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Case Study: Towards a digitally enabled estate: the University of Cambridge

Featured BIM case study of the University of Cambridge Estate.

The University of Cambridge estate covers 600,000 square metres and includes 800-year old buildings alongside state-of-the-art labs, lecture theatres and offices. To manage a portfolio of this complexity, the Estate Management (EM) team needs access to a huge amount of information.

Recognising the benefits of "going digital", EM has committed to creating a fully digitally enabled estate, in line with the government's Transforming Construction Strategy. BIM has a key part to play in this process and the University has invested a significant amount of time and money in establishing it across its capital delivery programme.

The digitalisation strategy

Estate Management (EM) has developed a comprehensive information management strategy, including processes and documentation, to support the delivery of BIM in line with the PAS 1192 suite of standards. The goal of a digitally enabled estate is "to provide easy, reliable and timely access to accurate and consistent information across the full asset life cycle from master planning to maintenance and disposal or renewal". 

Guided by this vision, the EM team began to work towards implementing information management within the capital delivery programme by reviewing the potential uses and benefits of BIM for facilities management. BIM has now been implemented in all of the University’s projects, and these projects have already started to demonstrate the value of information management and new digital technologies. 

What are the benefits of BIM for the capital delivery programme and facilities management?

Many project delivery and asset operation tasks are likely to benefit from the incorporation of BIM technologies and BIM Level 2. CDBB researcher and PhD student Thayla Zomer has been conducting a range of case studies to investigate the benefits of BIM implementation for the University of Cambridge’s projects. The case studies have demonstrated that various applications of information management have improved the efficiency of the construction process and brought value to the project in diverse ways.

In the early stages of the RIBA1 plan of work, BIM technologies can be used for visual simulation, which project managers described as a benefit when compared to conventional working practices. Using the visual simulation, BIM tools facilitate exploration and assessment of the preliminary design. The BIM model has also been used to perform energy assessments and to look for ways of optimising the proposed design and reducing the structure’s life-cycle costs.

BIM has also facilitated cost estimation throughout the project, as well as site planning. BIM technologies have also been used to evaluate properties in the area and the impact of buildings on the surrounding buildings. BIM has also supported phase planning across all the RIBA stages. The process employs a 4D model (that is, a 3D model with the added dimension of time) to plan the sequence of work. This kind of modelling is a powerful tool and provides a clear understanding of project milestones.

In the developed and technical design stages, BIM tools have been deployed for design authoring, design review, coordination and engineering analysis. The use of BIM models for design review has improved quality and ultimately enhanced user satisfaction with the buildings. Additionally, the use of BIM tools for clash detection has enabled the identification of a range of issues that have been solved in coordination meetings involving all of the stakeholders. The process has enabled the team to make informed decisions and helped to keep the projects on schedule. According to the project managers, the clash-detection workshops have reduced re-work and allowed identification of major clashes between the different pieces of design. The clash detection has yielded cost savings, as the cost of modifying and incorporating the changes is much smaller than it would be on site. The BIM coordination process has also reduced worker hours when compared to the traditional approach.

BIMExamplesCapella

BIM tools have also supported the design and analysis of the structure, as in the case of Capella, one of the investigated projects. In this project, precast material was used in the construction phase for both the frame and the façade panels to minimise on-site labour and deliveries and to exploit the superior quality of factory construction. The use of BIM supported structural analysis of precast components. When the components came on site, they fitted perfectly.

3D models have also been used for site induction as part of the construction-phase planning, contributing to improving the health and safety of employees on site. In the operational phase, the University will link the facilities management system to a record model, making maintenance and operation of the facility more efficient. BIM will assist short and long-term planning and decision-making. 

Golden Thread

Researcher: Thayla Zomer

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