In English, the saying “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” refers to delaying solving a problem until it’s imminent. In bridge building, this mindset would be costly, unreliable and prone to errors. Bridge Information Modeling (BrIM) takes another approach: it aims to solve all problems in advance, and making adjustments is smooth and easy along the process.
Bridge Information Modeling (BrIM) helps streamline construction processes from start to finish and maintenance and makes efficient collaboration possible between all project parties, including authorities. Upon completion, BrIM serves as a digital documentation tool for smart facility management.
Here, we introduce six ways BrIM can help bridge construction projects succeed.
1. Efficient and fast modeling streamlines the design phase
Though BrIM improves the whole design-build-operate process, designers reap the benefits first; with BrIM, they can capture the structure and alignment of the road or railway as well as the terrain. All input, such as geomodels, scanned images and point clouds, can be compiled and used for designing in a way that wouldn’t be possible with physical drawings.
A true Bridge Information Modeling solution is parametric, meaning that the parameters of the objects determine their interactions with each other. This builds intelligence by avoiding multiple inputs of the same data and duplicated errors throughout the design. The model contains more information than a drawing, and collaboration with the model is much easier.
Change management is the key to efficiency: the model is always up-to-date, as it is automatically updated after each revision, and the updates can be shared with other project members at every stage with minimal effort. There is no need to update drawings manually, and the production of all structural documentation is at the touch of a button.
Quality assurance is improved by correct quantity takeoffs, saving human hours and money. Clash checking ensures that the different models fit together perfectly before the project goes on site. The accuracy of the bridge design results in constructibility and confidence.
2. Common understanding across project parties
It’s an uncomfortable fact that an average of 40% of jobsite work is unproductive and as much as 30% of construction is rework. Reaping the full benefits of streamlining the entire design-construction process requires sharing and connecting accurate design information with other project parties.
A vital part of collaborative BrIM is data standardization, which enables the interoperability of software systems between different disciplines. The information can be consumed and shared across project parties, adding data-driven intelligence to the project.
On top of this, it is necessary to implement clear BrIM responsibilities, guidelines and procedures as well as skill up the designers, and build transparent communication methods, such as Big Room practices, so that the owner, designers and contractors can exchange information early on the project.
Even in the typical design-bid-build projects the information flow from design to construction improves significantly with the usage of digital collaboration platforms. BrIM boosts the quality of design with accurate information and consistent documentation that is available to all project parties regardless of their software.
3. Model-based fabrication helps avoid human errors and material waste
In infrastructure projects, 10% of materials is wasted. With accurate, data-rich models and simulations, calculating the needed quantity of materials is easy. Accurate data helps order the right amount at the right time, reducing waste and the need for excessive storage space on site.
Machine-readable data benefits steel and rebar workshops as well as precast concrete factories, helping mitigate errors due to automation guaranteeing correctness and consistency.
The fabrication information can be organized and managed according to project progress. The workshops can create on-demand reports, bending schedules, material lists and meshes and optimize the erection sequences. Even the truckloads of bridge assemblies can be organized and optimized. The pour units and formwork can be managed in detail to avoid wasting concrete, which is a hazardous waste and, as such, a critical environmental issue.
Online material suppliers can deliver the product data directly to the information model, including things like sensors, railings and staircases. Adequate, model-based fabrication information that is shared quickly and easily decreases the amount of extra hassle on site.
4. Construction-ready models prevent errors that hinder work on site
The unpleasant yet global truth is that on average 40% of infrastructure projects are over budget. The accurate and constructible (high LOD) design reduce construction costs and improves quantity takeoffs. In addition to transparent information sharing between project parties in the early phases of the project, BrIM boosts the constructibility of the bridge design with accurate information and brings consistent documentation available to all parties regardless of their software.
Realistic and always up-to-date visualizations as well as a step-by-step simulation of the construction process smoothen the communication with relevant authorities, and scheduling based on model data helps convey the scope of the project and its development.
Requests for Information (RFIs) and resolving issues on site can be costly, but BrIM helps avoid both. Spotting possible clashes on models prior to starting construction and minimizing expensive delay and rework save huge amount of money.
The transparent collaboration and connectivity depend largely on available information and the interoperability of different software systems. Data standardization solves the problem and is a prerequisite for BrIM.
5. Schedules can be simulated and corrected in advance
A surprising 90% of infrastructure projects are late. With BrIM, it is possible to compress project schedules due to a more efficient workflow, accurate information and timely communication.
Previously, different projects parties weren’t necessarily aware of changes and developments in the process, but with the continuously updating and evolving model, no one is left out.
BIM-based scheduling tools use model information as a basis and connect the model directly to the overall scheduling features. This can reduce costs even further, helping avoid idle hours for project parties and supporting prompt deliveries. Schedules can be simulated to all project parties and corrected at an early stage. As BrIM recognizes clashes at an early stage, the overall quality of the infrastructure project is also high.
With intelligent parametric modeling tools, it is possible to simulate the erection and construction object by object, which helps demonstrate different alternatives and other dependencies in operational tasks. A better understanding keeps stakeholders happy, which is a valuable benefit.
6. Digital documents are always up-to-date and available for smart asset management
A common BrIM language enables authorities, governments, municipalities and industries to procure and record bridge projects better during construction. With bridge information modeling, inspections, maintenance and repair can be managed efficiently and purposefully with all construction stages reliably documented and easily available. In the end of construction the owner gets the data-rich as-built model for smart asset management. Unlike paper documentation, the digital documents are easy to update after construction and available without difficulties for smart asset management.
In the future, with more developed, model-based bridge lifecycle applications, smart asset management can include bridge inspections with digital data collected by tools such as mobile devices, cameras and drones. Just imagine: a bridge that alerts when it needs to be repainted, when the next inspection should be conducted, or when to repair expansion joints.
To learn more about how Bridge Designers could benefit from Truly Constructible BrIM, watch the on-demand webinar: Tekla Structures for Bridge Designers.