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MEP team uses BIM to improve collaboration and save time on AU$1.5 billion project

Going for gold

Located in Sydney’s bustling Darling Harbour pedestrian and recreational district, the AU$1.5 billion International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) features world-class exhibition, convention, and theater spaces. Since opening in late 2016, it’s quickly become one of the Asia-Pacific region’s premier convention and event spaces. Event attendees will notice how spacious and comfortable the venues are —but they won’t know the complex design and construction challenges that were overcome to deliver the ICC Sydney visitor experience. Designed to LEED Gold standards, the ICC Sydney’s mechanical services required the combined expertise and close collaboration of AECOM, the MEP engineering consultants, and A.G. Coombs, the mechanical services and HVAC specialist trade partner.

Engaged at the beginning of the design process, A.G. Coombs provided advice to the design team on a wide range of issues, including safety in design and constructability to asset lifecycle optimization. As the design development phase wound down, the A.G. Coombs team took the AECOM Revit design models through a virtual build process to develop the detailed Revit construction models for each of the venues. The virtual build also leveraged A.G. Coombs integrated Revit and Fabrication ESTmep® cost data to complete optimization studies of the ducting and piping system design. The completed Revit construction models were leveraged by the site installation and commissioning teams, and ultimately provided the basis for the as-built information given to the facility management team for use in ongoing maintenance and operations. Created using a Building Information Modeling (BIM) process with Autodesk Revit building design software, the models enhanced team collaboration and provided the platform for a lean design and construction project delivery methodology.

Warwick Stannus, group engineering manager at A.G. Coombs, explains, “During design, the engineering consultants had charge of the models, allowing innovative analysis-based design solutions to be developed in response to the many challenges presented by the project owner’s requirements. A.G. Coombs contributed our installation, commissioning, and life cycle operational insights to the development of these design models. Then, we took over the model to complete the virtual build of the designs, whilst continuing to work closely with the consultants, who reviewed the virtual build models for design compliance. Importantly, both teams worked in Revit, streamlining coordination and collaboration.

By working from the models provided by the consultants, we saved considerable time on the project construction documentation phase, enabling a wide range of lean construction strategies to be leveraged. In addition, it provided more time to identify and present the best options for improving client value.
Warwick Stannus, Group engineering manager, A.G. Coombs

Huge spaces and time pressure

A.G. Coombs was appointed by construction manager Lendlease in early 2012 and worked collaboratively through the bid phase to help the team secure the project. Construction began in 2014, well before the project team completed the overall building designs—which left the A.G. Coombs team racing to complete the construction models to support offsite fabrication and installation programs. The project’s massive size added to the pressure, with the ICC Sydney featuring a total exhibition, convention, and theatre capacity of 35,000 square meters. All of that space needed systems to keep the temperature comfortable without massive ducts dominating the space’s appearance. And with the steel structure being the project’s leading cost component, the building systems had to fit around the optimized structural design.

“Our project team spanned multiple offices, with designers and modelers working on the project in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney,” says Shane Durkin, engineering services manager at A.G. Coombs. “The size of the project demanded a large team, but more people means more coordination challenges. Our team used Revit and Navisworks® Manage to model and coordinate our work. Using a model-based process transforms coordination. You can visualize how the building comes together, making it easier to avoid interferences and find the best path for building systems.”

A perfect fit

The use of constructible Revit models to complete the design of large ‘in-roof’ plant rooms demonstrates the benefits of a BIM process. Located in a complex steel truss roof structure over a large open span ballroom, the plant room had to fit perfectly within a tight space and house a significant amount of equipment. The A.G. Coombs team used the model to lay out the room and avoid clashes with the trusses and secondary steel.

“The precision of the constructible model let us account for the position of the steel relative to the equipment to within millimeters,” says Durkin. “We were also able to view the models for safety and plant replacement access required over the life of the building.”

The size of the project demanded a large team, but more people means more coordination challenges. The team used Revit and Naviswork Manage to model and coordinate the design and installation layout. Using a model-based process transforms coordination. You can visualize how the building comes together, making it easier to avoid interferences and find the best path for building systems.
Shane Durkin, Engineering services manager, A.G. Coombs

Engineering for value and comfort

With the project complete, A.G. Coombs has presented the as-built models to the client. “Working from models from design to installation to commissioning and operations preserves the contributions and insights from the whole project delivery process,” notes Stannus. “Integrated model workflows helped boost our performance, too. By working from the design models developed by the consultants, we saved considerable time on the project construction documentation phase, enabling a wide range of lean construction strategies to be leveraged. In addition, it provided more time to identify and present the best options for improving client value.”

About the firm:

Founded in 1945, the A.G. Coombs Group is a leading Australian provider of specialist building services. The Group provides an integrated range of whole-of-life technical services for all systems in buildings – from advice and design through to installation, commissioning, maintenance and ongoing operation and management.

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