that BIM was key to this massive undertaking: “It’s the goal-driven use of BIM that makes it so effective. The connectivity of BIM throughout the project lifecycle provides unlimited benefits and brings about a new industry ecosystem.”

When similar buildings are constructed in the future, Zhang believes that this project’s success—and the experience drawn from it—will help drive the industry to use BIM throughout the project lifecycle, promising economic and social benefits to owners and contractors.

Betty Wang

About Betty Wang

Betty Wang is a freelance writer who focuses on technology trends. She specializes in writing stories on technology innovations with rich cultural significance. Her extensive professional experience in technology consulting over the years has given her a deep knowledge and understanding of architecture, software, hardware, and data centers. Wang holds a degree in international journalism from the University of Sheffield, where she developed a forward-looking journalism vision and a unique cultural perspective.

Recommended for you