A revolution in the construction industry powered by Building Information Modelling

Theoretical developments in Building Information Modelling (BIM) suggest that not only is it useful for geometric modelling of a building’s performance but also that it can assist in the management of construction projects. BIM is not a single piece of software or model, but a new form of information processing and collaboration, with data embedded within the model. Each discipline or organisation creates its own model, and these are subsequently amalgamated to provide a combined view of the entire project. Data is added directly to the model, dictating materials, functions, size and associated information. As documentation remains part of the information set, data can be linked to the elements of the model that it pertains to.

The successful implementation of BIM requires two roles to be assigned for the purposes of project management:

  • Information manager: responsible for instituting BIM throughout the project and ensuring that all people involved are following the established protocols.
  • BIM model manager: ensures all the participants’ models are coherently shared and co-ordinated across the project.

A building information model can be used for the following purposes:

  • Visualization 3D renderings can be easily generated in-house with little additional effort.
  • Fabrication/shop drawings: it is easy to generate shop drawings for various building systems, for example, the sheet metal ductwork shop drawing can be quickly produced once the model is complete.
  • Code reviews: fire departments and other officials may use these models for their review of building projects.
  • Forensic analysis: a building information model can easily be adapted to graphically illustrate potential failures, leaks, evacuation plans, etc.
  • Facilities management: facilities management departments can use BIM for renovations, space planning, and maintenance operations. Cost estimating: BIM software(s) have built-in cost estimating features. Material quantities are automatically extracted and changed when any changes are made in the model.
  • Construction sequencing: a building information model can be effectively used to create material ordering, fabrication, and delivery schedules for all building components.
  • Conflict, interference and collision detection: because BIM models are created, to scale, in 3D space, all major systems can be visually checked for interferences. This process can verify that piping does not intersect with steel beams, ducts or walls.

BIM Benefits T

he key benefit of BIM is its accurate geometrical representation of the parts of a building in an integrated data environment (CRC Construction Innovation, 2007). Other related benefits are:

  • Faster and more effective processes – information is more easily shared, can be value-added and reused.
  • Better design – building proposals can be rigorously analyzed, simulations can be performed quickly and performance benchmarked, enabling improved and innovative solutions.
  •  Controlled whole-life costs and environmental data – environmental performance is more predictable, lifecycle costs are better understood.
  • Better production quality – documentation output is flexible and exploits automation.
  • Automated assembly – digital product data can be exploited in downstream processes and be used for manufacturing/assembling of structural systems.
  • Better customer service – proposals are better understood through accurate visualization.
  • Lifecycle data – requirements, design, construction and operational information can be used in facilities management.

BIM Around the World

In the United States, BIM is often associated with Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), with a primary motivation to bring project teams together early on. The Canada BIM Council was established in 2008 to standardize the use of models in architecture, engineering, and construction. Public and private governing bodies in Europe have been pushing for more integrated adoption of BIM standards to improve software capabilities and cooperation in the industry. Throughout the world, studies are being conducted about how to improve network users’ authentication choices, geographic mapping systems, and cloud computing security.

In South Africa,  BIM Institute and BIM Academy Africa serve as Africa’s BIM voice in developing standards and education for the built environment. The Institutewhose objective is to improve the construction quality and productivity of the built environment through leadership of information and education. It is impartial and remains software agnostic while supporting and helping to deliver the standards and requirements for Building Information Modelling/Management (BIM) in Africa.

Smart Cities and Quality of Life: Internet of things can prepare cities intelligently against natural disasters

More people live in cities today than at any time in human history, and the urbanization of the global population appears set to continue as the 21st century unfolds. The multi-faceted pressures of urbanization will force cities to develop efficiencies and strategies in order to remain viable. Smarter ways of doing everything better, with fewer resources, will be required. So will the ability to forecast disruptive events such as natural disasters and their effect on urban dwellers and the infrastructure that supports them.

Internet of things can prepare cities against natural disasters

Government agencies should consider leveraging the internet of things (IoT) and other web-driven technologies to obtain timely and accurate data that can better inform decisions and actions. Using the most current technology could help them more efficiently and safely address these costly disasters. However, this type of progress will require more than just employing the IoT to improve emergency preparedness and response; response teams have to be ready to receive, interpret, and take action on the data.

Gathering Data Before a Disaster Strikes

Today, disaster responders gain reliable, timely information only when they reach an emergency zone and take stock of the situation. In the case of hurricanes and major weather events, physical and technical roadblocks often prevent response teams from obtaining critical data to track damages, prioritize response needs, and keep the public informed so that people know how to stay safe. Ineffective communication channels, overburdened response systems, satellite disruptions, and internet blackouts further impede people from getting the help they need.

That is where the value of IoT sensors that collect data and systematically broadcast signals from emergency areas comes into play. These sensors can relay information about their surroundings directly to government agencies and emergency teams. For example, sensors can measure temperature, water quality, pressure, level, smoke, and humidity, to name just a few uses. In the case of wildfires, sensors can detect how far and how fast is the fire spreading. For hurricanes or tsunamis, sensors can monitor water levels to send alerts at the first sign of flooding. Sensors can also be used to detect the presence of harmful gases or chemicals emanating from a storage tank, factory, or plant in the path of destruction. These devices can be critical for urgent decisions like whether to evacuate an area at risk of flooding, or how to guide residents to the safest exit routes ahead of an emergency.

