Massive development projects, environmental concerns and increasing private investment in infrastructure are driving the adoption of integrated solutions using geospatial and BIM integrated with 3D visualisation technologies to intelligently model urban infrastructure and city environments. Geoff Zeiss, Editor – Building & Energy, explores the potential of this powerful integration
Several years ago in an award winning paper at an AGI conference, Ann Kemp, then head of GIS at infrastructure consulting major Atkins Global, asked the question, “BIM isn’t Geospatial, Or is it?”, and then proceeded to make a strong case for integration of GIS and BIM to address the challenges of the 21st century: “BIM and geospatial are firmly inter-linked —and that the advancement of BIM relies, in part, on integrating geospatial skills and technologies into BIM solutions. This is not a trivial undertaking. A convergence of expertise and ideas is required… A gap still exists between the BIM community and the geospatial community — this must be bridged if we are to fulfil the UK Government targets — and should be bridged if the geospatial community is to contribute to the demands and requirements of the AECOO industry around the globe.”
Earlier this year, Kemp organised a BIM for Infrastructure Conference at the Royal Goegraphical Society as a special interest group of the Association for Geographic Information, UK, which was attended by over a hundred people from the construction and geospatial sectors. Based on the level of dialogue, recognition of common problems and the advantages of an integrated approach to solving them, Kemp thinks that we may be at the tipping point for the integration of these technologies. The vertical integration of companies like Trimble and Hexagon which are integrating geospatial into construction is further evidence that this trend is accelerating.
Kemp wasn’t the first one to speak on this topic. The need to integrate geospatial and engineering design has been gaining traction for some time now. At this year’s Geodesign Summit, organised by Esri, Carl Steinitz of Harvard’s Department of Landscape Architecture made the case that addressing the key global issues will require a new level of cross-disciplinary collaboration: “It is clear that for serious societal and environmental issues, designing for change cannot be a solitary activity. Rather, it is inevitably a collaborative endeavour, with participants from various design professions and geographic sciences, linked by technology from several locations for rapid communication and feedback, and reliant on transparent communication with the people of the place who are also direct participants.”
Building information modelling
One of the major technology trends that is set to transform the world’s construction industry is building information modelling (BIM). A widely recognised definition of BIM is: “it is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility creating a shared knowledge resource for information about it forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life cycle, from earliest conception to demolition.”
In practice, BIM is a set of technologies and processes that lead to better outcomes at different stages of the construction life-cycle — from conceptual planning, design and engineering, procurement and construction, commissioning, operations and maintenance, and disposal/demolition. BIM originally was applied to buildings, hence the ‘B’, but has now been generalised to include infrastructure.
Global BIM adoption
The adoption of BIM processes and technologies is a major trend that has been gathering steam over the last decade, motivated by the need for better outcomes. According to McGraw-Hill Construction, the overall adoption of BIM has increased from 17% in 2007 to 71% in 2012 in the US, registering a 45% growth over the last three years, or 400% growth over the last five years. In 2012, adoption by all categories of stakeholders increased as compared with 2009 (adoption by engineers and contractors increased by over 50%). Most respondents reported a positive return on investment in BIM with contractors (74%), owners (67%), and architects (65%) reporting the highest proportion of positive return on investment.
In the UK, the third annual industry-wide Building Information Modelling survey undertaken by the National Building Specification (NBS) was conducted between December 2012 and February 2013. More than 1,350 professionals participated from disciplines like architecture, engineering and surveying, of which 39% said they were already using BIM while 71% agreed that BIM represents the “future of project information”
Global BIM adoption in public sector
Worldwide many governments are mandating BIM because data shows that its adoption provides quantifiable business benefits by improving collaboration, cutting costs, and reducing the risk of budget and schedule overruns during the design and construction phase of building projects.
In 2006, the General Services Administration (GSA) mandated that new buildings designed in the US through its Public Buildings Service use BIM in the design stage. All GSA projects are encouraged to go beyond the minimum and deploy mature 3D, 4D, and BIM technologies. One of the important drivers was a shrinking workforce from more than 40,000 to about 12,500 in 2006.
In Norway, all Statsbygg projects were using IFC/IFD based BIM by 2010. In Denmark, many state agencies such as the Defence Construction Service require BIM for their projects. In Finland, Senate Properties required BIM models to be compliant with IFC standard for their projects since October 2007. The Hong Kong Housing Authority will require BIM for all new projects starting in 2014. The South Korean Public Procurement Service made BIM compulsory for all projects over S$50 million and for all public sector projects from 2016.
Singapore’s goal is to implement the fastest building permitting in the world. The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) led a multi-agency effort in 2008 to implement the world’s first BIM electronic submission (e-submission). Project teams only need to submit one building model which contains all of the information needed to meet the requirements of a regulatory agency. To date, more than 200 projects have made BIM e-submissions. In 2010, the BCA implemented a roadmap with the aim that 80% of the construction industry will use BIM by 2015. This is part of the government’s plan to improve the construction industry’s productivity by up to 25% over the next decade.
