Leading The Way in P3 Delivery: Using BIM for capital-intensive projects

by Elaina Adams | December 1, 2012 3:22 pm

All images courtesy PCL Constructors Canada Inc.[1]
All images courtesy PCL Constructors Canada Inc.

By Terry D. Bennett, LS, LPF, MRICS, LEED AP
Canada is changing the way local hospitals, city streets, or bridges are being financed and maintained. A popular approach the country’s federal and provincial governments have taken to build crucial structures could be the answer for other governments around the world to consider for the infrastructure they desperately need—such as more regional hospitals to provide critical care for families.

This author has attended many meetings with Canadian government offices, developers, and construction companies. He has seen firsthand how public-private partnerships (P3s) are proving to be an effective way for public entities to build much-needed buildings and infrastructure projects—whether a water and wastewater facility, town centre, or a new roadway to connect the suburban environment or other piece
of infrastructure.

P3s are co-operative ventures between the public and private sectors where the risk and responsibility to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the building or infrastructure project are undertaken by a consortium that most often includes a large contractor as a long-term business opportunity and investment. The private-sector consortium will generally fund the construction, operation, and maintenance of the asset, while the public-sector client will enter into a long-term service-subscription agreement to use the asset—generally for 25 to 30 years. The options range from design-build to outright privatization, where the government transfers all responsibilities, risks, and rewards for service delivery to the private sector. As a result, P3s provide much-needed capital to finance government programs and projects, freeing public funds for use on core economic and social programs.

Modelling the P3 process
With more than 150 projects built or under way last year—including Toronto’s Bridgepoint Hospital redevelopment, British Columbia’s Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre, and New Brunswick’s Trans-Canada Highway—Canada is the North American leader in this new project delivery method.

In Canada, many of the large, critical pieces of infrastructure ranging from $100 million to more than $1 billion have used the P3 delivery method. For municipalities that do not have the capital necessary to build the vital structures their communities require, alternative P3 delivery models are being considered when they may be suitable in terms of:

Considering a P3’s procurement phase, project teams are led by the contractor, and include the financier, insurer, consultants for architecture and engineering, and major trades who respond to requests for qualification and proposal (RFQs and RFPs). This can be challenging for newly formed consortiums, as they need to function as a team.

Advanced 3-D design technology has been used to assist in RFP response, allowing for a more concise, highly visual proposal tied to financing and preliminary construction schedules. This helps a consortium prove to government partners it understands project objectives and can describe and visualize valuable, intangible, results.

Mechanical and electrical models were combined into one master model for review in 3-D modelling software.[2]
Mechanical and electrical models were combined into one master model for review in 3-D modelling software.

Putting owners ahead of the curve
The long-term risk and responsibility of building and maintaining P3 projects falls predominantly to the contractor. Therefore, many consortiums are mandating their teams use intelligent, 3-D model-based design for planning design, co-ordination of disciplines and trades, commissioning, and the operations and maintenance of their infrastructure projects.

During planning and design stages, there are too often errors, omissions, and confusion in the delivery method since co-ordinating thousands of conventional computer-aided design (CAD) drawings and specifications can overwhelm the design process. Virtual construction in advance of the physical work can uncover errors such as a water hydrant that would appear in the middle of a road or an HVAC system going through a window. Finding and fixing errors in co-ordination within the digital environment, before the project reaches the construction stage, saves valuable time and resources.

How can builders provide the project timetable, price tag, and return on investment (ROI) that make the venture a sound investment for private or public owners and at the same time catch design issues before breaking ground? A crucial component is technology allowing for the virtual construction of building and infrastructure projects. Additionally, technology enables various stakeholders to determine whether the project is profitable enough for long-term investment as well as the airtight integration among the design team, contractors, and subcontractors required to maximize profits.

Streamlining collaboration
To achieve this collaboration, building information modelling (BIM) is taking an increasingly important role since it is the most effective process available. An intelligent model-based process, BIM provides insight for creating and managing infrastructure and building projects faster, more economically, and with less environmental impact.

Municipal and provincial governments are facing pressure for increased efficiency, cost-cutting, and sustainable design, yet most publicly funded capital projects remain within traditional contracts and project delivery methods that have not changed in decades. Governments are trying to meet stringent policies and solve complicated infrastructure problems, while continuing to accept deliverables from a dated and unsophisticated toolset. Most owners are just learning about new project delivery processes such as BIM, and they are beginning to see an increasing mandate during RFPs for its use.

With BIM, intelligent model-based information is available throughout the project lifecycle to guide better decisions for planning, design, building, and maintaining the structure throughout many decades. Since designers can visualize and analyze a project before construction begins, there are fewer conflicts; co-ordinated, consistent information afforded by BIM helps provide faster delivery.

Bridgepoint Hospital
An example of how BIM helps streamline collaboration, detect clashes, and deliver in a traditional design-build/finance/maintain P3 project is the Bridgepoint Hospital redevelopment.

Fully visible along the Don Valley Parkway (one of Toronto’s major roadways), this P3 project began in August 2009. Managed by the Toronto office of PCL Constructors Canada Inc., the new hospital will replace the existing, aging one onsite. As part of the construction project phasing, the nearby Toronto Jail facility will be demolished. The existing historic Don Jail—the second jail onsite—will be incorporated into the new hospital design as administrative offices.

