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AECbytes "Building the Future" Article (September 13, 2007)

2007 Third Annual BIM Awards, Part 2

Last month, I published Part 1 of the article on the third annual BIM Awards hosted by the AIA TAP (Technology in Architectural Practice) Knowledge Community that were announced earlier this summer. It described two of the main award-winning projects: the Loblolly House by the firm, KieranTimberlake Associates, which received the BIM Award citations for both the Creating Stellar Architecture Using BIM and Outstanding Design for Fabrication Using BIM categories; and the Benjamin D. Hall Interdisciplinary Research Building at the University of Washington, a Design-Build-Operate-Maintain (DBOM) project by the construction firm, M.A. Mortenson Company, which won in the category, Design/Delivery Process Innovation Using BIM. This AECbytes "Building the Future" article discusses the remaining projects that won BIM Award citations, along with some of the jury's thoughts and deliberations on the entries that were submitted. A complete list of award winners and honorable mentions can be found in Part 1 of the article.

Royal London Hospital

A large and enormously complex project, the Royal London Hospital's new building is a 905-bed facility that will provide London's principal trauma and emergency centre and the city's second largest pediatric unit, as well as 100 other specialist medical departments. It is configured as a pair of 20 storey towers containing 6,225 rooms across 1.2 million sq ft of floor space, and has a total construction cost of $ 1.2 billion. Currently under construction with an estimated completion date of 2012, it will become the largest new hospital in the UK and is expected to have a significant impact on the landscape of east London where it is located. It is being built under the UK's "private finance initiative" in which the principal contractor, Skanska, will not only undertake the design and construction of the hospital but also its operation and maintenance for 35 years. This led the contractor to take a special interest in the technology used to execute the project. HOK was appointed to the delivery team after winning a design competition and realized early on that the demands of the project could be met only by adopting a highly-coordinated BIM approach. This was also welcomed by the contractor, as the data-rich model would not only help to optimize design and construction but also continue to provide useful information for its future facilities management tasks. HOK worked closely with Skanska to develop the BIM strategy for the whole design and delivery team and continues to play a leading role in the "3D CAD and Data Management Group" that has been convened to manage file generation and exchange.

The BIM strategy was centered around using Autodesk Architectural Desktop (ADT), now called AutoCAD Architecture (see Figure 1). Interestingly, even Autodesk no longer markets this as a BIM application, but the project team for the Royal London Hospital made full use of ADT's object-based capabilities to achieve BIM-like benefits. All programs used by the key team members as well as sub-contractors are ADT compatible, and the different project participants (architects, engineers, contractor, FM team and client) have agreed to feed into, and off, a single portal set up and managed by the central 3D CAD and Data Management Group. All design work is conducted in 3D, and any 2D drawings required by contractors (largely those in MEP) are extracted from the central model. Traditional 2D CAD applications are not being used at all. Even medical planners, who prefer to work in plan, operate within the 2D mode of ADT. Their designs, therefore, are generated in a manner which is suited to their way of working while their drawings are rich in data and can be assimilated into the central model.

Figure 1
. The BIM strategy for the Royal London Hospital project was centered around using ADT and compatible programs. (Courtesy: HOK and Skanska)

The architectural, structural, and MEP models are regularly combined through Navisworks for coordination checking, clash prevention, and construction rehearsal. This has allowed the coordination of a dizzying number of mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and medical systems. It has already highlighted a number of issues and uncovered potential safety "blackspots," especially for maintenance personnel, which would have been difficult and expensive to resolve once the construction was complete (see Figure 2). The models are also being used for a wide variety of analyses including lighting and acoustic studies, analysis of structures and cladding systems, verified views for planning and other approvals, and mapping out of services. Considerable efforts have gone into making the central models easily navigable by individual members of the design team. Through the project extranet, the hospital complex can be viewed as a series of images on a storey-by-storey basis—each image contains hyperlinks to the approved Navisworks model, key documentation and the latest drawing revisions.