The UK government has targeted to reduce the cost of government construction projects by 20%. To achieve this, it has undertaken several initiatives, one of which is to mandate Level 2 BIM for government projects beginning 2016.
UK’s initial focus is on the design/ build part of the life cycle, but the government has said “the 20% saving refers to capex cost savings. However, we know that the largest prize for BIM lies in the operational stages of the project life-cycle”. The McGraw-Hill Construction survey found that a small but significant percentage of owners are using models for building system operation analysis, maintenance scheduling, asset and space management while about 60% of contractors report medium to high demand from owners for as-built record BIM models.
BIM for infrastructure
Horizontal BIM, heavy BIM, VDC, civil information modelling, BIM on its side, or BIM for infrastructure are terms used in the construction industry for the application of model-based technologies and processes to non-building projects. This includes infrastructure for dams, waste facilities, rail, transit, aviation, energy, public parks and recreation, bridges, roads and highways, and water and wastewater. The term ‘vertical BIM’ is often used to differentiate BIM for buildings.
McGraw-Hill Construction’s report The Business Value of BIM for Infrastructure (prepared in 2012) suggests that BIM is beginning to significantly impact the infrastructure construction industry. High/very high use of BIM for infrastructure projects among owners, contractors, and A/E firms was only 16% in 2009. By 2013, it reached 52%. McGraw-Hill Construction estimates that the use of BIM for infrastructure is about three years behind the BIM use on vertical projects but predicts that adoption in the horizontal market will occur at a faster rate than the rate of adoption in the vertical market.
What is driving investment in BIM ? In the last 200 years, urbanisation has occurred at an unprecedented rate, representing the largest impact humans have had on the planet, spurring massive investments in infrastructure. It has been estimated that between 2013 and 2030, $57 trillion in infrastructure investment will be required simply to keep up with the projected global GDP growth. This is nearly 60% more than the $36 trillion spent globally on infrastructure over the past 18 years.
In June 2013, global CO2 concentration reached 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history. Environmental concerns are forcing changes in how we build and manage the world’s infrastructure. To ensure that it meets its 20- 20-20 Energy Efficiency Objective, the European Commission (EC) proposed a new energy efficiency directive in 2011 that imposes a legal obligation for all member states to establish energy saving schemes in the public sector.
Buildings use about 40% of global energy and emit approximately onethird of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Realising this, governments across the world are taking proactive remedial measures. For instance, in its 40-year plan, Germany has set the objective of new insulation standards for compliance by all buildings by 2050, and reducing energy requirements for heating by 20% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050. Of the $7 trillion invested annually in construction in the last few years, less than 10% can be called green. But as concerns about the environment.become more urgent, analysts have projected that this could grow to as much as 75% by 2020.
Increased private funding Owing to the growing demands for social programmes, governments have less funding to devote to capital infrastructure projects. As a result, they are increasingly looking to private sector to fill the funding gap. However, attracting private sector funding will necessitate the promise of returns. In many countries, including the EU, US, Japan, and Korea, construction productivity has stagnated over the past few decades. McKinsey singled out poor construction productivity as an important factor in eroding returns on infrastructure, making the sector less attractive for private investment.
Shortage of engineers and skill resources in many of the world’s advanced economies owing to an aging workforce is exacerbating the need for greater productivity. For instance, Germany estimates that a shortage of about 400,000 engineers and skilled resources has reduced its GDP growth by about 1%.
Thus, the stage is set for a radical transformation of the construction industry with a focus on improving productivity. It is expected that investment in technology will be a key element of the strategy to ensure that our infrastructure is expanded and transformed.
Transforming the construction
In the construction world, 3D modelling and model-based design, which integrate BIM, GIS and survey, and laser-scanning (LiDAR) in a 3D visualisation environment, are increasingly being used to improve the design and build phases of the construction process. Parsons-Brinckerhoff, part of the large global construction firm Balfour Beatty, has been a leader in applying 3D modelling for design validation, clash detection, parametric modelling, and design visualisation during design and 4D modelling (time+3D), and 5D (cost+time+3D) for scheduling during construction.
One of the most important advantages of combined engineering and geospatial datasets is improved communication and coordination between all project stakeholders, especially with non-technical decision makers. For example, on highway projects, Parsons-Brinckerhoff uses gaming technology before actual construction begins so that the public can drive on the highways in a virtual environment, and get familiarised with even the detours required during construction.
ARCADIS Netherlands is a large engineering firm that has been involved in projects which integrate geospatial into the design process. An example is a big infrastructure project like the HOV Nijmegen project, where it was found that integrating geospatial and engineering design in a single database resulted in a single copy of each data element with multiple use by different groups. The integrated approach simplified communication and increased the quality of the final design. It also enabled automated analysis of the consequences of design choices with the result that the planning cycle was shorter.
