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AEC Excellence Awards 2020

Meet the Innovator of the Year: Wajdi Mereb

Chief Specialist at RTA

A Champion of BIM Strategy and Implementation for Digital Transformation

As this year’s Innovator of the Year for the AEC Excellence Awards 2020, Wajdi Mereb clearly demonstrates how a commitment to BIM makes the difference. Leading a digital transformation at Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Mereb is driving the organization to become a fully intelligent, integrated data-driven asset owner and building an ecosystem to deliver smart and agile transportation solutions.

Getting started with BIM

Five years ago, when Wajdi Mereb joined the governmental Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Dubai’s transportation projects were still being designed in two dimensions.

The move to three-dimensional modeling in BIM was imperative. After studying architecture, earning his master’s degree with a thesis on BIM implementation quality assurance/quality control in construction, and working as a BIM manager on large projects for an infrastructure team, Mereb proved to be an ideal champion for the strategy.

Courtesy of RTA

“The idea of using BIM isn’t always an easy decision when it’s a large, government entity,” Mereb says. “RTA set out a strategic road map to see how BIM technology could help us. During the implementation we set certain KPIs to check if we were receiving the benefits. From there, we could begin to standardize more and more.”

Today, Mereb is the Chief Specialist for the assets department at RTA. He’s responsible for objectives that led to the first BIM Level 2 compliance protocol in the Middle East, and enabled RTA to become the first organization to achieve the BSI kitemark certifications “PAS 1192-2,3,5” & ISO 19650 worldwide. The RTA team has also set up the first “BIM Center” for training and collaboration in the region.

Courtesy of RTA

He has made exceptional efforts to facilitate change within RTA toward a full commitment to digital transformation and adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution concepts. Driving support for the digital twin ecosystem and maturity has also enabled structured asset optimization for complete and reliable oversight and transparency in an accessible, traceable, modifiable, and configurable style.

An ambitious infrastructure project takes ambitious plans

Over the past five years, Mereb’s BIM leadership and vision have truly been on display through the Route 2020 project. The new, multi-billion railway extension connects to the world exhibition event Expo 2021 and will serve hundreds of thousands of commuters every day.

Courtesy of RTA

This massive project provided the opportunity to take full advantage of BIM and real-time collaboration and coordination processes as well as support the implementation of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. This included digital site inspections performed with AI and scan-to-BIM; federated 3D models supporting successful VR/AR integration with CDE and CMMS; and accessing reliable data via BIM-GIS interoperability and integration into workflows with ArcGIS.

And the results are definitely in the numbers:

  • 18% ROI
  • 30% reduction in data exchange efforts
  • 95% clash-free, multi-disciplinary models
  • 30% reduction in decision-making time
  • 40% less time of generating material take-offs
  • 30% decrease in shop drawing submission time
  • 20% reduction in risk and mitigation process
  • 25% improvement in productivity and efficiency during construction sequence

RTA is a regional benchmark for other entities. It has led to a market and culture change as far as digital transformation phenomena is concerned because we are looking at the full picture of the asset—not just the design, construction, or handover. It’s all about the full lifecycle. At the end of the day, we are the asset owner who will manage it from concept to operations and even disposal. With BIM, we have all the data we will need.

Wajdi Mereb, 2020 Innovator of the Year, Chief Specialist at RTA

Looking toward the future

Over his 15-year career, Mereb has seen the transformative possibilities of BIM as the AEC industry embraces technology. He sees more and more people inquiring about how to use it and take advantage of the success RTA is finding. Looking forward, he anticipates this happening even more quickly during the pandemic.

Courtesy of RTA

“COVID is devastating, but it has accelerated digital transformation in AEC,” Mereb says. “Our team could still work from home and we didn’t have any setbacks. I think many people in the industry were afraid before of using some solutions such as the cloud-based platforms. But, because of the pandemic, many organizations know there isn’t any other choice but to move forward and keep doing their jobs.

“I think in five years we will see more and more adaptation of Fourth Industrial Revolution solutions,” he continues. “We will also see more integration and collaboration between different stakeholders. And I know we can all move toward delivering smarter and more agile transport solutions.”

Meet the world-changing 2020 AEC Excellence Awards winners

From world firsts to visionary concepts, this is the vanguard of the future.