Tag Archives: BIM

The future of project controls

Last week I participated in two PUXX panel discussions in Perth and Sydney focused on predicting the influence of technology on project controls.  The range of subjects covered ranged from drones and remote monitoring to virtual reality.

Many of the topics discussed offered better ways to do things we already do, provided we can make effective use of the data generated in ever increasing quantities – significant improvements but essentially ‘business-as-usual’ done better. The aspect I want to focus on in this post is the potential to completely reframe the way project schedules are developed and controlled when existing ‘gaming technology’ and BIM are synthesised.

The current paradigm used for critical path scheduling is a (dumbed-down) solution to a complex set of problems required to allow the software to run on primitive mainframe computers in the late 1950s – the fundamentals have not changed since! See: A Brief History of Scheduling.

The underlying assumption is a project consists of a set of activities each with a defined duration and depending on the logical relationship between the activities, some are ‘critical’ others have ‘float’.  The basic flaw in this approach can be demonstrated by looking at the various options open to a schedule to define the work involved in 3 simple foundations involving excavation and mass concrete fill.

schedule-options

All four of the above options above are viable alternatives that may be chosen by different schedulers to describe the work using CPM, and none of them really describe what actually happens. The addition of more links would help but even then the real situation which is one resource crew visits three locations in turn and excavates the foundations, a second crew follows and places the concrete with some options for overlapping, parallel working and possibly synchronising the actual pouring of all three foundations on the same day…….. Optimising the work of the crews is the key to a cost effective outcome and this depends on what follows their work.  For more on resource optimisation see: www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Resources_Papers_152.html. Advances in computer software offer the opportunity to develop a new way of working.

The starting point for the hypothesis outlined I this post is 4D BIM (Building Information Modelling). Last month I was in London working on the final edits to the second edition of the CIOB’s book, Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Complex Projects (due for publication in 2017 as The Management of Time in Major Projects). One of the enhancements in the second edition is an increased focus on BIM. To assist our work a demonstration of cutting edge 4D BIM was provided Freeform.

Their current capabilities include:

  • The ability to model in real time clashes in working space provided the space needed for each crews work is parameterised. Change the timing of one work crew and the effect on others in a space is highlighted.
  • The ability to view the work from any position at any time in the construction process; allowing things such as a tower crane driver’s actual line of sight to be literally ‘seen’ at different stages of the construction.
  • The relatively normal ability to import schedule timings from a range of standard tools to animate the building of the model, and the ability to feedback information derived from processes such as the identification of clashes in the use of working space using
  • The space occupied by temporary works and various pieces of equipment can be defined and clashes with permanent works identified over time.
  • Finally the ability for a person to see and move around within the virtual model using the same type of 3D virtual reality goggles used by many gaming programmes. The wearer is literally immersed in the model.

For all of this in action on a major rail project see: https://www.newcivilengineer.com/future-tech/pushing-the-limits-of-bim/10012298.article

Moving into the world of game playing, there are many different games that allow players in competition, or collaboration, to ‘build’ cities, empires, fortifications, farms, etc. These games know the resources available to the players and how many resources will be required to construct each new element in the game – if you don’t have the resources, you can’t build the new asset.

Combining these two concepts opens up the possibility for a completely new approach to scheduling physical projects that involve the deployment of resources to physical locations to undertake work. The concept of location-based scheduling is not new, it was used in the 1930s to construct the Empire State Building (see: Line of Balance) and is still widely used.  For more on location-based scheduling see: Location-Based Management for Construction: Planning, Scheduling, and Control by Prof. Russell Kenley.

How these concepts tie into BIM starts with the model itself.  A BIM model consists of a series of parameterised objects. Each object can contain data on its size, weight, durability, cost, maintainability, carbon footprint, etc. As BIM develops many of these objects will come from standard libraries created by suppliers and subcontractors. Change an object, for example, replace windows from manufacturer “A” with similar Windows from manufacturer “B” and the model is update and potential issues with sizes, fixings and waterproofing can be identified. It is only a small step from this point to add parameters related to the resources needed to undertake the work of installation.

With this information and relatively minor enhancements to current BIM capabilities, once the engineering model is reasonably complete a whole new paradigm for planning work opens up.