Figure 2
. Some of the constructability issues detected by combining the individual disciplinary models in Navisworks. (Courtesy: HOK and Skanska)

While all these BIM implementation strategies and the benefits realized through them are undoubtedly impressive, what was really unique about the Royal London Hospital project was the integration of a software called Codebook, which encapsulates key government-sanctioned medical information and requirements. This software is linked to the principal ADT models, allowing the designers to constantly check that room layouts and services fulfill the requirements of medical need (see Figure 3). It is this integration of the program requirements into the design process, facilitated through BIM, that won the Royal London Hospital project the BIM Award for the category of Support for Human Use and Innovative Program Requirements Using BIM, which requires evidence of the application of user or occupant-based rules to developing and refining a design.

Figure 3
. Integration of medical information and requirements captured through Codebook into the design process in ADT. (Courtesy: HOK and Skanska)

As a combination of design/construction and medical information, the BIM model of the Royal London Hospital will provide a powerful resource for its facilities management teams once the hospital is functioning. For example, a patient receiving oxygen will be participating in the same information system as the person who installed the oxygen delivery mechanism. The project team is also looking at RFID (Radio frequency identification devices) and the embedding of IFCs within a central database to boost the value and "data life" of the BIM model to the hospital managers of the future.

GSA's BIM Pilot Project Successes and National BIM Program

The GSA (General Services Administration) submitted two entries for the 2007 BIM Awards: a showcase of over 20 pilot projects using an array of BIM technologies across the country, and the highlights of its National BIM Program from 2006. Both of these jointly received the citation for the final category of the BIM Awards, which was Jury's Choice. This award is for BIM submissions that demonstrate, in the opinion of the jury, significant contributions to advancement of the technology, process change, or integrated practice, as well as architectural design enabled by BIM.

For its "BIM Pilot Project Successes" entry, the GSA highlighted the success it has achieved through a pilot initiative adopting an array of BIM technologies on a wide range of projects, focused on improvements in quality, accuracy, coordination, and efficiency during a building's lifecycle. The lifecycle aspect is particularly important to the GSA, given that it is the largest building owner in the country and has to work with limited construction and operations budgets. The pilot projects highlighted by the GSA used technologies such as spatial program BIM models for spatial program validation, 3D laser scanning for accurate as-built documentation, 4D phasing for schedule optimization, BIM-based energy analysis for predicting energy performance, and circulation validation studies for testing security and adjacencies. The largest number of pilot projects were in the area of 3D laser scanning, which is critical to the GSA as the documentation for the large majority of its buildings is incomplete, out-dated or non-existent, often leading to delays and costly construction mishaps during renovations or modernizations. Capturing accurate as-built data manually is expensive, time consuming and error prone. In contrast, with 3D laser scanning technology, models of existing buildings can be created to 4mm accuracy in a matter of hours much more cost-effectively and without disruption to the users of the building (see Figure 4). While these are not BIM models as such, they can at least be used for 3D coordination to reduce RFIs, errors, and omissions and provide the correct site context for new projects. The GSA is working with NIST, ASTM, and Harvard University to advance the standardization, implementation and adoption of 3D laser scanning technologies.

Figure 4
. The 3D model of an existing GSA facility being developed using 3D laser scanning. (Courtesy: GSA)

Another key challenge for the GSA in its renovation and modernization projects is to identify where and how to utilize swing space and how to move tenants during construction. Communication of complex phasing and sequencing information is often unclear, and traditional 2D drawings obscure potential constructability issues or collision detection. This has driven the GSA to use 4D modeling technology developed in collaboration with Stanford University for 4D phasing to see how tenants would be moved, what construction would be, and to evaluate construction alternatives (see Figure 5). Not only has this improved communication between tenant agencies and during pre-bid conferences, but it has also led to some quantifiable benefits such as a reduction in construction duration by 19% on one renovation project and optimization of an 8.5 years schedule to 5.5 years on another project by identifying viable new swing space.

