08 September 2020

BIM – digital transformation crucial for the civil engineering sector

The design and construction processes of infrastructural projects are becoming more complex every day. This is a result of the socio-economic and political factors, new regulations aiming at better resource and energy management but also a result of accelerated development of new technologies and increasing number of participants involved in the projects.  The traditional methods of work can no longer respond to the challenges of the new age and it has become quite clear that that civil engineering industry needs not only a digital transformation but also a change of mindset.

BIM unites both. Digital transformation, but also the mindset and understanding of designs in civil engineering. Although present in the industry for a long time, its more significant application has become evident in recent years. Abbreviation for „Building Information Modelling/Management“ , BIM was initially used as a set of technologies in building construction , primarily as 3D project visualization. But, its capabilities and application are actually much greater than that, especially in infrastructural projects such as roads, bridges and tunnels.

„When we talk about design in the traditional sense, we mostly think of 2D technical drawings. But BIM goes further than even 3D. It upgrades the three primary dimensions with time and price as the fourth and fifth dimensions, and we can often add to it the sustainability and energy consumption and the management and maintenance of structures as the sixth and seventh dimension. Therefore, it is a comprehensive solution which allows the development and management of drawings, multidisciplinary cooperation of all involved in the project, and project management in all its phases“, said Filip Andabaka, BIM manager at Institut IGH.

Advantages of this approach are numerous. For professionals involved in the project, BIM allows transfer (handover) of the virtual information (BIM) model to the main contractor and subcontractors and to the owner (manager) of the structure. BIM model is created by the design team (architects, civil engineers, utility installation designers and other designers). Every professional participating in this process adds one’s own specific information into a unique BIM model. This way the loss of information or multiple information entry is brought to a minimum at the same time allowing the owners of the structure access to extensive information.

Application in Croatia

„In practice, a very small number of clients or contracting authorities request the design to be developed using BIM technology , said Andabaka. „ An example is Hrvatske ceste, but here we are talking about the limited use of a part of BIM technology and software solutions, not the comprehensive process. There is an awareness of BIM among the profession, but for it to be widely used, a larger number of clients, primarily contracting authorities need to request application of BIM as a methodology for public infrastructural projects, throughout the complete project cycle.“

Croatian Chamber of Civil Engineers  in 2017 adopted guidelines for BIM application in building construction. Following this, at the end of last year a working group was formed with relevant stakeholders from the profession, headed by the Technical director of Institut IGH d.d., Igor Džajić, Mr.Sc.CE ,  which will, on the basis of these guidelines, develop guidelines for the use of BIM in infrastructure. The next step would be to include the competent Ministry and other state institutions into a public debate aimed at placing Croatia on the world map of BIM countries.

 Education of experts

Every year our education system introduces new experts to the labour market who have acquired their theoretical and practical skills through traditional methods. Changes in the college curriculum are demanding and often very slow. On the other hand, while there is no obligation to apply BIM in practice, higher education institutions have no need to invest into new methods of work with the students.

„Croatian BIM experts have mostly invested themselves in their own education, to reach the level where they can respond to the current market needs, said Filip Andabaka, and added „ in my opinion, the companies should take the initiative and this point and provide for professional training on the market. We at the Institut IGH have recognized this need and since 2018 regularly educate our employees on BIM and respective Autodesk software solutions such as Revit, Civil 3D and Infraworks.  On the other hand, we have recently become the only private company in Croatia that will provide professional training services to all persons with a passed license exam and who, in accordance with the Ordinance on professional training of persons performing spatial planning and construction must complete at least twenty school hours of education in a two year period. Our programme also includes BIM education, general as well as individual software solutions. Here I would point out Revit for which we have become a certified Autodesk centre where every participant receives a certificate.

An additional opportunity would be cooperation  with the relevant Faculties which, through their EU and other funding programmes can enable their students educational opportunities outside the mandatory faculty curriculum and thus better prepare them for the future labour market, concluded  Andabaka“.

The Croatian civil engineering industry sees markets beyond the borders of Croatia and the region as an opportunity for further growth and development, especially in the context of the expected drop in economic activities. Some of these markets, especially Western European, have BIM as a standard for a number of years already. Therefore, digitalization of the Croatian civil engineering industry is not a matter of adjustment but it is a question of survival. Only those ready for quick and decisive business moves will eventually survive, while others need not look far into the past. All they need to remember is the last economic crisis.

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