4d-vr

To plan the work the ‘planning team’ put on their virtual reality headsets and literally ‘walk’ onto the site.  As they start to locate temporary works and begin the building process the model is tracking the use of resources and physical space in real time. The plan is developed based on the embedded parameters in the fully integrated 3D model.

Current 4D imports a schedule ‘shows you’ the effect.  Using the proposed gaming approach and parameterized objects you can literally build the project in the virtual space and either see the consequences on resource loading or be limited by resource availability.  A whole bunch of games do this already, add in existing clash detection capabilities (but applied to workers using the space) and you change the whole focus of planning a project. Decisions can be made to adjust the size of resource crews and the flow of work can be optimised to balance the competing objectives of cost efficiency, time efficiency and resource optimisation.

The proposed model is a paradigm shift away from CPM and its arbitrary determination of activities and durations to a process focused on the smooth flow of resources through work areas. The computational base will be focused on resource effectiveness and resource utilisation. Change ‘critical path’ to ‘critical resources’, eliminate the illusion of ‘float’ but look for underutilised resources and resource waiting time. To optimise the work, different scenarios can be stored, replayed and edited – the ultimate ‘what-if’ experience.

The concept of schedule density ties in with this approach nicely; initial planning is done for the whole project at the ‘low density’ level with activity durations of several weeks or months setting out the overall ‘time budget’ for the project and establishing the strategic flow of work.  As the design improves and more information becomes available, the schedule is enhanced first to ‘medium density’ and then to ‘high density’. The actual work is controlled by the ‘high density’ part of the schedule. For more on ‘schedule density’ see: www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1016_Schedule_Density.pdf.

Where this concept gets really interesting is in the control of the work.  The medium and high density elements of the schedule are built using the same ‘virtual reality’ process as the overall schedule, therefore each object in the overall BIM model can include data on the resources allocated to the work, the sequence of work and the time allowed. Given workers on BIM-enabled projects already use various PDAs to access details of their work, the same tablet or smart device can be used to tell the workers their next job and how long that have to complete it. When they complete the task, updating the BIM model with that progress information updates the schedule, tells the crew their next job and tells the next resources planned to move into the area that the space is available. The schedule and the 3D model are the same entity.

Similarly, off-site manufacturing and design lead-times can be integrated into the dataset.  Each manufactured item can have its design, manufacture and transport and approval times associated with the element making the development of an off-site works / procurement schedule a simple process to extract the report once the schedule is set.  Identifying delays in the supply chain and dealing with changes in the timing of installation become staigtforward.

When inevitable problems occur, the project management team have the ideal tool to work through solutions and determine the optimum way forward, as soon as the new schedule is agreed, the BIM model already holds the information.

One of the key concepts in ‘schedule density’ is that any work planned for the short-term future has to be based on the actual performance of the crews doing the work. In a BIM enabled scheduling system this can also be automated. The work content of each activity is held in the model as is the crew assigned to the work. As soon as the work crew’s productivity can be measured, the benchmark values used in the original planning can be updated with real data. Where changes in performance are needed to deal with slippages and productivity issues these can be properly planned and incorporated into the schedule based on when the implemented changes can be expected to occur.

I’m not sure if this is BIM2 or BIM++ but these ideas are not very far in advance of current capabilities – all we need now is a software developer to take on the ideas and make them work.

These concepts will be harder to apply to ‘soft projects’ but the planning paradigms in soft projects have already been shaken up by Agile. But integrating 3D modelling with an integrated capability for real 4D interaction certainly seem to make sense for projects where the primary time management issue is the flow of resources in the correct sequence through a defined series of work locations in three dimensions.   What do you think???

Scope for improvement 4 pt2

Scope-for-Improvement-2014This post is my second discussing Ashurst Lawyers fourth report in the ‘Scope for Improvement’series looking at the management and delivery of mega projects in Australia; focused on the interlinked topics of productivity, innovation and training (read the first post).

