The why and how of BIM for infrastructure

by: Drew Olsen | 10/12/2016
Estimated Reading time: 9 - 15 minutes

BIM  is being applied broadly across the globe for a variety of infrastructure projects, and this is providing distinct advantages over traditional practices.

The level of advantage you have over your competition often has to do with the ability to streamline workflows across all disciplines of a project.  Adopting a model centric delivery proces is a perfect way to achieve such results.  Here’s one example of the application of BIM by Kelprojektas. This is a construction project for the Lithuanian Road Administration under the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Lithuania. This is a road stretch from marker 183.90 to 187.90 km of the highway A12 Riga–Šiauliai–Tauragė–Kaliningrad, also known as Eastern bypass of Panemunė town, with a bridge across the Nemunas River.


Image courtesy Kelprojektas, Lithuania.

The project includes a bridge over the river and an overpass. The project is in the territory of flooded Nemunas River – the road is designed at a 9.25 m height above the floodway. 3D parametric modeling helped the team to find the optimal solution quickly, share data between project members working as a cohesive team, and helped them to collaborate and hand off the correct information to construction crews as well as for machine control activities. All of this lead to greater efficiency and improved quality.  Watch a video of the project here.

As in this roadway example here, the model makes it much  easier to calculate material quantities and estimate project costs. This happens at the touch of a button even as designs change, making old, time-consuming and inaccurate calculation methods obsolete. The model can be used throughout construction, to the point of driving machines for grading on through the precise application of the road surface. The resulting increase in precision and automation translates to cost savings and improved quality control.

BIM and infrastructure isn’t just about roadways and bridges, but crosses many segments and projects from rail and transit, to ports and airports, to land and site, and more. Here are a few more examples of the types of projects taking advantage of BIM as well as a short detail of the benefits gained:

  • BRIDGES: A model-based design approach allows for seamless testing of bridge design strength and performance with integrated analysis. The model can be extended with the addition of time for construction sequencing, which is helping to advance the growing movement for rapid project delivery and minimal closures for the least amount of traffic and commerce disruption. The number of Design Issue Notices (DIN), which are changes to the design that become necessary due to conflicts or issues identified during construction, are also reduced when BIM is used to model general structures and bridges, resulting in significant cost savings.
  • WATER AND SEWER NETWORKS: The tools within the model for pipes and pipe placement can apply established design standards that include the characteristics of the pipe (e.g. size, thickness, material, etc.) to make sure they align and that the design will perform to the plan. This automation includes entire pipe-network modeling to monitor and improve performance.
  • STORMWATER: The ability to model stormwater networks and whole watersheds affords the opportunity to analyze existing conditions, determine where major crossing structures need to be placed, as well as, try and test different retention and infiltration options for today’s trend toward green infrastructure.
  • AIRPORTS AND PORTS: Increasingly, these highly managed hubs are turning to BIM for project work as well as enterprise operations and maintenance. The lifecycle-management approach improves on today’s reactive facility management, allowing for predictive maintenance.

There are more instances of BIM and infrastructure projects, see them in this customer showcase.



Project risk is high, so why create more risk by designing in 2D and communicating ideas solely with 2D paper documentation? Your peers are moving to more intelligent 3D/4D/5D processes to minimize risk and gain better insights and results. Download this three-whitepaper bundle to uncover why the civil engineering industry is moving to BIM, and how your business can do the same.


Exploring the benefits of implementing BIM

Early adopters have made great strides, and are advancing and leading the market while concurrently finding business rewards in a variety of areas, justifying their decision. The intelligent 3D model is at the center of the decision to move to BIM, because it’s an intuitive means to communicate and interact, and it moves the engineer’s work from a commodity to value-added engineering. The model fuels quicker collaboration as well as an all-digital workflow that can bypass the use of paper, saving costs on printing and distribution as well as resources.

Cost and time savings 

Savings comes in many forms and mostly is a byproduct of the use of a unified model or modeling workflows where the information in the model is central to all parts of the project, and to all stakeholders; and ultimately provides not only a more optimized result, but also helps to save time and money – or at the very least keeps a project on schedule and budget.  Here are a few examples of customer projects where they speak about cost and time savings.

  • Kelprojektas – Eastern Bypass Project
    • Autodesk solutions enables carrying out works in a more efficient and simple way. They saved about 30 percent of engineers time and about 10-20 percent of construction time.
  • Tongji Architectural Design & Research Institute of Tongji University (Group) Co., Ltd – Fanli Bridge [read story]
    • 40% time saved for the design process compared to traditional design and avoided significant rework
    • 30% time saved for field construction duration due to scheduling through simulation
    • 20% time saved for factory manufacturing
    • $ 2 million saved for shortened construction duration (cost on human labor, cost on machine rent and so on);

Project execution

Execution covers a lot of territory.  From the most simplest definition it is the way in which the project moves from planning to design and then on to construction.  But obviously, it covers much more than this. Execution must include improving the approvals process, access to more information sooner and maybe to much larger and co-located teams – and much more.  Here are a few examples of improved project execution as a result of employing BIM workflows.