ARCADIS identified some the critical roles that geospatial technology plays in the construction lifecycle, including planning/preparation, asset management/maintenance, and managing as-builts. It concluded that there are three main barriers to the integration of civil engineering and geospatial.
• Semantics: different terms used for the same things by geospatial analysts and civil engineers and designers.
• Different topology: geospatial uses point, lines, and polygons; CAD/ BIM uses splines, nurbs, and other parametric curves and treats polygons in a different way.
• Data formats and standards: geospatial data is stored in shape files, GML, and CityCML; CAD/BIM uses DWG, DGN, RVT files and IFC.
Traditionally, the challenge has been that engineering on one hand and geospatial on the other have been different cultures with different languages and tools. The way Carl Steinitz would put is that they work at different scales. Geospatial scientists deal with the universal, engineers with the very specific.
To bridge the semantic gap, Jaap Bakkers, Program Director, Rijkswaterstaat (part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment), began an initiative called the Concept Library (CB-NL) because he recognised that the biggest problem with BIM models is that it is difficult to exchange information between different phases in the building life cycle on the one hand, and between different players in the supply chains on the other.
CB-NL provides a mapping between different terminologies used by different players in the construction life cycle and the supply chain. It interrelates terms like arch bridge, rail bridge, spanning structure, via-duct, bridge feature, and crossing, each of which may be used by a different domain to refer to the same structure. Since several of the construction phases involve geospatial data and technology, the concept library will include geospatial.
As part of the Dutch 3D cadastre standard which is being developed by Geonovum, the National Spatial Data Infrastructure Executive Committee in the Netherlands, there is a project to align the OGC CityGML-based GeoBIM standard and the IFC standard widely used in the construction industry. The objective of the Geonovum work group is to define a standard, semantically meaningful mapping between IFC and GeoBIM/CityGML.
The combination of geospatial and BIM for infrastructure is poised to “turn the construction process on its head” in the words of Ron Singh, Chief Surveyor at the Oregon Department of Transportation (DoT). One of the trends attracting a lot of attention of transportation departments around the world is self-driving cars. Three states in the US have already given the nod for vehicles like Google cars to be test driven on state highways. Self-driving vehicles mean intelligent highways. In Singh’s view, maintaining accurate, upto- date intelligent highway models will require a fundamental change in how highways projects are managed. This means that 80-90% of what is required to initiate design for a highway project will come from a geospatially aware engineering archive database and postconstruction surveys will ensure that what goes into the engineering data archive is accurate and up-to-date.
Major economies like the EU, US, and Japan are mandating near-zero energy/net-zero energy/zero emissions buildings. In the EU, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) recast mandates that by 2018 new public buildings must be designed to be “nearly zero energy” and the same requirement will apply for all new building by 2020. In the US, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates all new federal facilities to be designed to be “net-zero energy” buildings by 2030. Similar requirements are expected in Japan. As a result, the net-zero energy building industry has been projected to grow by 43% per year to reach $690 billion by 2020 and $1.3 trillion by 2035.
Another major initiative in many cities is managing electric power usage. For instance, in Ontario, the electric power regulator has required power distribution utilities to reduce peak demand by about 6% and consumption by about 5% by 2014. To support this effort, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA)’s high performance new construction programme provides design assistance and financial incentives for building owners and architects to exceed the electricity efficiency standards specified in the Ontario Building Code.
BIM and geospatial are key data sources and technologies in modelling and analysing the energy performance of buildings. Many companies use energy performance analysis to help architects and engineers optimise energy usage of new buildings. The first step in energy performance modelling of a building is the creation of a BIM model. Following this, energy performance analysis of the building requires using the geographical location of the building, surrounding natural and man-made structures, and local environmental conditions. Canada-based 3D Energy has found that with a BIM-based approach to building energy performance modelling, it is possible to reduce annual energy consumption and power bills by as much as 40%.
Modelling urban environments
Cities around the world are beginning to realise the power that comes from the convergence of modern information technology, including BIM, geospatial/ GIS, intelligent (connected) network models for electric power, telecommunications, water and wastewater, transportation, and other infrastructure, real-time data management systems including “big data” technology, and 3D visualisation.
A number of cities are increasingly competing to be greener. Vancouver’s GIS planner Dan Campbell sees the greener city initiative as a major driving force for new city initiatives. It creates a framework for many new projects, from increasing the number of bike routes, densification, urban forests, to sea level rise mitigation.