This ‘Scope for Improvement’ report identified productivity and skills shortages as a key problem for the sector but failed to offer any real options for improvement.  The report also acknowledged productivity in Australia is significantly worse than many other developed economies, and whilst skills shortages are less of an issue now that the demand in the resources sector has returned to more normal levels, many participants expect it will again become a major issue in the near future. Some of the more significant observations from the report (with my thoughts in italics) are:

  • Major inhibitors are the heavily regulated labour market and restrictive work practices. This is a management failing, enterprise bargaining has been part of the Australian industrial system for nearly a decade.
  • Inadequate or insufficient training, and lack of experience, particularly in project and risk management of large projects, have been evident. . This is another management failing, skills don’t magically develop in ‘the market’ organisations need to invest in training.
  • There is a generational shift in talent and experience at project director level. Developing ‘young talent’ needs career planning – largely ignored in the construction sector.
  • There is not enough talent in the market to adequately cover the step shift in project scale (typically up from $800 million to $2billion) that occurred in the mid-2000s. Long term skills development has been largely ignored in this sector.

More depressing, was the complete absence of any meaningful discussion on BIM – Building Information Modelling.  BIM is now mainstream in the UK construction industry and gathering pace in the USA, China, Europe and many other countries (many of which have contracting footholds in the Australian market).

The reason the rest of the world is focusing on BIM is productivity and profit.  BIM reduces risk, increases efficiency and substantially reduces cost. BIM has a similar enabling capacity to EFPOST in the retail industry. The development of fully integrated data, driving efficiencies right through the supply chain – with EFTPOS, the suppliers know how many stock items have been sold today to arrange restocking overnight; JIT with a vengeance. BIM offers similar opportunities to radically reform and update the construction industry and drag it from its medieval craft roots into the modern era.

Implementing BIM will be a cultural revolution in the Australian context, making the optimum use of BIM will require skilled staff working as permanent members of the construction business’ supply chain. Successfully implementing BIM will require investment, training, staff development and a major shift in workforce management and supply chain management. The challenge facing Australian companies in all parts of the industry is to either catch up with their global competitors or face extinction.

The problem is a unlike the UK, there is no government leadership and we do not have the market size that allows innovative investments in Europe, China and North America. Solving this conundrum is where the real ‘scope for improvement’ lies.

To understand more about BIM and access a wide range fo free resources (mainly from the UK) see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1082_BIM_Levels.pdf

The Scope for Improvement reports can be downloaded from: http://www.ashurst.com/publication-item.aspx?id_Content=10561&langId=1

Construction Management Update

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)  has been working to advance the profession of construction management for nearly 190 years and this work is continuing apace.  At its series of annual meetings held in Yorkshire in June, several major developments were moved forward significantly.

In a rapidly globalising industry, the accreditation of the Chartered grades of CIOB membership at QCF level 6, which is comparable to an Honours Degree will help mobility and professional recognition, particularly by government agencies.  Even better news is the membership processes only need minor adjustments to lift the Chartered Member (MCIOB) to QCF Level 7 a qualification comparable to a Masters Degree and the Fellows (FCIOB) to QCF Level 8, which is comparable to a Doctorate.  This recognition granted by the UK NARIC is recognised by equivalent accreditation bodies in a wide range of countries including Australia (NVQ), the USA and other ENIC members.  For more see http://www.ecctis.co.uk/naric/news%20story.aspx?NewsID=282

Work of many years to define and differentiate construction management from project management also took another step forward. Construction management is a broad discipline focused on the creation, maintenance and eventual disposal of assets in the built environment (see the CIOB Definition).

Project management focuses on the efficient execution of a project. There are obviously many construction projects where the two disciplines overlap, but construction management is extends to be involved with the work of the client prior to the initiation of the project and to facilities management once the asset has been built. (For more on the difference see Construction Management -v- Project Management).  In June, a resolution to recognise Chartered Construction Managers was passed at an EGM and is now awaiting ratification by the Privy Council.

With the formal recognition of CIOB’s qualifications, the definition of construction management and the work to have the designation Chartered Construction Manager nearing completion the standing of the profession in the 21st century has been significantly enhanced.

A paper I have planned for 2014 on the ‘Origins of Construction Management’ will argue that this discipline has been at the forefront of the development of management practice for over 5000 years and the good work continues.