Figure 5
. 4D phasing used in an office building renovation project that required major upgrades to HVAC and life safety systems. (Courtesy: GSA)

In an effort to reduce the average annual energy consumption of its building inventory by 35%, the GSA is collaborating with academic institutions, research institutes, and software vendors to further develop and implement BIM-based energy modeling and analysis tools. It found that current energy modeling practices tend to under-predict energy performance, and the majority of its buildings were not meeting energy targets. By applying BIM-based energy modeling on three pilot projects, the GSA found that it allowed for a more automated transfer of information and predicted 30-50% higher energy consumption than the traditional approach. For circulation validation, the GSA is working with the Georgia Institute of Technology and Solibri to develop an automated analysis program that will save time, improve accuracy, and lead to better security and more reliable results compared to manual circulation checking. The GSA is running this in several courthouse models to test circulation among public areas, private areas (e.g., judges), and secure areas (e.g., prisoners).

The other entry from the GSA captured the highlights of its National BIM Program, which was established in 2003 with the objective of advocating and employing value-adding digital visualization, simulation, and optimization technologies to increase quality and efficiency throughout building lifecycles. One of the key initiatives of the National BIM Program is the stipulation that projects receiving design funding in 2007 and beyond are required to submit a spatial program BIM as one of the prerequisites of final concept approval. Most of the GSA's second entry for the TAP BIM Awards was focused on describing this spatial program validation that has been implemented on several of its projects. Manual area take-offs are not only inefficient but also unreliable, with incorrect spatial data causing over-design and cost overruns. In contrast, BIM-based area analysis tools provide accurate area calculations more efficiently and lead to better cost and rent estimates.

The GSA has collaborated with several BIM application vendors including Autodesk, Bentley, and Graphisoft to develop a specialized "Concept Design View" of the requirements for spatial data management, based on the open IFC standard developed and published by the IAI. The BIM applications developed by these vendors have been validated through several rounds of testing to ensure that they can create a BIM model that contains spatial data in the required format. It does require adherence to some modeling guidelines such as creating properly designated objects (e.g., creating a wall with the Wall tool), proper naming conventions (e.g., providing space name, occupant, organization name, etc.), and creating space objects that have a calculable area. The GSA's spatial program BIM analysis tool can then automatically analyze the models for efficiency ratios and area calculations and produce tenant stacking plans and reports (see Figure 6). If there are any changes to the design, the usable area is automatically updated.

Figure 6
. The GSA's spatial program BIM analysis tool. (Courtesy: GSA)

In addition to the spatial program validation, the GSA is encouraging and supporting BIM implementation on a project-by-project basis, based on existing requirements, project opportunities, team experiences, and technology maturity. To support all these efforts, a BIM Toolkit has been developed as part of the National BIM Program, which includes a series of BIM Guides; a website to help inform the public about the GSA's on-going use of 3D, 4D, and BIM technologies; creation of an internal knowledge portal; sample solicitation and contract language for BIM services; and the dissemination of information at regional conferences and project-based consultation.

Some Thoughts from the Jury

This year, I was invited to participate as a juror for the BIM Awards, giving me the opportunity to study the projects more closely and deliberate on their merits with my fellow jurors: Robert Ivy, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record; Renee Cheng, Head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Minnesota; Douglas Garafolo, Founder and Principal of Garafolo Architects; Michael Kenig, vice chair of Holder Construction; and Dana (Deke) Smith, executive director of BuildingSMART. I thought it would be helpful to conclude this article by sharing some of the thoughts and reasoning that went behind the citations and honorable mentions that were awarded, as well as those that were not.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this article, the Loblolly House was a clear winner in both the categories for which it was submitted: Creating Stellar Architecture Using BIM, and Outstanding Design for Fabrication Using BIM. The jury, therefore, took the unusual decision to actually award this project the citation for both categories rather than spread out the honors to other projects, which would have been more equitable but not reflective of the real merits of the projects. The Benjamin D. Hall Interdisciplinary Research Building did come in at second place for the Outstanding Design for Fabrication Using BIM category, but it was almost unanimously the top choice for the Design/Delivery Process Innovation Using BIM category. We were happy, therefore, to award it the citation for this category and go ahead with awarding the Loblolly House its second well-deserved citation in the Outstanding Design for Fabrication Using BIM category.

