It’s fair to say that a typical construction project generates a colossal amount of data. Any project – from a small refurbishment to a 20-storey apartment block – requires the creation and sharing of untold data during the project’s lifecycle. Unfortunately, many teams struggle to manage and disperse this information effectively. The poor management that inevitably results for companies that don’t have a system in place can lead to errors, rework, missed deadlines, cost overruns, confusion, and even legal issues.
A structured approach
The good news: there are ways to resolve construction’s data overload. One of the best ways to address this issue is to create a standardised way of structuring data and collaboration – or, more specifically, by adopting a common data environment (CDE).
Sweco is Europe’s leading engineering and architecture consultancy with a strong geographical footprint in Belgium. From the analysis and delivery of oil surveys for the Antwerp Ring Road to the design and implementation of the AZ Sint-Maarten hospital, Sweco is a trusted partner to Belgium’s construction industry.
And to build trusted partnerships, collaborating and communicating with many different stakeholders is crucial to successful project delivery. We speak to Anthony Kennes, BIM Manager of the Buildings division for Sweco, on how the teams use a CDE to manage information on their construction projects.
A CDE in action: De Lijn Deurne-Rumst project
“We’re constructing a new depot for the Flemish government’s bus operator De Lijn in Deurne, Belgium,” says Anthony. In the future, city bus transport for Antwerp will be operated from this depot. A new maintenance and operations centre will also be delivered in Rumst as part of the project.
“We have several initiatives across the company to help our teams close the gap when managing and sharing data better,” reflects Anthony. “On this project, our dedicated project management took the lead in looking at how we could optimise workflows to deliver more efficiently,” says Anthony.
Using Autodesk’s Revit software for the design of the holding and maintenance area for the De Lijn project means certain members of the team can visualise their designs in 3D. But for other project team members, having access to crucial information captured isn’t always straightforward.
[Image credit: Willem Bastiaens, Sweco]
Transparency in data sharing
“Different team members wanted to view plans and extract information to communicate to the client about our results, but they weren’t all well versed in using Revit – and didn’t necessarily need to be,” says Anthony.
The project manager for the De Lijn project, Pieter Maerien, took the decision that all project team members needed to be able to access the data they need from anywhere in a centralised space. By establishing Autodesk Construction Cloud as the Sweco team’s CDE, Pieter’s goal was to connect project collaborators.
The project team’s modellers were the first team to onboard to the CDE and understand the benefits of cloud-based collaboration. For these team members, the advantages have been twofold: better ability to link directly from the cloud in real-time, faster sync times, stable models, and reduced data loss. This ultimately results in less unnecessary rework on construction projects when they begin work on site.
Opening information and breaking down siloes
As the designs evolved on the De Lijn project, so did the need to make the models available more widely across the project team. Engineers, project leaders and work package managers were given instant access to the information they need in the CDE – from anywhere.
“Our multidisciplinary teams could suddenly view 3D models and 2D plans in a much faster way than previously,” says Anthony. “And when it comes to communicating about the project, the team began pinpointing the exact location of an individual issue using 3D views,” continues Anthony.
For issue management, the design team were able to add technical documentation to help other collaborators better understand the solution to an individual issue. And being able to track and manage comments on models and drawings meant information was captured in a structured way.
“Historically, version control has always been an issue – but now the changes between different versions of models and plans are much more tracible. For our design team, it’s much easier to navigate through the project and understand their responsibilities and actions,” Anthony affirms.
[Image credit: Willem Bastiaens, Sweco]
What are some of the benefits of introducing a common data environment to construction projects?
- Enhances collaboration: Digital technologies have proven time and again that they can improve collaboration if used correctly. That means all project data and information must flow into and be updated in one centralised system. This leads to improved coordination and teamwork, both internally and across teams.
- Creates a single source of truth: Never underestimate the power of one single source of truth on a project. One reliable place for team members to access real-time plans, changes and data leads to better decision-making and insight across projects and even company-wide.
- Improves efficiency and quality: Common data environments reduce the need to manually recreate data, which leads to reduced input errors and lost information. Consequently, the entire firm has improved access to information, empowering teams to make decisions faster.
- Low risk: A CDE lowers risk with better transparency and insight into the project landscape. Over time, this enables continuous improvement and predictability, crucial for excelling a business forward.
Like any change introduced in an organisation, there will always be lessons learnt and ways in which teams can improve for the future. For Anthony, establishing a CDE from the outset of a project is vital for Sweco’s continued adoption of digital technology. And let’s remember good data can empower future technologies, including machine learning and AI, to accelerate project delivery.
Adopting a CDE today ensures companies like Sweco, can keep collaboration strong from design through operations.