All aboard with BIM for Rail

by: Brett Casson | 01/14/2016
Estimated Reading time: 5 - 8 minutes

SMEC_STILL Bridge Night_DI

BIM helps leading firm win and deliver AU$8.3 billion public rail project

The population in northwest Sydney, Australia, is booming, with the area expected to become home to more than 600,000 people in the coming decades. Area residents—who have the highest car ownership rate in Australia—have few public transit options. The New South Wales Government is investing AU$8.3 billion to provide relief in the form of 24 km of new rail lines, called the North West Rail Link. The project also includes upgrades to 7 km of existing lines.

Expected to open in 2019, the North West Rail Link will be the first fully automated transit rail system in Australia. It’s poised to change the way people in one of Sydney’s fastest-growing regions think about transportation. Residents—who have the highest car ownership rate in Australia—will have a quick, convenient, and comfortable public transit option.

The North West Rail Link will feature eight new stations, 4,000 commuter car parking spaces, and twin 15 km tunnels, which will be Australia’s longest rail tunnels. Projects of this size and complexity require farsighted management—and proactive attention to the smallest details. Large teams from multiple disciplines, including architects, civil engineers, and structural engineers, are contributing to a fast-paced design process. Everything from conduits to pipes to ducts needs to fit together during construction. Even relatively minor coordination issues could lead to delays and higher costs.

SMEC, a professional services firm focused on major infrastructure, is leading the design effort on two key portions of the AU$8.3 billion project: operations, trains, and systems and surface and viaduct civil work. The lead client in the public-private-partnership (PPP), the New South Wales Government, mandated the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) on the project. BIM is an intelligent model-based process that adds insight to every phase of infrastructure projects.


The client wanted to realize the time, cost, and quality benefits you see with a model-based process. SMEC was already on the path to BIM. We see BIM helping us to streamline our workflows and improve efficiency. The North West Rail Link project inspired us to accelerate the pace of our BIM adoption—and BIM is proving to be an invaluable asset on the project.

Neil Evans, Director of Strategy and New Business – SMEC


The model-based approach connects the extended project team by giving members an immediate view into progress across disciplines. Regular coordination workshops bring the extended team together to review and address clashes. Being able to readily visualize one another’s work in 3D is also helping the team to spot ways to improve the design. These improvements are expected to deliver both time and cost savings. For instance, the team reviewing the model realized that two trenches serving a substation could be combined into one, helping to reduce construction costs and make maintenance easier over the life of the asset.

The team has found that the BIM process delivers far more than just visualization; the intelligent objects within the models are enhancing project delivery, too. Object intelligence provides greater speed and accuracy because objects within the design conform more automatically to standards governing their use. This intelligence is helping the design team to assign attributes to objects, calculate tender quantities more automatically, and make changes dynamically.

Benefits of simulation – The various design models come together as a federated model in Navisworks Manage software. Navisworks Manage software facilitates the process by aggregating the models, enabling construction sequencing, and helping to detect interferences. Internally, the SMEC team uses Vault data management software to connect its people with the latest versions of different portions of the model.

SMEC_Overhead

Image courtesy of SMEC

Benefits of visualization – Every one to two weeks, the extended project team brings together their models at a coordination workshop. The federated model that results helps to highlight clashes and also helps the team identify opportunities to improve the design.

Time savings – Clashes are far more obvious in a BIM process. We’re resolving issues in minutes that would have been easy to miss in a 2D process. The design improve­ments we’re finding are just as meaningful. For instance, we recently reviewed two trenches serving a substation and saw that we could combine the trenches into one. It’s going to deliver both cost and timesaving during construction along with maintenance advantages over the life of the asset.

Improved project delivery – The beauty of BIM is in the object-based intelligence as much as it is in the visualization. The intelligence gives you more control over every aspect of the design, and objects retain their intelligence throughout the life of the asset. You end up with a model that can facilitate operations and maintenance. BIM is really a cradle-to-grave process. It doesn’t need to stop with planning and design.


People sometimes equate BIM with 3D visualization, and it’s more than that. You generate a body of knowledge in BIM that can be used from conception to decommissioning.”

Neil Evans, Director of Strategy and New Business – SMEC


Read full story: SMEC-case-study


Explore ways that BIM can change the game for your projects with better insights that come from better information, here.

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