Paving the Way for a New Era of Digitised Construction through Innovation

Paving the Way for a New Era of Digitised Construction through Innovation

Around the world, construction projects act as catalysts. They drive economic growth and business innovation, while providing communities with prosperity for decades to come.

Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand’s Innovation Agency, is an organisation committed to activating construction innovation and business growth in communities throughout the country. When it came to the design and construction of their Gracefield Site the agency decided to rethink its entire approach and pioneer a new era of digital construction.

Partnering with their appointed party, architect and BIM consultant, Warren & Mahoney, Callaghan Innovation recently embarked on a journey in the form of a $130 million redevelopment for the Gracefield Innovation Quarter (GIQ) in Wellington, New Zealand, as part of a planned series of investments in the site to provide a platform from which to enable an innovation community via a series of digital and business model transformational programmes.

The Programme, according to Callaghan Innovation’s Design Lead, Hugh Evans, was an opportunity to explore new opportunities in the BIM space, and to discover new ways to drive productivity and efficiency through the design, construction, and asset management phases of building ownership.

The reasons for this approach include the New Zealand Government’s mandate for use of BIM (on projects larger than $5m); to adopt a whole-of-life approach; to elevate the capabilities of the site, suppliers and stakeholders; to showcase technologies; and to enable the integration of IoT sensors, machine learning and automation technologies that leverage off a Digital Twin and “single source of truth” representation of the built environment.

The development of this digitised platform relies on cloud-based approaches and ISO 19650 standards to enable a consistent and collaborative approach to the design and rebuild of the site.

Hugh, along with Jason Howden, Associate Principal at Warren & Mahoney, will be taking the stage virtually at Autodesk University, running 17-20 November. During their session, Digitising New Zealand’s Innovation Agency – A Client’s Journey into BIM 360, Hugh and Jason will share more about their work on the GIQ project in Wellington, including their efforts to deliver a vibrant, supportive, and connected innovation community.

Be sure to register now for the 2020 edition of Autodesk University to hear from hundreds of leaders in innovation like Jason and Hugh during this free, virtual event.

We recently caught up with Jason and Hugh before their session at Autodesk University to learn how they deployed innovation and built a high trust digital environment for the GIQ project. Below is a sneak peek of our conversation, and what you can look forward to by attending their session at this year’s Autodesk University.

Partnering with Leaders in BIM

Both Hugh and Jason have worn many hats over the years, and have come to their current organisations with a broad spectrum of industry experience and unique perspectives.

For Jason, a constant throughout his career has been a devotion to innovation, and evolving alongside the organisations he works with as they implement new technology.

“My father is a building contractor, so I got into the industry at a very young age,” Jason says. “I was always taught or learned that by innovating, you could achieve a better outcome in the long run. As I grew, I started to take an interest in computers, and I had a passion to digitise the construction industry. And I think that kind of underpins how I got to where I am today. For 25 years, I’ve been promoting or spearheading digitisation inside firms around the world, in the UK, Australia, New Zealand. When I joined Warren & Mahoney, everything was on 2D CAD and MicroStation.”

“Now we’re seen as leaders of BIM in New Zealand and are having input into a number of standards and guidelines throughout the industry that the industry relies on as the benchmark going forward.”

Hugh has worked across the fields of consulting and mechanical engineering, and in other multidisciplinary roles. In joining Callaghan Innovation Hugh sees a unique opportunity to bring the latest digital techniques to the redevelopment of a site that has a host of legacy issues, but a vision to support world-changing innovation through R&D.

The partnership between Warren & Mahoney and Callaghan Innovation brought on the opportunity to explore even more innovative ideas around digital building management processes, something that Jason says should be embraced, not seen as something to be fearful of.

“It’s not something that’s mystical,” Jason says. “It’s not magic. There’s a series of processes and learnings that you need to adopt, but they’re very easy to adopt if you apply the right mindset. And when we got the RFP for this project, because it’s New Zealand’s innovation agency, we saw an opportunity that this project could become a lighthouse for the wider industry. And we could implement lessons learned from Warren & Mahoney’s recent digital revamp, where we went from 2D CAD to Revit. We’ve only just made the switch in the last six years.”

To be sure, BIM adoption in New Zealand is still not widespread in the construction side of the building process.

“The BIM adoption in New Zealand has been successful, but the BIM adoption even today is still largely based around the design sector,” Jason says. “It’s that digitisation component that really kind of spearheads BIM adoption. There are a number of tier one and tier two contractors starting to embrace digital transformation, but it’s early days, and they are starting to see the early benefits of being able to leverage information.”