3-D models were critical for facilitating collaboration among the project team.[3]
3-D models were critical for facilitating collaboration among the project team.

When construction is complete in March 2013, the facility will be a 10-storey, 472-bed hospital—designed especially for patients with complex chronic diseases. It will incorporate a 10th-level terrace with a vegetated roof system for patient wellness, and is targeting certification under Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC’s) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

In the project’s development, PCL collaborated with teams from Modern Niagara Toronto Inc., (MNTI) and The Plan Group. PCL used 3-D modelling software to create the building’s architectural and structure features and assemble the mechanical and electrical models created by MNTI and Plan into one combined model for review.

Due to the number of stakeholders involved in the project, PCL’s Randy Stefan, project superintendent, encouraged the team to think ahead and open up communication between owners, architects, engineers, and contractors. He found great value in using BIM processes to help visualize the project and plan the work.

Josh Beynon, virtual construction modeller for the PCL components of this project, says the virtual models were a great visualization aid to the user groups and site staff as they allowed for the final project to be shown in detail without the need to actually construct it.

“As the project was already using BIM for co-ordination purposes, the models being used for that regard were easily adapted for use in the visualization process with only minor additions, such as furniture and people,” he explains.

The models also allowed the hospital owners, Bridgepoint Health, to visually communicate to the public what would happen to the surrounding community. The team found using virtual design tools in the planning and communication stages created clarity among all stakeholders, enabling them to create a safer project that moved forward with minimal delay.

The models were also critical in the clash-detection process. For the most part, large clashes with structural, mechanical, and electrical elements were automatically identified using clash-detection software and rectified through weekly team meetings. Reviewing these potential issues, clashes, and interferences in the design stage allowed for a faster, more accurate, and cost-effective resolution than what would normally be dealt with in the field.

While the project is still in the final stages of development, Darius Zaccak, PCL project director, has no concerns in terms of timing.

“Knowing BIM will identify clashes and interferences among the various disciplines, and these clashes will be resolved through a competent and diligent team, gives me great confidence in knowing the schedules are achievable as later surprises have been minimized and, in some cases, eliminated,” he says.

This is just one example of how BIM can be used to maintain momentum on a project by identifying clashes and problems before they arise. This author can also cite another construction firm that faced the problem of processing requests for information (RFIs) through 14 separate teams to reach approval, often translating into 40 to 60 worker hours per RFI.

An up-close view of the mechanical and electrical model.[4]
An up-close view of the mechanical and electrical model.

A healthcare facility project in Massachusetts found using BIM processes and compatible software saved them 194 RFIs, or 65 per cent less than similar projects that did not use BIM. In total, this saved 7949 worker hours, for a total savings of $814,374, which was reinvested in higher-quality medical equipment and building materials. Ultimately, BIM is a vital tool to have when embarking on these complex projects with multiple stakeholders.

Using the P3 approach, builders are responsible for operating and/or maintaining the building for a minimum of 25 years. The BIM process is increasingly mandated for P3 projects to handle the ‘as-built’ conditions that arise. In a perfect world, the BIM process involves the major disciplines, trades, contractors, and even the owners to co-ordinate before construction starts. Today’s current BIM construction environment may have some design or construction trades still using 2-D while the rest of the consortium is using 3-D. In these cases, leading professionals have been seen reducing their risk by modelling what was originally delivered in 2-D, and maintaining a co-ordinated and complete model.

The critical element is ensuring facility managers have a seat at the table from the beginning. Understanding and communicating what the facility manager will need for building operation and maintenance will ensure the information and data within the BIM model is available at turnover. As the facility managers assume their P3 responsibility, the contractor can better rely on the intelligence of a model repository for future upkeep or floor plan alterations, rather than searching through the silos of drawing project data.

By adopting the public-private partnership approach and building information modelling to save on construction and future maintenance costs, local and provincial governments ensure projects are being completed at competitive pricing values, within strict budgets and timeframes. At the same time, contractors are able to use innovative technology methods to deliver not only a built structure, but also a high-quality, data-rich model that can be used by facility managers throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Using this approach and these technologies, infrastructure and the built environment will continue to grow and be maintained, especially at a time when the economic environment requires different thinking that works for both public and private sectors.

Terry D. Bennett, LS, LPF, MRICS, LEED AP, is the senior industry program manager and strategist for civil engineering and planning at Autodesk. He is responsible for setting the company’s strategy for technology serving the planning, surveying, civil engineering, and heavy construction industries. Bennett has been a practicing professional for almost 30 years and was the company manager and lead designer for a civil engineering, geotechnical, and land surveying firm directing its services throughout the New England region within the United States. Over the last 25 years, he has been a global author and lecturer on the impact of technology to the infrastructure and urban planning, engineering, and construction industries focusing on sustainable approaches to urban infrastructure redevelopment. Bennett can be reached via e-mail at terry.bennett@autodesk.com.

  1. [Image]: http://www.constructioncanada.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/BPH_Phasing_Env_3_-_5x7_201208071311344.jpg
  2. [Image]: http://www.constructioncanada.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2011-09-20_-_Current_Mechanical_and_Electrical_Models_201208071311341.jpg
  3. [Image]: http://www.constructioncanada.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/CW-images.jpg
  4. [Image]: http://www.constructioncanada.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2011-11-09_-_Bridgepoint_Scan_with_Mechanical_2_201208071311342.jpg

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