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Role of GeoBIM in Clash Detection

Clash Detection

The COVID-19 global pandemic has put enormous stress on most sectors, and the construction industry is no exception. Strict guidelines and restricted movements across states and districts has hit the supply chain badly, and even after the restrictions are eased, there might be a potential scarcity of workers for the initial few months. To mitigate the crisis, quite a few governments have announced economic stimulus packages to boost the construction industry, which is estimated to be a major revenue generator in the future.

A major concern for big companies and investors  in recent times has been stalling of projects. In such a situation, either the project owner or the contractor has to bear the repercussions, especially in terms of loss. However, this stagnant phase can be utilized for planning future coordination and clash detection, so that once normalcy is restored, there aren’t any delays or losses due to unplanned modifications.

What is clash detection?

Construction projects mostly suffer from three types of clashes – hard clash, soft clash and workflow clash. A hard clash refers to overlapping of locations for particular equipment or components, whereas, a soft clash refers to interferences caused between particular equipment and/or components. On the other hand, workflow clash refers to issues that affect the workflow of a project even when there are no hard or soft clashes. For example, planning an activity in the third week of a project which relies on materials that cannot arrive at the construction site before the fourth week is a workflow clash.

In the case of a hard or soft clash, building system components have to be physically moved to solve the issue. However, for workflow clashes, it can easily be solved by changing the project plan. Thus, during the process of clash detection and its resolution, MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineers can also optimize the layout of building systems. This helps in reducing the overall project cost, while simplifying the construction work. For example, it may be possible to power all the electrical devices in a floor with less conduit and wiring, which in turn saves not only materials but also time and cost.

Role of GeoBIM in clash detection

The current phase of slowdown is an excellent chance for utilizing GeoBIM solutions for coordination and fixing any errors in design such as MEP clashes. Modern sensor, collaboration and communication technology enables project design and other engineering tasks to continue seamlessly even during such emergency. They aid in moving the construction workflows such that projects can be resumed faster after the pandemic is over. With clash detection and their smart resolutions, many construction issues can be solved even before they occur, helping the real-estate developers to complete their projects faster and ease the pressure of overshooting the budget.

Earlier when all construction plans were drawn in two dimensions (2D), detecting clashes was strenuous as well as time consuming. In 2D CAD software, vertical distances were not very evident and many components had to be drawn with overlap, which made it difficult to read and interpret the drawings. However, modern BIM software like Autodesk BIM 360, Autodesk Revit, Vectorwork Architects, etc. have led to a paradigm shift as they provide clear visuals of location conflicts in three dimension (3D) and are also smart enough to detect the clashes. BIM software by Bentley Systems such as AECOsim Building Designer CONNECT Edition also has interesting and specialised features to enhance clash detection in both railway and roadways infrastructure projects. This enables both engineers and architects to use time more productively as instead of searching for errors they can focus on the best solution that can be implemented for each error that is detected.

Different geospatial technologies integrated with BIM play a supporting role in enhancing clash detection for construction projects. Traditional total stations, 3D laser scanning and UAVs (drones) have proven to be useful and cost-effective especially for large scaled projects at planning and designing phases of construction lifecycle. Using geospatial technologies, components can be precisely surveyed using 3D laser scanning and the process simulated prior to starting of construction. It also helps in pointing out any discrepancies in assembly lines in construction of large scale projects which require a complex mix of machinery and equipment. Drones enhance site management especially in detecting potential clashes during construction phase.

Esri’s ArcGIS, one of the most popular GIS software, supports development of a BIM-GIS framework which supports various analyses and strengthen clash detection. Clashes between existing utility networks and the designed pipelines can be identified and resolved virtually ahead of time. Changes in utility models can also be updated conveniently in the integrated BIM-GIS framework. Topcon Positioning System’s MAGNET VDC Solutions brings design to 3D reality for value-based clash detection and construction phase planning. FARO Technologies uses an integration of BIM and 3D laser scanning technologies in form of a software, FARO As-Built Modeler Software, backing it up with more plug-ins to help perform automated collision detection directly with point cloud data in AutoCAD which does not require switching software platforms. Users can easily verify if redesigning the planned construction project is needed, resulting in less rework and an accurate model.

Once the world recovers from the COVID pandemic, resuming construction projects will be the need of the hour. By utilising this time for clash detection and resolution, developers can save plenty of time in later stages of the construction workflow. Remote collaboration technology empowers design professionals to work on construction documents and related discussions over virtual meetings and allow them to carry on with electronic submission of drawings for project approvals and work permits to different building departments and authorities. Wise use of integrated geospatial and BIM technologies is indeed going to have a very positive impact on the return on investments (RoI) of the stalled projects and developers can gain heavily if they strategize well on this front.

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