The choice of award winners for the remaining categories was not so straightforward and unanimous and involved a lot of deliberations among the jury. None of the entries that were submitted in the Support for Human Use and Innovative Program Requirements Using BIM category really showed evidence of the application of user or occupant-based rules to developing and refining the design. The only project that came close was the Royal London Hospital, but this had not even been submitted for this category. The jury finally decided to disregard its mis-categorization and award the citation for Support for Human Use and Innovative Program Requirements Using BIM category to the Royal London Hospital, as it really hit the nail on the head by using Codebook to integrate the government sanctioned database of medical codes and protocols into the design process.

For the projects that won the honorable mentions in all these categories, there was a lot less unanimity and it was ultimately decided simply on the basis of majority. For example, for the Food and Drug Administration Headquarters project that was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Design/Delivery Process Innovation Using BIM category, some felt that it was a good example of multi-disciplinary BIM collaboration using Revit Building, Revit Structure, and Revit Systems, whereas others felt that apart from its use of Revit, it was not such a strong project. Similarly, the Noyes Campus Recreation Center project, which was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Outstanding Design for Fabrication Using BIM category, showed the use of Digital Project in designing and constructing a complex building, but not everyone agreed that it really showcased the use of BIM. Two projects submitted by Onuma Inc. that also won honorable mentions were seen by some jury members as being forward-thinking, as they focused on web-enabled BIM and the integration of BIM and GIS. However, others felt that these entries were too abstract and were more of nascent technology demonstrations rather than actual project implementations.

The awarding of the Jury's Choice citation to the two GSA entries was also far from unanimous. Some of the jury members felt that the GSA definitely deserves to be recognized for its efforts in pushing the state of the art in AEC technology. Given the size of this organization and its influence, its initiatives are far-reaching and will be instrumental in speeding up BIM implementation and other advanced technologies. While none of the other jury members disagreed on the importance of the GSA's initiatives, they felt that the citation should be awarded only to a single project rather than to an entry that showcased a collection of projects and initiatives like the GSA's. In contrast, there was a lot more agreement in awarding the Honorable Mention for Jury's Choice to the Opera Theatre project at the Sydney Opera House, which showcased the use of BIM in a landmark, historic project, and also featured IFC-based analysis and the use of BIM for facilities management.

The biggest disappointments in this year's BIM Awards were in the categories of Outstanding Sustainable Design Using BIM and Academic Program or Curriculum Development. Neither of these received any submissions that were compelling enough to convince the jury to award a citation or even an honorable mention. For all the talk in the industry about green design and sustainability and how BIM can help to facilitate this, it was very disheartening to find such little evidence of this in actual practice. Most of the entries submitted in the Outstanding Sustainable Design Using BIM category showed only some cursory energy analysis, and did not convincingly demonstrate the use of BIM in creating sustainable architecture. Similarly, from an educational standpoint, entries were submitted that showed the teaching of tools such as Revit and CATIA, but they were missing the teaching of BIM as a concept and approach that fundamentally changes the processes of design, collaboration, analysis, and construction. The jury hoped that its decision to not award a citation or even a honorable mention in these two categories would come as a wake-up call to the industry and provoke firms and academic institutions to put more efforts into sustainable design and the teaching of BIM. Hopefully, we will see some more compelling work in these categories in next year's BIM Awards.

This wraps up the two-part series on the third annual BIM Awards that were presented by the AIA TAP Knowledge Community earlier this summer. As always, it should be interesting to see what the next year's BIM Awards bring to the fore.


I would like to thank the AIA TAP Knowledge Community Advisory Group for the permission to use the material from the BIM Awards submissions in this article.

About the Author

Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at

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