Modelling urban infrastructure
Accurate geolocation of underground resources is a worldwide challenge. In the United States, an underground utility line is hit on an average every 60 seconds. In the recent years municipalities ministries and departments of transportation are recognising the cost of unreliable geolocation information about underground infrastructure. Several studies sponsored by government agencies and conducted by university researchers have estimated the RoI in improving information about underground utilities. In a retrospective study sponsored by the US Department of Transporation in 1999, Purdue University estimated an RoI of $4.62 for every dollar invested.
In a 2004 study sponsored by the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association, the University of Toronto estimated a return of C$3.41($3.32). A Pennsylvania DoTsponsored study in 2007 by Pennsylvania State University estimated a return of $21.00. Recently, in a study of several highway projects in Ontario, the University of Toronto found returns of C$2.05- 6.59 ($2-6.42).
»Lombardy infrastructure model: In the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, a pilot project was carried out over the last few years on the site of the Expo Milano 2015 event in Milan to map all underground infrastructure including electric power, water, sewers, gas, district heating, street lighting, and telecommunications. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) was used for detecting the location of underground infrastructure. The results revealed significant discrepancies in the historic records, including thousands of metres of undocumented infrastructure.
An economic analysis of the data was also carried out and the estimated RoI is about €16 ($21.25) for every euro invested in improving the reliability information of underground infrastructure. Other unquantified benefits included improved safety for workers and the public and fewer traffic disruptions.
»Las Vegas city infrastructure model: Two years ago, the Las Vegas government initiated an intelligent 3D project to model one-and-half miles of Main Street in the older part of the city. The project was intended to model below and above ground facilities, including roadways, utilities and telecommunications, as well as buildings.
A major benefit is increased safety because of the reduced risk of unexpectedly hitting underground utilities, especially hazardous facilities like gas mains. Overall, the city has found that the 3D model approach provides more information per dollar invested. The city is expanding the 3D modelling project to an area six times larger than the original project area.
Modelling entire urban environments
The New South Wales government in Australia, the Los Angeles Community College District and the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the City of Belo Horizonte in Brazil are among the pioneers in developing intelligent city models incorporating BIM.
»Los Angeles Community College District: The LACCD is the largest community college district in the United States and serves more than 250,000 students annually at nine colleges. In 2004, it was decided to initiate a project to create 3D BIM models of all buildings, including interior power, water, mechanical, and lighting systems together with 2D models of underground infrastructure on the LACCD campuses. One of the most important design decisions made very early was that all data, including BIM models, were to be georeferenced and stored in an Oracle Spatial database. This approach enabled all the data to be served to various applications. The LACCD model has been used for a variety of purposes such as visualisation, energy performance modelling, predictive maintenance of facilities inside and outside of buildings, and even brought into a gaming environment for safety and security training.
»i-SCOPE project for urban smart services:In the EU, an open source project called i-SCOPE involves developing 3D urban models that can be used to provide interactive smart services. The concept is to develop 3D Urban Information Models from accurate urbanscale geospatial information as a basis for smart Web services based on geometric, semantic, morphological and structural information at urban scale level. This information can be used by local governments to improve decisionmaking on issues related to urban planning, promote inclusion among various users groups (e.g. elder or disabled citizens), and involve citizens collecting georeferenced information based on location based services.
»European SUNSHINE Project: The project aims to deliver an extensible open toolkit featuring three smart services for energy assessment of buildings at urban scale for the creation of “ecomaps” and their energy pre-certification; optimisation of energy consumption of heating/cooling systems based on localised weather forecasts and energy modelling of buildings; and optimisation of power consumption through remote control of public illumination levels.
»Modelling The Hague:The Dutch Interior Ministry has initiated a joint project with the municipal government of The Hague to support an effort model in 3D on 1 sq km downtown, with the objective of reducing and stabilising energy usage and costs for the entire area. This involves assembling topography, ownership and building information, land registry, engineering as-builts for underground grids, including electricity, gas and heat, energy labels, monuments, energy consumption, surfaces suitable for solar panels, 3D models of buildings and infrastructure, heat pump facilities, solar probability map, wind probability map, and geothermal facilities.
Over the next two decades, construction, electric power, water and transportation networks and other municipal infrastructure including buildings will see a massive infusion of investments, primarily motivated by environmental concerns, aging infrastructure, and the need to accelerate economic development. A greater proportion of these investments will come from the private sector, which will drive an increased focus on productivity to improve returns on investment. The challenge of increasing productivity will be exacerbated by a shortage of educated and skilled labour. Together, these trends are driving technology that is poised to transform the construction industry. An example is the accelerating adoption of integrated BIM, geospatial, and 3D visualisation, geospatially enabled data management, and vertical applications based on these technologies.
The concrete practical examples show how converged solutions using existing BIM, geospatial and 3D visualisation technology are being applied to intelligently model urban infrastructure and entire urban environments ranging from neighbourhoods to a medium-sized city. Current applications include planning, emergency management, sustainability analysis, and facilities management, but it is not hard to imagine many other areas where these digital urban models will play an important role in the future.