Software is the Solution

February 2019
Better and faster design, lower head counts, greater coordination between project teams and easier access to funding are just some of the many benefits of construction software.

Building construction starts with design; and, here, AutoCAD, the popular 2D design and drafting solution from Autodesk, is being widely used. A step up from AutoCAD, building information modelling (BIM) design software operates in three dimensions, delivering a host of added advantages. Consider this comparison: “Thirty-seven engineers or technicians worked on the schematic design and detailed design of the Mumbai International Airportwith AutoCAD, while only 12 and 18 engineersand technicians worked on those same drawings for the Bangalore International Airport project with Revit, a BIM solution,” shares MK Sunil, AEC Industry Territory Sales Manager, India & SAARC, Autodesk.

Achieving volume is just one of the many benefits BIM delivers to consultants.

Typically, “the primary advantage of BIM is visual coordination of the building structure and systems, something that is especially a challenge in complex multidisciplinary infrastructure projects involving different stakeholders,” says Debasis Sarkar, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Civil Engineering, School of Technology, Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University.

In particular, BIM helps navigate structural and material complexity that was well proven in the implementation of the Chennai Annadurai International Airport expansion and modernisation project. Tekla Structures, a Constructible BIM solution, helped overcome the biggest challenge:

The complex geometry of the concrete and steel structures. Yugasoft, the data modelling firm, derived drawing details and material quantities from the Tekla model for fabrication, which were then seamlessly integrated into their in-house fabrication data package, and by using the centre of gravity from the Tekla model, the jigs were prepared for each segment of trusses to ensure perfect alignment and geometry during assembly. “Optimised material usage helped reduce material wastage by 4 per cent and increased productivity by more than 30 per cent,” says Paul Wallett, Regional Director, Trimble Solutions India and Middle East.

Additionally, BIM can help identify possible collisions of different utilities and services such as electrical installations, plumbing installations, heating ventilation and air conditioning and fire safety devices, says Sarkar.

While designing Landmark Vertica, a luxury apartment project in Chennai with a complex design, Architect Indrajit Kembhavi of Kembhavi Architects relied on BIM software to “identify level clashes as well as services or structural clashes and overlays”.

Also, providing the many project requirements on the tight site would not have been easy with AutoCAD, explains Kembhavi; it necessitated BIM. These requirements included mechanical parking, landscaping at varied levels, a mix of residential types, recreational amenities on the rooftop including swimming pools, theatres, party spaces and a sports area. Varied material specifications brought their own challenges.

Versatile BIM
Constructible BIM not only serves as a central source of digital information that helps ensure a building is constructed as efficiently as possible, it is also used a project management technique. “Having a central data-rich model means that every stage in the construction process is driven by information, not guesswork, thus helping to adhere to timelines and budgets,” observes Wallett.

After a building is constructed, the BIM model serves as a base to release payments. “Using the 3D model to facilitate payment has yet to kick off in India,” shares Sunil. “An aerial scan of the constructed structure can be mapped to the digital model. If it is the same, the validation time for the payment process is faster and payment becomes easier.”

After occupancy, the BIM model serves as a resource for efficient management of the structure.

“The more information is fed to the model at the pre-construction stage, the more useful is the resulting data-rich model to lower operational costs,” explains Sunil. For instance, if a lighting fixture at ‘X’ location were to fail, the data-rich building model could instantly tell the manager what sort of fixture was needed.

Another potential application of BIM in urban traffic management, especially in smart cities, involves modelling city roads to design traffic flows, says Sunil. “In India, governments have been quick to introduce cameras to capture traffic data. What is more important is to first correct the traffic flow design and then introduce sensors.

Get aware
In a 2015 study of the application of BIM to real-estate projects in Ahmedabad, roughly 5 per cent of users would use BIM for project analysis, 40 per cent for project coordination, 20 per cent for conceptual design, 15 per cent for detailed design, 10 per cent for documentation, 5 per cent for fabrication-related works and 5 per cent for operation and maintenance-related works.

Interestingly, none of the respondents would use BIM for code reviews and energy-efficiency related works. Study co-author Sarkar puts this limited use down to a lack of awareness.

“Only one-third of the respondents were aware of BIM, another one-third of respondents had some knowledge while one-third was clueless,” says Sarkar. “3D, 4D, 5D, 6D, 7D and 8D modelling helps in code reviews while 6D modelling involves integrating BIM with energy. Energy-efficient buildings can be designed with solutions such as Green Building Studio, Energy Plus. Then, the energy-efficient design can be converted into virtual reality with a BIM solution.”

“While the popular use of the design solution is to develop the architectural concept, fewer architects and developers are aware that Revit from Autodesk can also facilitate construction and operations,” agrees Sunil.

InSteel has expertise for conventional BIM applications such as creating the architectural, structural and MEP model, clash detection and BOQs, as well as advanced BIM applications such as 4D-Time and 5D-Cost, project planning using Primavera, integrating planning with the BIM models and updating the daily progress of project. “We create LOD500 models to extract all the drawings required by contractors for steel fabrication, rebar, MEP single service drawings and all the other construction components,” says Raju Jagtap, Managing Director, Insteel Engineers.

Recent Insteelprojects implemented with BIM include Raheja’s Metal Box, 5,500 homes for Cidco’s LIG-HIG project, 72 km of Dholera Smart City roads, Fairmont Hotel Mumbai and the Gandhinagar railway station with The Leela hotel above.

