Slow BIM take-up for RC frame construction

4 March 2019 | By Duncan Reed

Creagh’s concrete cores for its HSBC project in Sheffield

Research by CM and software specialist Trimble indicates reinforced concrete frame contractors are lagging behind other structural specialists on BIM uptake. Duncan Reed explains.

A survey by CM and Trimble Solutions of around 100 construction professionals has thrown up an interesting disconnect between the understanding of the benefits of using BIM on a reinforced concrete (RC) frame project – and whether those benefits are realised.

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The potential benefits are well recognised, with over 50% of respondents recognising that the technology aids: structural design; connections and interfaces with other components and work packages; reinforcement detailing; programming; and temporary works design.

But BIM is only used in well-established processes such as clash detection, structural analysis and design. However, many aspects of the construction process that could benefit from data held in a digital format: supply chain management, procurement and safety planning are all areas where models are rarely used.

Safety planning can be improved by using the model to determine sequencing of the works, temporary works requirements, access, egress and giving site workers access to up-to-date and relevant safety information.

Risks associated with procurement and supply chain management can be mitigated by the accurate quantities contained in a model and the ability to allocate every part of the project to a works package. As the work progresses on site, the model can also be used for a quality check as well.

The results show that while other structural framing solutions are seen to be a mature BIM option, there is a perception that in situ concrete frames are not as developed. Some 79% of respondents consider steel subcontractors to be at least capable of working with BIM, and precast is not far behind with 67%. 

This isn’t really a surprise, as steel fabricators and detailers have worked with Tekla Structures for decades, as have a high proportion of precast concrete fabricators. Both disciplines have used 3D models for design and are also pushing constructible data through to manufacture, site scheduling and logistics. 

By comparison RC frame subcontractors are only considered to have a degree of capability by 57% of respondents, despite the functionality in Tekla Structures being available to them. The results show there is some way to improve from 7% to the “very capable” 26% score of steel subcontractors.  This is perfectly achievable now with the software available.

Duncan Reed is digital construction process manager at Trimble Solutions

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