Airport Building Information ModellingAECbytes Book Review(February 20, 2019)

Lachmi Khemlani
Founder and Editor, AECbytes          

Airport Building Information Modelling

Ozan Koseoglu, Yusuf Arayici
Publication Date:
September 2019

The book, Airport Building Information Modelling, is an extended case study of the implementation of BIM on the new Istanbul Airport project, which was built to replace the older Istanbul Atatürk Airport that was located in a congested area and had no room to grow. The project was initiated in 2015, and it transitioned to becoming Istanbul’s official airport in the summer of 2019. It is being built in stages, and while the main airport facility has been completed and is in operation (Figure 1), additional phases are planned to expand the airport and its facilities over time. The final completion is scheduled for 2027. The main terminal of the airport has an area of 1,440,000 sq. m. (15,500,000 sq. ft.), currently making it the world's largest airport terminal building under a single roof.

Figure 1. Aerial view of the Istanbul Airport project. (Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Given that the project is relatively recent, the choice to use BIM for it is hardly surprising—after all, why would any venture not want to deploy newer and more advanced technologies that are available rather than use older and outdated technologies? Thus, the book is notable not because it tells us why BIM was used for this project, but how. Also, one of its authors, Ozan Koseoglu, was the Chief Technology Officer of the project and directly responsible for its BIM implementation, making the “how” come comes straight “from the horse’s mouth,” as it were. The co-author of the book, Yusuf Arayici, comes from academia, and his research and writing expertise is reflected in the content of the book, which is well organized and structured, making the level of detail in it easy to digest and far from overwhelming.

The focus of the book is not as much on the technical details of the BIM implementation but more on the process. To a large extent, this was due to the magnitude of the project, but its location in Turkey also made it critical. Most of the firms that were involved in the project were local firms, and they did not have much experience with BIM implementation, let alone the required BIM expertise in-house to comply with the strict obligation to use BIM. This required outsourcing the actual production of the BIM model to a firm located in India, which added an additional level of complexity to the process. Its work had to be coordinated with that of the local firms, and these firms, in turn, had to be brought up to speed on how to work with BIM.

Some of the additional noteworthy aspects of the BIM implementation process, described in detail in the book, include:

  • The BIM implementation was headed and coordinated by the BIM management team, which was established as the representative of the client (the airport authority).  

  • At the design phase, all the design information—models, documents, drawings, specifications, and revisions—created by the different disciplines was received and filtered by the BIM management team, which then passed the necessary information to the outsourced BIM production team for modeling.

  • Any inconsistencies in the submitted information as well as requests for missing information was communicated by the BIM production team back to the BIM management team, which coordinated with the project team to get this information. The BIM management team continued to serve as a liaison between the two groups. In addition to the local firms, there were also some firms from the UK and Holland as part of the design team, whose work had to be coordinated and integrated into the process as well.

  • Once the modeling of the individual disciplines had progressed to the level to enable multi-disciplinary BIM coordination and clash detection, this was done on a bi-weekly basis in a “BIM Room” specifically set up for this purpose. In addition, the coordination effort was supported by several additional one-on-one meetings between different disciplines.

  • The coordination and clash detection process—which was held more frequently as the project transitioned from design to construction—was continued until a fully integrated, clash-free, construction-ready BIM model of the project was created. A count was kept of the number of clashes that were resolved, and this came to more than 600,000, providing an idea of the scale of the project. It was estimated that in a traditional project executed without BIM, this enormous number of clashes would have cost an extra 2.5 billion euros and more than 10 years of overtime.

  • In addition to the design coordination, the integrated BIM model was also used for construction sequencing, quantity estimating, and construction site supervision processes. Another idea of the scale of the project comes from the size of the 4D construction planning model that was developed—it included more than 30,o00 activities to enable daily and monthly monitoring of the construction process.

  • For the 2D shop drawings needed for construction, the subcontractors were required to derive them from the BIM model. BIM workshops were conducted throughout the project to train the subcontractors to work with BIM.

  • At the construction stage, site engineers were provided with tablets to access the detailed BIM model and related shop drawings, so they could ensure that the construction was happening as specified in the model and drawings (Figure 2). It also allowed them to report any issues or inconsistencies on the site, which could then be addressed by the project team in the office.

Figure 2. The use of tablets with the BIM model on the construction site. (Image courtesy: Istanbul Airport)
  • Since the BIM model was construction-ready and issue-free, and the construction team had all the necessary information, installation was faster and more accurate with minimal issues and rework. Any design changes that were made were communicated to the site in minutes through the mobile application, ensuring that the information being used to guide the construction was always up to date. The mobile deployment also enabled real-time progress monitoring and control.

  • All revisions at the site were also used to keep the BIM model up to date, ensuring that it was an accurate as-built BIM for the operations and maintenance phase.

While the book did not delve too deeply into the technical aspects of the BIM implementation, it did provide an overview of the main applications that were used. These were mostly, by and large, Autodesk applications: Revit for architectural design, AutoCAD for MEP, Civil 3D for the site model, and AutoCAD 3D for the baggage handling system. The only non-Autodesk application that was used was Tekla for structural design, and it was integrated with Revit using IFC. The BIM production team also used Revit to create the consolidated BIM model of the project, but the actual application that was used to hold the master model was Navisworks, which was also used extensively for coordination.

The main collaboration and document management platform that was used on site was Autodesk Vault, with some remote collaboration being done using Buzzsaw. For construction planning, scheduling, and estimating, Navisworks was again the main application that was used, along with Microsoft Excel. At the construction stage, Autodesk BIM 360 Glue and BIM 360 Field were the main applications that were used, both to transfer the digital BIM data from office to site and use it to guide the installation, as well as allow QA/QC checks and inspections, real-time progress control, and monitoring. The project also used BIM 360 Layout to drive the positioning of the installed elements from the BIM model and ensure that it was precise.

While the BIM Execution plan for the project called for the use of BIM to extend to the facility management (FM) of the airport, how successful this has been is not clear, since the book was wrapped up shortly after the airport went into operation. Throughout the design and construction phases, the intent to use BIM for FM drove several decisions and tasks, such as creating the BIM to the LOD 500 level of detail, updating it throughout construction to ensure it captured the as-built configuration of the airport, and tagging all the rooms, equipment, and additional assets for the project handover. Beyond this, no additional details were provided, for example, which applications were going to be used for CAFM (computer aided facilities management), and how they would work with the BIM model. While the BIM Management team acknowledged that a smart airport was a key part of the larger smart city concept, I did not find any mention of the use of IoT sensors or building control systems, which would seem to be an important component of any smart environment.

However, given that BIM for FM is still so nascent—the only working implementation I have come across so far is BIM for FM at UCSF, which I wrote about a couple of months ago—it is understandable that the use of BIM for operations and maintenance at the airport is more of a vision at this stage rather than an actuality. At least, the ground has been set, and hopefully, emerging technologies such as digital twins can be deployed once they have become more established and better understood to transform the vision into reality.

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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