  • Dewberry – Potomac Water Supply Program Visualization [watch video]
    • Engineering data was exchanged between Civil 3D and InfraWorks 360 and required no translation or degradation of the design data as the project was displayed in a 3D environment.
    • As the project progressed towards the visualization tasks the engineers made use of the BIM content that had been developed, bringing architectural and engineering models directly into InfraWorks 360 and 3ds Max.
    • Traditional story-boarding was replaced by preliminary visualizations using InfraWorks 360 storyboards, allowing the team and client to discuss the focus and pace of the video.  As the video was finalized the client had a clear expectation of the final project visualization.
  • Tetra Tech, Inc. and Huntsville Utilities – Southeast Water Treatment Plant [watch video]
    • With 3d modeling through Revit and Civil3D we are able to be more efficient and produce a superior product for our clients.  Based on feedback from the contractor and client and the cost and time savings during construction, Tetra Tech has moved forward with Revit being our primary modeling platform.
    • With the superior product from 3d modeling we are able to exceed client’s expectations and consistently deliver high quality projects.  Sections are always accurate, detail references automatically are tracked, in-sheet references are updated and coordinated.  Equipment and piping appurtenances are itemized and easily scheduled and labeled throughout the planset.  These detail items which usually take a lot of man-hours to coordinate are all managed by the data within the model, making us more responsive to changes and we can be confident of the accuracy of our submittals.
  • Guangzhou Metro Design&Research Institute Co.,Ltd. – Application of BIM on Guangzhou Metro Line 11 [watch video]
    • Through optimizing the design scheme and avoiding construction deviation, it can save 30,000,000 Yuan which accounts for 5.4% of total investment spending.

Additional value creation from implementing BIM

Some engineering firms have spoken about how implementation of BIM workflows has opened opportunities in new areas of work or even new regions.  Beyond this they are saying that the 3D/4D/5D modeling is really adding to the skills-set and offerings for their clients. There is an expectation that cost, schedule, materials and more can be estimated much earlier in a project helping to improve project selection, budgeting, proposal development and more.  In addition to these opportunities and skills, companies are finding that they can benefit from the intelligence of models to improve efforts around sustainable design and more sustainable infrastructure with strategies to minimize impacts on ecosystem and water resources, to use of sustainable materials in construction or reducing environmental consequences of construction or operation, to promoting more sustainable neighborhoods or practices.  Here are a few examples of the environmental impacts of BIM projects.

  • Kelprojektas – Eastern Bypass Project
    • The project has been prepared in a way for the road to not impact the existing natural conditions of the spring flood in the Nemunas River delta and to not block the sediment deposited in the meadows. Wastewater from the bridge pier is collected into special treatment plant.
    • The bridge engineers have selected an optimal metal overlay structure from an engineering and economic point of view which enables saving approximately 10 percent of metal per 1 square meter of the bridge area as compared to similar metal bridge structures.
    • The bypass will reduce the air pollution, noise level and vibration, also the accident rate. For the traffic safety LED lights were installed as well as protective barrier guards and mesh fences were built on both sides of the road and in the median strip.
  • HDR and LOTT Clean Water Alliance – Budd Inlet Treatment Plant Primary Sedimentation Basins [watch video]
    • Temporary erosion and sedimentation controls were included to minimize stormwater impacts from construction site runoff.
    • The new primary sedimentation basins are part of an overall effort by LOTT to increase public awareness of the treatment process. They are now a feature of public tours of the treatment plant, an important aspect of LOTT’s overall educational program to emphasize the importance of clean water and environmental sustainability.
  • Guangzhou Metro Design & Research Institute Co., Ltd. –Guangzhou Metro Line 11 [watch video]
    • With the help of Revit, the team could analyze the energy consumption of the metro station model, in order to optimize the configuration of air conditioner installations and save energy.
    • The metro station could bring great positive economic benefits to the area, expand the transportation network and improve the competitiveness of the city.
    • The LOTT administration building for the plant houses hands-on educational exhibits showing how water is used by the community and what it takes to effectively treat the regional wastewater.  At a new public plaza across the street from the project, LOTT uses reclaimed water from the plant to serve an interactive public water feature. The plaza and the children’s museum draw thousands of visitors, and those visitors now see the new primary sedimentation facilities, which demonstrate that a wastewater treatment process can be a good neighbor.

Imagery courtesy HDR

There are more instances of BIM and infrastructure projects, see them in this customer showcase.

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