Digital Builder

Behind the Build: Interview with Silvy Santosa, BIM Specialist, BAM Infraconsult 

silvy santosa BAM infraconsult

There are few industries that can have an impact as significant on communities than construction. Or, in some cases, international economies. That’s the case for Silvy Santosa, a BIM Specialist with BAM Infraconsult. Each day, Silvy drives a four hours round-trip from her home in Belgium to the Netherlands to work on one of the biggest locks in the world. When completed, the New lock in Terneuzen will be of essential importance to Belgium, the Netherlands and France.

It’s a very large project with many people, different groups, different ages and backgrounds. In fact, more than 500 workers have come together on the project, representing architecture, civil engineering, and construction fields.

It’s these differences that make 3D models on the project all the more important. In this edition of our Behind the Build blog series, we catch up with Silvy Santosa for a discussion on the importance BIM 360 and 3D modelling plays on a project of this scale. Below, we discuss the project as well as how she got into construction, her favorite technology that she couldn’t live without, and more.

Tell us about yourself. How did you get into the construction industry?

I was born in Bali, Indonesia, and I earned my degree in Civil Engineering. I actually began my career in Indonesia, working as a consultant starting in 1998 before moving to Belgium in 2004. Construction was my passion and still is today. When I was a kid every time I saw big buildings and bridges I said to myself “one day I will be able to build ones like that.” So, my career now is just continuing that dream I had from a young age.

I should add that building industry between Belgium and Indonesia are quite different, especially when it comes to prefabrication. In Indonesia, everything is pretty much build in place, mostly against labor costs, and due to the risk of seismic activity. In Europe, that’s not as much of an issue, as many components are prefabricated to improve quality and logistics and meet performance requirements. But infrastructure industry in Europe is different than building everything cast in place. The scale of the project is much larger and complex. This makes the infrastructure industry interesting and more challenging for me.       

What project are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on the New Lock Terneuzen, which is one of the biggest locks in the world. The new lock complex at Terneuzen is being built between the existing locks and will improve access from the cross-border canal at Ghent and Terneuzen to the Western Scheldt (North Sea), as well as to other important ports, such as Rotterdam and Paris. The Rotterdam–Paris inland waterway route (connecting the North Sea to the Mediterranean Core Network Corridor) is one of the busiest navigated canals and an important connection for the economy of Europe. It’s a big, complex project – about 427 meters in length, 55 meters in width, and 16 meters in depth. The dimensions are comparable to the Panama Canal Locks.

I live in Belgium and need to commute to the project site in the Netherlands every day. It’s a lengthy commute, but it’s worth it. I have a great team to work with, a team with a variety of expertise and still each member is willing to learn and adopt new technologies to achieve the goals of the project.

Overview of the construction site.
Van der Kloet Foto en Videoproducties

Can you discuss any new approaches to construction or technology being administered on this project?

One of the key things has been communication. Because of the size, scale and complexity of the project, and because we’re working with an international team, we really had to refine our approach to communication. Also important is the communication within many different BIM software packages we have in this project. With the benefit of BIM solutions every stakeholder can easily share, collect and connect the information through the whole life cycle of the construction process, work collaboratively from an early stage to give us much better insights, see risks and eliminate those problems.

Digital construction is our working culture.

3D digital design review gives every stakeholder on the project an opportunity to be able to view and interact the live 3D model on BIMplus, identify the clashes and solve them. Since 3D Models are the basis of all the activities we are able to attain reduced amounts of paper (hard copy) by replacing a drawing with an iPad or looking at designs on a laptop. I am very proud of our team which has adopted the new technology and new process really well. They do QA/QC in BIM360 Field using geometry in 3D models, all communication such as meetings, reporting based on BIM model, and the daily site team work with Assemble, etc.  

Moreover access to 3D models also improves our communication. Not every worker speaks the same language, but you can show every worker the same goal with 3D models and it is much faster for them to understand.

As a BIM Specialist, what kind of work are you doing on a daily basis?

Every day is unique. My tasks in this project started with the implementation of 3D reinforcements, specifically making a new process, new requirement to make a better 3D reinforcement model and new workflows for 3D digital review. Reinforcement is a significant cost on the project, and it’s also very important to get it right so we don’t have to do rework or delay during the construction. With the 3D reinforcements, designers and specialty subcontractors can work together adding any additional information into one 3D model. Then, as we execute, we can continuously analyse the 3D models and identify any safety issues for workers before they proceed with any work. One of the great things about BAM is it’s a safety-centric company with a big emphasis on zero incidents. Reinforcement work can be dangerous. It’s important that we assess the safety risk in our 3D models and take the right steps to make sure everyone is safe when we execute the job. Besides 3D reinforcement, I have been developing a new set up for digital QA/QC using geometry with BIM 360 Field, developing automatization process where we can save significant manhour and reduce the human error, and implementation of quantity control. Also providing daily support/training and assist the team to work more and more digital.

Silvy Santosa

What makes you excited about coming to work every day?

I’m always very happy if I see someone smile and say to me, ‘It works good, very easy and I can’t live without it’. Watching them use it and gain benefit from the use. That means that I’ve done my job right as a BIM specialist to help the team and make a better (and fun) construction world. It makes me excited to get up every morning and drive two hours to the site.

I also get really excited about exploring and using technology in new ways, and BAM is very good about supporting its’ employees and encouraging them to try new technologies that can help build projects better.

I’m always looking to try new things and push the envelope from a technological point of view.

I still have a lot of ideas and there are always ways we can improve with technology to make our work better and more efficient. It’s nice to know we have the support of BAM to explore new things.

What’s the one piece of technology or software that you couldn’t live without?

Mobile technology. It’s just changed construction so much and allows for consistent functionality of BIM models, email, everything – and regardless of location.

Have you seen a change in demographics for new engineers coming into the industry?

Yes, especially as it pertains to the increase in new graduates and employees coming from computer and gaming backgrounds. Construction industry is becoming more dynamic and there are opportunities open for engineers, not only specifically from construction but also non construction-related backgrounds.   

What advice would you pass onto the next generation of construction engineers?

If it’s really your passion, you should do it. That’s because it’s a great career and one of the coolest jobs you can have. You have everything at your disposal to help you build the project. Trust me, you won’t ever become bored. Be innovative and creative and never let your fear decide your future!  

Amanda Fennell

Amanda Fennell

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