Text: Ilkka Tieaho and Anssi Savisalo
A closer link between data modelling and spatial data offers an excellent growth medium for built environment projects and digital asset management solutions. This offers significant opportunities to reduce building costs and to improve quality.
The boundary between BIM and GIS methodologies is quickly becoming obsolete as compatibility between software, standards and data material is increasing. Conventionally, building information modelling (BIM) is made of CAD-based vector and attribute data which has largely arisen from the needs of building design and projects. Instead, geographic information systems (GIS) have originated from map measurements and the vector-based data management of large geographic areas.
These methodologies greet each other in the building wall surface where measurable room spaces and outdoor areas meet detailed attribute data about the walls and other building elements. Data about the building is supplemented by modelled data about the built infrastructure (outdoor areas and networks) which also serves project management and machine control during the building process.
Harmonised data about the characteristics and geometry of the planned and built environment forms an excellent base for project-specific data management as well as different service applications and simulations that use environmental data. These can, for example, support lighting design, the design of 5G networks, the management of IoT sensor data, air quality monitoring and wind analyses, as well as transport and mobility solutions. The primary starting point is the production and transmission of all environmental data using standard machine-readable formats, in which case data can be read by different systems automatically and dynamically, with as little manual work as possible.
A seamless merger of building and infrastructure data models with measured spatial data enables versatile use of data throughout the construction projects, from the designer’s desk into the excavator’s cabin. Furthermore, this data produced during the design and construction stages can be used extensively when working with different stakeholders. With the help of the data and virtual models, the end users can easily be included in the assessment of the future environment.
BIM and GIS in the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport expansion project
Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is a significant air traffic hub between Europe and Asia. The airport is currently witnessing the largest expansion project in its history. During the project, significant changes and expansions will be made in terminal areas and the apron (taxiways and aircraft parking).
Sitowise has acted as the head designer of infrastructure in the project. In addition, we have been strongly involved in preparing and implementing the project’s BIM strategy and in producing a virtual models of the project area. Infrastructure and building projects have worked closely together at all stages. The needs of both projects were addressed to reach the best possible results. By combining infrastructure and building projects and BIM models, it was possible to form a true powerhouse where OpenBIM and GIS data was used in various ways on all fronts.
Before the project to expand the airport infrastructure started, challenging goals were set: the project’s design, building and interaction processes were to be built around a BIM methodology and models. Design was to be based on BIM data models, the building process was to be digital and interaction was to emphasise the opportunities of virtual models and digitalization. In this way, it was ensured that all design and building parties saw eye to eye.
A smart InfraBIM operating model is already built at the beginning of the design stage
Data modelling produces significant benefits in building projects, as all designs related to a specific area can be imported into a single 3D view. This allows the agile, accurate and visual coordination of designs and quality assurance. Any errors and conflicts can be eliminated early before the building stage by using more visual ways to view the plans.
In Finavia’s development programme at the airport, the BIM operating model helped to transfer data dynamically between different software and databases and to ensure that identical data is always available in different software. Starting points of the BIM operating model were the use of open data transfer formats (IFC, Inframodel) and the transfer of data to the worksite using digital cloud-based solutions. In addition, it was important to use 3D machine control and automation systems at the worksite to ensure that building processes follow plans to the point.
Build as planned!
Modern excavators and other heavy-duty machines are highly automated and operators are assisted by 3D machine control systems and monitors. Previously, building processes followed printed design drawings and yardsticks were placed all over the worksite. Now, modern 3D designs can be downloaded from the cloud directly to machine systems.
In Finavia’s development programme, machine control data was transmitted, for example, using the Infrakit cloud service. It helped to agilely transfer data from the designer’s desktop inside an excavator’s cabin onto the operator’s screen and into the machine control system. The accuracy of spatial data and data models for buildings and the infrastructure was a key success factor, also during the building process.
BIM and GIS also support interaction processes and engagement
In addition to design and building processes, it is important to understand that BIM and spatial data can produce significant added value in a number of other applications. In the airport expansion project, BIM design data and spatial data were also used in promoting interaction and cooperation during the project.
For these purposes, an illustrative virtual model was prepared on the basis of design data, using the Unity game engine technology. The customer used this model in decision-making processes and in offering induction to different stakeholders, such as the airport staff, the authorities and pilots. In this way, it was possible to ensure that the area is built according to the wishes of all parties concerned and, for example, that different weather and lighting conditions are addressed.
Standard data and harmonised operating methods boost the building industry
The most important added value brought by digitalisation is the elimination of manual data processing stages and the reuse of once-produced data in various processes throughout the lifecycle of the built environment. In order to make this possible, special attention needs to be paid to the machine-readability of data and the traceability of its accuracy.
Harmonised operating methods in the industry, combined with standard international data storage and transfer formats, are cornerstones for the development of the industry, along with shared content requirements for data modelling, concepts and conceptual models.
Harmonised operating models and concepts are developed in various joint projects in the public and private sectors, led by ministries and building SMART Finland, which coordinates standardisation processes in the Finnish building industry. All industrial parties are welcome to join these projects and to have an impact on the future of their industry!