Sunil observes that every upcoming metro project station in India is being designed with BIM. In fact, “as Indian firms lack the modelling skills, overseas consultants are being awarded these contracts,” he observes. Evidently, the sooner more architects and structural engineers get trained in using BIM, the better it is for India.

Are you geared up to reimagine the construction continuum?
By streamlining various processes before and during the construction; technologies are fundamentally altering how the construction industry visualises a building’s journey along the construction continuum, spread over the five key stages of planning, designing, engineering, construction, and finally occupancy and maintenance, says Paul Wallett, Regional Director, Trimble Solutions India and Middle East. Driven by digitalisation, and the deployment of cutting-edge technologies and processes, the entire construction continuum will soon be characterised by pervasive use of connected systems of sensors, intelligent machines, mobile devices, and new software applications – all bound with a common thread of Constructible Building Information Modeling (BIM). In other words, modern technology is leading to a reimagining of the construction continuum, something most progressive companies have taken notice of and started to reimagine their own paths to digitisation.

IT can reduce waste and check pilferage
Marathon Realty, Mumbai, has been using Newton Software’s BOQ estimation tools for accurately and quickly calculating the quantity of steel, concrete and other materials required for buildings and other structures, and developing the Bar Bending Schedule. “With Newton’s estimation module, the steel wastage for projects is usually cut down to 1-2 per cent from the 5 per cent that typically happens by manual estimation, representing a significant saving,” says Priya Nevagi, Executive Director, Newton Software.

Mansi Construction, Mumbai, a road contracting company, wanted a solution to minimise pilferages during the transfer of excavated material to dumping grounds. With SuperWise, the details of each dumping truck arriving at the site are captured in real-time and a challan is issued to the transporter to ensure information is not misreported or manipulated. While implementing a road project worth Rs 100 million, Mansi Construction achieved savings of Rs 0.1 million per month during the excavation phase.

Best Practices to Make Your IT Investment Count
One of Nissi Infotech’s biggest customers with a 3,000-strong workforce is using its end-to-end solution Infraconsoft to manage work on 22 sites, including the Chennai airport. When installing a solution at multiple construction locations, an important aspect to consider is that the “software should be easily and speedily replicable at every new site,” suggests Wilson Manuel, Managing Director, Nissi Infotech.

Buying a construction industry-specific solution can help speed up deployment by cutting out the time (cost and effort) spent on software customisation, something Capacit’e considered while selecting BuildSmart, a web-based cost control solution from Construction Computer Software, according to Alex Mathew, Director, Sales & Marketing (India), Construction Computer Software.

Capacit’e Infraprojects implemented BuildSmart at more than 30 sites and three offices in less than six months, with just one person each in IT, accounts and stores driving the process under the executive director.

One must ensure the solution will not require more manpower. “After implementing BuildSmart, Capacit’e was able to reduce the head count in purchase, accounts and stores,” says Mathew.

After installing the most essential modules, think bigger to improve your gains. “Payroll, inventory and integration with accounts are the most popular modules deployed but some companies are climbing the utilisation curve by deploying pre-project management modules to prepare tenders and post-project management modules to control the utilisation of key inputs,” says Manuel.

Marathon Realty, Bakeri Group, Rohan Builders and Kolte-Patil are using Newton Software’s estimation module while Siddhashila Group, Maruti Group, AR Constructions and others are using Newton’s Simplify ERP modules facilitating rate analysis and cost estimation, online construction site management, sales management, etc. Sometime after Capacit’e installed BuildSmart, it implemented Candy to exercise real-time budget control in the procurement of goods and services and to compare budgets with the actual profitability and cash flow.

Why are Technology and Big Data Trending in Construction?
Getting continuous feedback from the site to monitor the physical progress of work as against the deliverable quantities and budgets is the biggest pain point in construction management, according to Sundar Rajan Tatachar, Head, Projects Development, Shree Naman Group. “Coordinating with site staff via telephone, WhatsApp and email is susceptible to transfer errors and can result in duplication of efforts as different sets of planning professionals may require information as well as need to provide direction.” Inefficient collaboration between different stakeholders often leads to losses, as well as sometimes hampers a company’s access to funds. “Seamless collaboration among project stakeholders is often neglected, and this frequently leads to project delays and errors,” adds Paul Wallett, Regional Director, Trimble Solutions India and Middle East.

No surprises then that collaborating technologies that enable robust and real-time project monitoring improve contractors’ and developers’ chances of netting new projects and getting funds from financiers who prioritise tools that help monitor the utilisation of their investment and ensure operational transparency, observes Ruchik Vora, Founder & CEO, SuperWise.

Vora feels the influx of overseas funds in realty is somewhat boosting the prospects for globally known solutions like SAP, or mobile-first solutions like SuperWise that speed up the reporting cycle by enabling project leads to sign off on reports even when they are on-the-go. Trimble offers cloud-based collaboration tools such as Trimble Connect and Tekla Model Sharing, which help multiple engineering and construction project teams to work remotely, on-the-go, and give third parties eg funding agencies, access to a project’s live status.

  • BIM benefits: Visual coordination of the building structure; navigate structural and material complexity.
  • Post construction, BIM model serves as a base to release payments.
  • Potential application in traffic management: Modelling city roads to design traffic flows.

- Charu Bahri

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