Have you ever wondered how the incredible structures of the past — from the pyramids of Egypt to more recent engineering marvels like the Channel Tunnel — could have possibly been constructed without the aid of modern technology?
It’s a wonder, for sure. But while construction has long been known for achieving the unachievable, its history is also full of blunders. More often than not, these mistakes can be attributed to flawed designs or planning errors.
Even today, many projects face huge problems that could have been avoided with the use of BIM (building information modeling) technology. In this video, we explore some high-profile examples of construction mishaps, as well as how BIM could have saved the project teams a massive headache.
As construction around the world has become increasingly complex, new technologies and processes have emerged with the aim of making projects more efficient and effective. One of the greatest advancements of recent years is the rise of Building Information Modeling, or BIM, which is transforming the way we design, construct, and operate our buildings and infrastructure.
It enables the creation of detailed 3D models, packed with data relating to the physical asset, which the designers, architects, and contractors all collaborate on. Designs can be perfected, and potential problems addressed, before construction begins. Leading to more successful, error-free builds. But in the past, when these benefits were not available, it was not uncommon for huge projects to face problems that would almost certainly have been avoided, had BIM been around. Here are some of the most high-profile examples.
Completed in 1973, the world-famous Sydney Opera House could have benefited from BIM. While it was one of the first major projects to use computer analysis for the design of its iconic roof shells, it also attracted controversy for the way its designed was handled. The government forced work to start before the final designs had been signed off, and solutions found to many of the project's structural challenges, leading to several delays and problems.
It became clear during the build that the concrete podium columns designed to support the main structure were not strong enough and had to be entirely replaced. The roof shells also went through several costly revisions, causing schedules to be repeatedly pushed back. Although the final outcome was spectacular, having a BIM model of the building could have allowed the project team to finalize the designs and materials for the columns and roof shells long before construction began.
Another example is the City Group Center in New York, a 279-meter skyscraper built in 1977. Also known as 601 Lexington Avenue, the 59-story structure is supported on four 35-meter columns at the center of each side.
With this creating 22-meter cantilevers in all four corners, structural engineer, William LeMessurier implemented special load-bearing braces to help with the distribution of tension loads caused by high winds. However, it was revealed after construction that he had not considered diagonal or quartering winds in his calculations, and that the welded joints had been changed to bolted joints to save costs without LeMessurier's knowledge.
As a result, the building would be structurally unsound, and in danger of collapse in a hurricane. And what happened to be approaching when the discovery was made. An emergency repair was carried out, and potential disaster averted. Such an issue would surely have been prevented with BIM. The engineers and contractors could have collaborated better on the choice of joints, and a thorough simulation of wind loads carried at the design phase.
Today, with BIM now commonly used and easy to access, large-scale projects are still being attempted without it, and falling into similar traps. Finally set to open in late 2020, nine years late and billions over budget, Berlin's Brandenburg Airport has been plagued by problems since the start.
Although there are several reasons for its numerous delays, a myriad of planning errors has been the major cause. Some estimates suggest that more than half a million faults had been identified during the build, from escalators that don't fit, and a shortage of check-in desks, to issues with crucial data connections.
When the project began in 2006, Germany was still years away from taking measures towards BIM adoption. Under a system with BIM, problems such as pipe sections that don't match up would be sorted out in the model, stopping them from becoming real world mistakes.
While errors such as these can lead to delays, unexpected costs, and a whole lot of stress for everybody involved, they have allowed the industry to learn from them and ensure better practices going forward. As for the world of BIM itself, technology, processes, and skills are constantly evolving too. Leading to more projects that push the boundaries further than ever before. What is now possible with BIM is far more advanced than in its early days. And its ongoing evolution is sure to lead to more complex and triumphant projects in the future.