The next area of ongoing development is Building Information Modelling (BIM).  The CIOB is at the forefront of the work to bring this game changing way of working into general use.  The overall BIM framework closely matches the concepts of construction management discussed above focused on achieving through life efficiencies in built assets. In April, CIOB launched the first general form of contract specifically designed for use on projects implementing BIM (see more on CPC2013). For more on BIM see our White Paper  and visit the UK BIM Taskgroup.

Closely aligned to the efficiencies promised by BIM, CIOB’s Carbon 2050 initiative has also been refreshed.  Carbon 2050 is a suite of tool designed to help any organisation from designers and consultants to general contractors implement plans to reduce their carbon footprint. For more on Carbon 2050 see http://www.carbonaction2050.com/.

Finally a number of initiatives were discussed to enhance the project time management framework and promote access to the Project Time Management Certificate. These initiatives are expected to be in place before the next two courses scheduled for Perth on the 30th Oct. and Melbourne on the 20th Nov. For more on the PTMC accreditation see http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Training-CIOB_PTMC.html.

This has been a busy couple of months but overall great progress has been made on a number of key initiatives.

The 4th Dimension of BIM

This post is being composed from the CIOB AGM, conference and Members Forum in Dublin, Ireland. The opening day focused on a broad reaching BIM Conference.

BIM = Building Information Modelling. BIM is likely to be a game changing evolution in the way the ‘built environment’ is designed, built and maintained through life to the eventual decommissioning and either renovation or demolition of the structure. It is an evolutionary process with escalating levels of sophistication and information:

For more on the various levels and elements see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1082_BIM_Levels.pdf

BIM is becoming a world-wide trend; the UK Government has mandated the use of BIM on all major projects by 2016, contractors are taking the lead in the USA, BIM is routinely used in China and Hong Kong, and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) is looking at implications in Australia. Used effectively BIM results in a significant reduction in waste, the CMMA-USA estimate up to 30% of construction costs are due to wasted materials, rework and wasted time waiting for information.

However using BIM is not just a technology issue. Some of the factors needed to implement BIM effectively include:

  • Managing the culture change and stakeholder issues to allow collaborative working.
  • Adapting contracts and insurance policies to allow the collaborative development and use of shared data. The CIOB have developed a new form of contract to assist in this, see: New CIOB Contract for Complex Projects. https://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/new-ciob-contract-for-complex-projects/
  • Managing data exchange formats and other technical issues.
  • Designing the BIM model and Execution Plan; including deployment, quality assurance, ownership (stewardship) of data, defining the audience for the information extracted from the model and selecting the appropriate level of detail to put into the model and to extract from the model for different audiences.

Incorporating the 4th Dimension – Virtual Construction

The intention of this blog is not to provide a BIM tutorial, rather to look at the opportunities created when the 4th D of time is integrated into a reasonably sophisticated BIM model.

Adding the ‘4th Dimension’ allows the schedule to be linked with data objects at an appropriate level of detail and the project to be built virtually, testing different options before deciding on the best approach. Data from the USA suggests time savings of up to 10% are not uncommon.

Using the 4D model has many advantages. As a starting point, because the work can be seen in 3D, implementing concepts such as lean construction and last planner become much simpler. The workers can see what the current situation is and contribute effectively to decisions as to what work will be done in what sequence during the next few days and then see the results in virtual reality before starting on the actual work. This involvement can operate at the detail level such as services integration in a congested ceiling space or at a higher level looking at plant and materials movements. Some of the other opportunities include:

  • Using BIM to model the overall sequence of work on site. This is particularly useful for showing clients how the building will be constructed.
  • Using the visualisation to develop stakeholder engagement with the schedule at all levels from client to on-site workers.
  • Optimising phasing and temporary works, particularly on complex expansion and refurbishment projects.
  • Modelling the optimum vehicle, plant and material movements for maximum efficiency, particularly if there is restricted access.

Considerable skill is needed to integrate the schedule with the BIM model and make effective use of the information; a BIM expert will typically work with a scheduling expert to pull the data together.

