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Modular design with BIM drives massive expansion of hospital

AEC Excellence Awards // 2018

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Image courtesy of Nordic—Office of Architecture

Nordic—Office of Architecture in collaboration with COWI streamlines design and construction with DfMA

An expansion of Norway’s Stavanger University Hospital, scheduled to open in 2023, posed unique challenges for Nordic—Office of Architecture. With 650 patient rooms and 100,000 square meters of floor space enclosed in 4 buildings connected by a ring of glass bridges, the project’s size alone posed its own challenges. To aid with inpatient recovery, design requirements included an emphasis on using natural light and on establishing the building’s connection to nature.

The client also wanted a high degree of standardization in building elements to enable flexibility, patient safety, and adaptability. Finally, the project team—comprised of 2 architecture firms, 2 structural-engineering firms, MEP teams, and specialist consultants for fire and acoustic—were spread across Norway, so driving efficient effective communication and collaboration was essential.

Nordic needed to take a far more modular approach to design and construction than in the past if it was to build the project on time, on budget, and to the client’s design requirements. Specific project goals included eliminating workflow redundancies, incorporating automation, improving collaboration and information sharing across disciplines, and ensuring an information-rich, modularized approach across the project lifecycle. To streamline workflows and keep the large project team in sync, Nordic needed the right digital collaboration and modeling tools. Nordic also adopted a design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA) approach to the project, reducing the time needed to design building modules and identify and resolve design clashes.

“The Stavanger University Hospital project highlights the value of using BIM from design to planning and construction, and shows how BIM enables a modular approach resulting in the delivery of high-quality buildings on time and under budget.”

—Johannes Eggen, Principal Partner, Nordic—Office of Architecture


BIM across the board

Nordic embraced BIM (Building Information Modeling) in order to meet the project’s goals. The firm uses BIM in every project and at every scale, but never before so comprehensively or digitalized in a modularized project across the entire project lifecycle. For the Stavanger University Hospital, it has taken a new, cross-disciplinary approach, with at least one BIM-savvy member per discipline on teams responsible for various building elements. Its MEP engineers developed a Dynamo script with an interface for a “coordination tool” that let them carefully control both design duplication and prefabrication, right within the overall project environment. In addition, the team used Autodesk® BIM 360® to communicate and coordinate for module placement and parameters.

In the early phases of the project, stakeholders relied on a 3D model and cloud rendering from Autodesk software including Autodesk Revit® building design software for daily team meetings, project management, and design work. The ability to view and collaborate in the model—enabled by Autodesk software—has improved communication and collaboration, data management, and cross disciplinary workflows. The owner can also edit area and room layout, furniture, and functional information right in the intelligent model. Using virtual reality, the client can do extensive virtual walkthroughs of the model.

Image courtesy of Nordic—Office of Architecture

BIM has also enabled wind analysis to prevent wind-tunnel effects in the finished project’s central courtyard, as well as daylight and shade analysis to ensure the inclusion of the right types of glass in the facade. In the current project stage, Autodesk software, including a Dynamo scripted coordination tool and BIM 360, are helping Nordic gain visibility into, streamline, and ensure the quality of construction sequencing, including the delivery schedule of modules fabricated off-site.

Image courtesy of Nordic—Office of Architecture

Enabling DfMA

Nordic’s approach has enabled an exemplary level of quality assured modularization using BIM. Cross-disciplinary teams collaborate on modules, and the intelligent volumetric ‘placeholder’ model with the use of the coordination tool automatically places module parameters and allows the calculation of module quantities. Module placement, cross-discipline design analysis, and quality control are automatic, and the design team no longer has to make drawings for the construction team and fabricators. Instead, the team can deliver all the information needed to price and fabricate modules and complete construction right in the intelligent model.

The DfMA approach has resulted in immense benefits. For instance, the engineering team could place fixtures and devices for a whole floor in just days instead of weeks. It also gave facade architects the ability to control a complex, nested family of facade-panel parts. They could easily swap in and out facade panels made of multiple materials—capturing each design iteration while meeting required parameters like glass types, panel sizes, and window inclusion and color. Among the results: Facade architects have been able to include approximately 50,000 square meters of prefabricated facade in their design.

Optimizing design and building—today and tomorrow

By using BIM to drive a DfMA approach, Nordic was able to focus its efforts and spend more time designing high-quality modules because less time was spent coordinating, controlling, and modeling vast amounts of repeating geometry. The team could also streamline the identification and resolution of design clashes. Moving forward, the project’s focus on prefabricated modules will result in efficient construction on site, less material waste, and reduction in the amount of costly errors on site due to the offsite production of fully completed modules. And while much of the time savings on this project has been filled with extra effort to get up to speed on its modular, BIM-driven approach, Nordic and COWI expect similar time savings on future projects using this approach.

Finally, on this project, Nordic is currently testing a cloud-based tool, designed by Project Frog—a provider of integrated project platforms— in collaboration with Autodesk, which will provide an online library of parts and module configurations. Nordic expects that the tool will further minimize waste on-site.

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