Connecting People and Information During a Disaster

In order to respond with precision, government agencies and emergency response teams should establish communication systems between the mobile devices of an at-risk area’s residents and IoT sensors in the field. Doing so can help facilitate and expedite a local response during the disaster. The system should respond to incoming information based on data it receives from the IoT sensors and signals from citizens’ mobile devices. For example, if a citizen messages a public emergency text line to ask where to go to avoid local flooding, the system could provide a recommendation based on water level data it receives from deployed sensors. An data-backed automated response can ensure information reaches the people who need it most. This data should be collected centrally, monitored regularly by response officials, and proactively used to inform automated alerts that are broadcast to citizens’ mobile devices within a certain radius of the hazard area.

Response teams can also use the sensor data for coordination, analytics, outreach strategies, and on-the-ground tactics. These actions will vary from case by case. In the case of a food stamp program, government officials could use the information to decide (1) how and when to reach out to the affected population, (2) where to set up temporary benefit distribution centers, because the primary centers (supermarkets, convenience stores, and so on) may not be functional, and (3) how to ensure benefits are distributed correctly.

Predicting Natural Disasters & Early Warning Systems

As cities become smarter, natural disasters will become more predictable. By monitoring big data and forecasting future events, cities will be able to significantly counteract the impact of natural disasters through heeding early warning signs and planning evacuations.

One example of an early warning system is the network in use at Popocateptl, the most active Volcano in North America. If Popocateptl did erupt, it would affect local Mexican villages near the Volcano. In an effort to prevent this disaster, the Mexican government has set up a data collection network that gives the villages early warnings of any spike in seismic activity.

The Industrial Internet of Things: Fueling a New Industrial Revolution

Industrial Internet of Things IIoT focuses on the optimisation of operational efficiency and rationalisation/automation/maintenance. Internet of Things opens plenty of opportunities in automation, optimisation, intelligent manufacturing and smart industry, asset performance management, industrial control, moving towards an on-demand service model, new ways of servicing customers and the creation of new revenue models, the more mature goal of industrial transformation.

Industrial Internet of Things in evolution: from operational efficiency to innovation

The core focus in most Industrial Internet of Things deployments and in the majority of organisations de facto is still on operational efficiency, along with cost optimisation. Such a holistic strategy already exists in more ‘mature’ industrial organisations, which have shifted to the business model, service and new revenue opportunity side with tangible results and innovative solutions. They are poised to be disrupters in their respective industries where competition is already intensive and market conditions uncertain and complex.

Reaping the benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The IIoT connects sensors to analytic and other systems to automatically improve performance, safety, reliability, and energy efficiency by:

  1. Collecting data from sensors (things) much more cost effectively than ever before because sensors are often battery-powered and wireless
  2. Interpreting this data strategically using big data analytics and other techniques to turn the data into actionable information
  3. Presenting this actionable information to the right person, either plant personnel or remote experts, and at the right time
  4. Delivering performance improvements when personnel take corrective action.

IIoT in action

IIoT technology was implemented at Ergon Refining’s Vicksburg, Miss., facility. This IIoT implementation connects vibration, acoustic, level, position, and other sensors to an asset management system via both a wired fieldbus network (Foundation Fieldbus) and a wireless network (WirelessHART). The wireless network connects instruments to the plant’s control and monitoring systems via a wireless mesh network consisting of wireless instruments and access points.

Sensor data is sent to asset management software with specialized data-analysis applications for valves and smart meters. The software analyzes sensor data and transforms it into actionable information. Control room operators view this information on human machine interfaces (HMIs), and mobile workers view it on handheld industrial PCs connected to a plantwide Wi-Fi network .

Capital expenditures were reduced because wireless cut sensor installation costs, and ongoing operational benefits included increased capacity and avoided capital investments through wireless tank monitoring. The asset management software allowed consistent setup and reduced commissioning costs, along with reduced call-outs through the use of alarm management software. Safety was improved by automating vibration monitoring in hard-to-reach locations which were previously checked via manual rounds, and energy was saved with wireless steam trap monitoring.

Future vision

The Industrial Internet of Things will drastically change the future, not just for industrial systems, but also for the many people involved. The full potential of the Industrial IoT will lead to smart power grids, smart healthcare, smart logistics, smart diagnostics, and numerous other “smart” paradigms.

It will enable manufacturing ecosystems driven by smart systems that have autonomic self-* properties such as self-configuration, self-monitoring, and self-healing. This is technology that will allow us to achieve unprecedented levels of operational efficiencies and accelerated growth in productivity.

New types of advanced manufacturing and industrial processes revolving around machine-to-human collaboration and symbiotic product realisation will emerge. It will truly be amazing to see all of the many benefits and technological advances that can be gained if the full potential of this technology is achieved.