A future extension of BIM could see the need to manage supply items removed from the schedule. The construction schedule defines when the element is needed, the BIM system knows what data items are included in the element and it should not be too difficult in an integrated model to then work back from the ‘install date’ to the required manufacture date and before that, the required design date for each item. The integrated nature of the data would make tracking and managing the supply chain a real-time process with everyone fully informed of the current situation and any issues or problems.

BIM also has the potential to shift planning from activity based scheduling to location based scheduling allowing the optimisation of workflows through a project. In fact with the increasing power of computers, it is possible to foresee a time when the process of scheduling changes from using traditional tools to a virtual construction space where the planner physically moves elements of the building into place in the optimum sequence (or tests alternatives), in the same way a Lego model is built, and the BIM system creates the schedule from the optimum sequencing information created in ‘virtual space’.

Summary

The CIOB is leading a number of initiatives to integrate effective time management back into construction management. The key initiatives are:

For any non-construction person who has read this far…… BIM is not an exclusively construction management tool, it works on any engineering project: Boeing use very similar systems to manage the development and through life maintenance of the Dreamliner!

New CIOB Contract for Complex Projects

The Chartered Institute Of Building (CIOB) has launched a new contract for construction and engineering projects. The CIOB Contract for Complex Projects has been written for the 21st Century. It is designed to permit the CIOB’s Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Complex Projects to be put into practice.

The contract can be used for collaborative design with a building information model (BIM) and anticipates and encourages competence in the use of computerised transmission of data. It requires collaborative working in the management of risks and transparency of data used in such management.

The contract has been drafted to be used in any country and legal jurisdiction around the world to provide a means of managing the causes and consequences of delay (the single most common cause of uncontrolled loss and cost escalation in complex building and engineering projects) where the design is produced by the employer, the contractor with or without a building information model.

The key principles embedded in the contract design include:

  • It is written in plain English, suitable for both building and engineering projects and may be adopted for other types of work. It can be used for turnkey, design and build, for construction only, or for part contractor’s design, both in the UK and internationally.
  • It permits a variety of contract documents including BIM (building information model) and requires electronic communications either via a file transfer protocol or a common data environment for collaborative working.
  • The contract contains new roles for the Project Time Manager, Design Coordination Manager and Auditor, as well as the Contract Administrator and the design team.
  • It requires complete transparency in planned and as-built information in compliance with the CIOB’s Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Complex Projects. It is currently the only standard form of contract available which requires a resourced critical path network, a planning method statement and progress records to a specified, quality assured standard, with significant redress for a failure to comply with the contract requirements.
  • The contractor’s schedule (or programme as it is called in other contracts) is to be a dynamic critical path network in varying densities, described and justified in a planning method statement. It is to be designed in different densities compatible with the information available, reviewed and revised in the light of better information as it becomes available, updated with progress and productivity achieved and resources used and impacted contemporaneously to calculate the effect of intervening events on time and cost (see more on Schedule Density).
  • The contractor’s schedule is not only the time control tool but also the cost control tool against which interim valuations are made and the predicted cost of the works is calculated contemporaneously permitting out-turn cost and total time prediction on a daily basis though the updated working schedule.
  • The contract contains detailed requirements for the identification and use of time and cost contingencies, defines float and concurrency and sets down rules for their use. It provides the power for the contractor to keep the benefit of any time it saves by improved progress as its own contingency, which cannot be taken away.
  • It contains a procedure for contemporaneous expert resolution of issues arising during construction. In the absence of reference to experts specified issues concerning submittal rejections and conditional approvals are deemed to be agreed, helping to avoid doubt about responsibilities and escalation of disputes. The experts used during the course of the works can be called as a witness by either party in any subsequent adjudication and/or arbitration proceedings and, in order to help to give transparency to the way dispute resolvers deal with the contract and help to make sure it functions in the way it is supposed to, the adjudicator’s decision and/or arbitrator’s award is to be a public document, unless the parties agree otherwise.

The Chartered Institute of Building would like to receive your comments and criticism on the Review Edition of the CIOB Contract by Monday, 30 July 2012. All comments will be acknowledged and taken into consideration in future review and revision of the form and its constituent standard form documents. To review the contract see: http://www.ciob.org.uk/CPC