The Importance of a High Trust Digital Environment

Both Hugh and Jason agree that trust was critical on this project. From a technical side, Jason believes that there’s a need to build a high trust digital environment to overcome the procurement process.

“To build a high trust environment digitally, it’s quite simple with the tools, but that often doesn’t get enabled because of the procurement pathway,” Jason says. “And with this project, Callaghan Innovation from the outset was seeking a high trust collaborative environment, which kind of laid the pathway to layer the digital framework on top. We’ve done it on several projects now, where everyone works in a single federated model in the cloud, which 20 years ago was just not possible. Whereas today, with something like BIM 360, it’s very easy to set up a framework where everyone can share their information in real time. And everyone can have the confidence that while they are using and participating in a single live model, the structure is such that there isn’t that accidental movement or deletion of others’ work. So, if you start to align the organisation’s capabilities well, you get this environment where people trust each other instinctively.”

The benefits to this level of trust in a digital environment, Jason adds, are enormous to the project’s process and future.

“The benefits are huge,” Jason says. “When you work in that high trust environment, take a simple thing like sharing models. You get the efficiency of not having someone there just transfering files, but you also get the efficiency of, if I’ve made a change. I’m going to ring my counterpart and say, ‘I’ve made a change. If you save your file, you can see the change I made,’ and that’s game-changing and improves the project efficiency and coordination a hundredfold.”

According to Hugh, the benefits of having a high trust digital environment also extend to the client side of a project.

“From a client perspective, essentially, we’re looking for the project delivery from a time and cost basis,” Hugh says.

“The loss of information and loss of information fidelity between different disciplines are real concerns, but when you look at the challenges with the high trust environment and any concerns that might come with that, they’re greatly outweighed by the benefits because things can be done in a more coherent manner. So, you’ve got people actually working to look at the coordination real time, and you’ve got the solution and the understanding happening real time. That really delivers value to the project.”

The Power of Standardisation

The team adopted ISO 19650 for this project to achieve a high level of standardisation and high levels of BIM adoption. Jason and Hugh said the benefits of having a common project language solved a number of challenges.

“Standardisation is probably one of the biggest benefits with ISO 19650, and having a common language that all participants in this high trust environment can work to is key,” Jason says. “And it’s a difficult choice to make that switch, particularly if you’re a medium-sized organisation where you’ve got a significant volume of data that needs to be migrated to ISO 19650, which constitutes a reasonable investment, but you might not have a long pipeline of projects that are requiring it yet. You’re really taking a leap of faith.” 

Hugh adds that while ISO 19650 adoption can be a challenge in New Zealand, the benefits of standardisation are well worth any obstacles a team may encounter.

“It’s a challenge in New Zealand in particular because it’s not mandated—the adoption of ISO 19650 isn’t a requirement, it’s something we selected as a client,” Hugh says. “It aligns nicely with some of the other standards, and it does drive consistency.”

This also helps at the building level, Hugh adds.

“The information is very particular to the building on the site, the level, and then the appointed party working on it and the discipline,” Hugh says. “It’s really that consistent theme of looking at the new way of doing things that can deliver benefits. And the purpose is there because we’re doing things in a better way. It’s very practical in that sense. We’re not doing things for the sake of aligning to a standard. We’re making sure that it’s fit for purpose for what we need to do.”

Learn More Insights on Digitisation at AU

Both Hugh and Jason are eager to share more from their GIQ project during their session, Digitising New Zealand’s Innovation Agency – A Client’s Journey into BIM 360, at the upcoming Autodesk University, running 17-20 November.

“I think it’s an amazing story because of the scale of the project,” Jason says. “The majority of projects I work on are very large projects. And I think that BIM can benefit projects of any scale because you can tune it to match the project.”

According to Hugh, it’s the dual perspectives of the client and the vendor that make his and Jason’s presentation a valuable learning opportunity.

“The beauty of the presentation is that we can share our experiences from a client appointing party and from the appointed party perspective of the implementation of ISO 19650 and the associated accommodated environment with BIM 360,” Hugh says. “We can also share what that allows for within the design and construction of large scale projects. As an innovation agency, we’re very keen to share that sort of journey that we’ve been on and what we’ve developed.”

AU 2020 is free and open to all those who register. The virtual event runs from 17 to 20 November, so make sure to register now to see exciting keynotes, presentations, and announcements, and to hear from industry leaders like Hugh and Jason across hundreds of innovative sessions. We’ll see you next month!

Grace Ellis

Editor in Chief, Digital Builder Blog, Autodesk

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