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3D models, drones, and IoT shape tunnel construction in Japan

AEC Excellence Awards // 2017

Image courtesy of Obayashi Corporation

As a country of islands, Japan is especially susceptible to the devastation of tsunamis. Because many areas are connected by a single road, there is a high risk of isolation during a disaster. A new highway was recently built to serve for additional transportation, including the construction of the 2,380-meter Mikusa tunnel on the Kinki Highway Kise Line.

Obayashi Corporation and ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation introduced the use of BIM for New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM) and the construction management of the tunnel project. By managing attributes with BIM and Excel, they created a tool that made it easy to add and delete attributes as well as store the data for future maintenance. Simultaneous visualization of NATM tunnel drilling, geology, layers, and image analysis were also achieved.

“This project was the first Japanese use of 3D models and attribution for construction management. The use of data and BIM made an incredible impact on the project.”

—Shinya Sugiura, Manager of Information Planning Section, Division Management Dept., Civil Engineering Division, Obayashi Corporation


Emerging technologies

The team took advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) to create the model automatically using IoT sensors for displacement measurement and information during the tunnel excavation. Because the vicinity of the tunnel was different from the topography used at the time of design, the team used UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to capture real-time data for a 3D model of the terrain. A robot with a diameter of 20 cm explored and acquired geological information and conditions, providing images of excavation ahead of time that were then compared with assumed geology during the design stage.


Image courtesy of Obayashi Corporation

Image courtesy of Obayashi Corporation

Less meeting time

By developing and using CIM-LINK, the team could easily share data and attributes during construction between the site and the head office. With this new collaboration, the team reduced the time for meetings and decisions. Documents, photos, videos, 3D objects, and attribute management all took place with CIM-LINK. Even with meetings between stakeholders in Tokyo, Osaka, and Wakayama, the time involved for conventional meetings and decision-making was reduced by 25%. By promoting the use of more efficient meetings throughout the project, the time spent was further reduced to 37%. Overall, the efficiency of the construction management was raised by 35%.

Benefits post-construction

With the project now complete and the road and tunnel in service, the BIM models created during the construction were used afterward, reducing the inspection work by 50% compared to confirmation with conventional drawings. As a result of this project and in order to accelerate the use of BIM for infrastructure projects in Japan, the infrastructure BIM introduction guidelines were established by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) in FY 2016 and included a chapter on the tunnel project.

Image courtesy of Obayashi Corporation

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