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COWI saves time with BIM and product library

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Model-based collaboration across disciplines and project players is a key factor in staying competitive, COWI believes. A holistic commitment to BIM has strengthened COWI as one of the Nordics' leading infrastructure design consultancy companies.

"Since most projects today involve several disciplines and companies to collaborate on the design, effective collaboration across professions and players is essential to meet the project goals," says Erlend Sand, BIM coordinator and water/sewer engineer at COWI Bergen.

“After Vianova Systems (now Trimble) introduced its new BIM solution in 2012, this has by large solved the technical modelling and collaboration challenges. Novapoint and Quadri have become the industry standard in Norway in terms of design engineering tools,” he argues.

COWI now uses Trimble´s BIM solution in virtually all their engineering of infrastructure projects. Several hundred COWI engineers around the country, along with engineers from other consultants, use the tools daily in their collaborative design of roads, rail, water/sewer, bridges, tunnels, and more.

Saves a lot of time
"Quadri enables several engineers to work on the same project at the same time, in a joint project model," Sand explains. “In this collaboration model all discipline models are kept up to date and are visible to everyone. It makes interdisciplinary cooperation much easier.”

“In Quadri we have all the functions we need for interdisciplinary control. This is a great advantage, especially when several different companies work together on the same project. The efficient data flow saves us a lot of time.”

"We have not measured the savings yet, but tasks that traditionally took weeks to design, now take only days. There are also many projects that had not been possible to engineer in detail without the tight interdisciplinary collaboration,” Sand emphasizes.

"We cut down a lot on engineering time, but the overall efficiency is difficult to measure; the time consumption in projects is something that is always in change. On the other hand; what we save in time enables us to control and deliver a much better product.”

Detects errors
“Take the upgrade project of the prestigious King Oscar´s Street in Bergen for example. In this project one company is responsible for road, COWI does water and sewer, a third company does electrical engineering, a fourth engineers the garbage management system and a fifth the district heating. This project would never had succeeded in the old fashion way. If tried, there would have been a lot of design collisions and conflicts – problems that we now uncover right away. We see quickly if something is wrong or does not work well.”

Better quality assurance
"Not only does it make the workflow become much more efficient, it also eliminates a lot of design engineering mistakes," says Sand.

"What´s important is that everyone is working with the same data set, so nobody is designing using outdated data. This way we avoid conflicts and collisions like we had before. With more accurate and flawless setting-out data, the production also becomes better. We experience fewer changes on the construction site. All this causes the work to become much more quality assured. We avoid a lot of construction mistakes this way.”

Automating with a 3D product library
Another factor contributing to especially automating the water and sewer design is the product library in Novapoint, COWI informs. The 3D library consists of approx. 7000 real product model objects that can be used directly in the design process. The objects, which are supplier-listed water and sewer products both of plastic, cast iron and concrete, are enriched with standard codes and product information from the manufacturers.

"We are now using the product library largely in all our projects," continues Erlend Sand. “For example, the new children infirmary at Haukeland Hospital. In an existing narrow culvert there, we have scanned in existing water pipes, foundations, walls and cable bridges and more. Consequently we can design in 3D and put everything in the right place, without conflicts with other infrastructure. The water and sewer line is put into the Quadri collaboration model for checking. Quality assurance can hence be done at the model stage, minimizing errors and defects at the construction site.”

“When you have a complete 3D model of what you design, you can also print out any section right from the model. You get full control of your design work since planes and sections are updated automatically. If you make a change in one place, then everything else will be updated accordingly.”

"In addition, the Quadri model is also a very good visualization tool, and is especially useful in situations where you have complicated manholes and complex solutions," he adds.

Being completed
“The product library is unfortunately not complete though. There are still quite a few supplier products missing,” Sand continues. “However, used in combination with other product libraries, and using 3D objects that we can get directly from some suppliers, we normally have almost everything we need. Yet, we hope that all suppliers eventually will provide 3D documentation. As pointed out, this is of great help in the design process.”

"The biggest advantage of the Novapoint 3D library, versus other libraries, is that it has many smart features for drawing in 3D without having to change perspective. The small extra-functionalities save a lot of time. Trimble has come up with many useful features in their latest versions of Novapoint – many small features that make the design process even more effective. Nevertheless we look forward to the library becoming completed," Erlend Sand concludes.