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Modular design with BIM drives massive expansion of hospital

AEC Excellence Awards // 2018

Image courtesy of Nordic Office Of Architecture

Nordic—Office of Architecture and COWI use Design for Manufacture and Assembly approach to construction

An expansion of Norway’s Stavanger University Hospital, scheduled to open in 2023, posed unique challenges for the firm Nordic—Office of Architecture. With 650 patient rooms and 100,000 square meters (more than 1 million square feet) of floor space enclosed in four 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 hospital also wanted a high degree of standardization in building elements to enable flexibility, patient safety, and adaptability. Finally, the project team—comprising two architecture firms, two structural-engineering firms, MEP teams, and specialist consultants for fire and acoustic—were spread across Norway, so efficient communication and collaboration was essential.

To build the project on time, on budget, and to the hospital’s design requirements, Nordic, working in collaboration with COWI consulting group, needed to take a more modular approach to design and construction. Specific project goals included eliminating workflow redundancies and incorporating automation; improving collaboration and information sharing across disciplines; and ensuring an information-rich, modularized approach across the project lifecycle. To simplify workflows and keep the large project team in sync, Nordic needed the right digital collaboration and modeling tools. Nordic also adopted a Design for Manufacture 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



Nordic embraced BIM (Building Information Modeling) to meet the project’s goals. While Nordic uses BIM in every project and at every scale, for the Stavanger University Hospital project, 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 Studio 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 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 Revit building design software—for daily team meetings, project management, and design work. The ability to view and collaborate in the Revit model has improved communication and collaboration, data management, and cross-disciplinary workflows. Area and room layout, furniture, and functional information can be edited right in the intelligent model. Using virtual reality, the hospital 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, Nordic is using tools such as a Dynamo Studio-scripted coordination tool and BIM 360 to 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


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 such as glass types, panel sizes, and window inclusion and color. Among the results: Facade architects have been able to include approximately 50,000 square meters (more than 500,000 square feet) of prefabricated facade in their design.


By using BIM to drive a DFMA approach, Nordic was able to focus its efforts and spend more time designing high-quality modules and less time coordinating, controlling, and modeling vast amounts of repeating geometry. The team could also simplify 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 off-site 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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