Better by design

Al Futtaim Carillion needed design software which could identify problems with its Motor City development before beginning construction.

  • E-Mail
By  Imthishan Giado Published  April 11, 2009

Al Futtaim Carillion needed design software which could identify problems with its Motor City development before beginning construction.

While technology has permeated virtually every facet of the modern enterprise, there are some verticals which remain resolutely low-tech. The construction industry is definitely one of the latter - but as Bob Dylan famously sang in 1964, "The Times, They Are A-Changin."

Dubai-based contractor Al Futtaim Carillion (AFC) certainly saw the writing on the wall and decided that it would do things differently during the design phase of the construction of its ambitious Motor City property development in Dubai.

Part of the process is that we try to make technology do what we always have done. What we should be doing is saying: ‘Here’s what the technology people can do and this is the way we should be doing it.

Andrew Piechowiak, principal design manager for AFC, realised this need early on - but after all, that is his job.

"I'm a little bit different from most of the people around the job. My job is all about getting the correct information to the correct people at the right time. I'm a conduit between the designers, the consultants, and the construction people," he explains.

According to Piechowiak, IT is increasingly playing a crucial role in the world of construction: "It goes from electronic information, in terms of drawings, which is fundamental to what we're doing and then queries back-and-forth to consultants. The speed of construction means that we have to use technology more and more. They [IT departments] have an influence into how the telephone system and infrastructure is deployed on the site. When we are building the cabins, they are here setting up the infrastructure."

When it came to Motor City, AFC decided that it would be worthwhile to invest in design software which would give it a better overview of the project before it began the actual construction. The company chose Autodesk as the provider and Piechowiak explains how it arrived at that decision.

"Most of our sites on traditional-type projects use Autodesk products. There's no thinking involved - it's the standard product across the industry. Obviously, there are different types of technology they have available. On this particular job, we had an issue with time and with co-ordination. Autodesk had a new emerging product that resolves these issues," he says.

"The technology is called Building Information Management (BIM). The product that Autodesk have is Revit Architecture and Revit Structure. Even with a raw drawing product, you have architecture, engineering and MEP and they have different products tailored to these aspects. When you go in the BIM technology, you are basically modelling a full building," continues Piechowiak.

AFC first began investigating the possibility of using a system three years ago and according to Piechowiak, one of his colleagues conducted the initial study: "He looked at the marketplace and mapped out where the industry would be going. He had already identified companies and technology that was what we should be moving to. I'm a bit of an implementer so I just went for it. The only way to truly know whether it would work or get an idea of its strengths and weaknesses is to try it. That's what we did."

However, he and AFC were not willing to jump into the proverbial water without dipping a metaphorical toe in first. Although many consultants use the software, to his knowledge, Piechowiak is not aware of any contractors who use it. As such, AFC decided against buying the software outright, but instead used an outsourcing company who provided it as a service. As Piechowiak explains, outsourcing elements of construction design is not unusual.

"In terms of different aspects of jobs, we tend to outsource elements of it. If you take rebar reinforcement drawings for concrete, there's many companies that will do it. What we're talking about is taking the design information which isn't ready to build and making that conversion from design information to construction information," he says.

3695 days ago
David Wilkinson

We learned this valuable lesson early. Process is more critical than software. In the 300 plus 5D models we have completed we have established a rigid step by step process for placing elements into a model, documenting all issues, real or potential, at the time of placement, red flagging critical issues for specialists to review, and generating detailed documentation - this cannot wait until the model is completed and run through a collision software program - it must occur as you model. Finally, we designed the Model Progression specification (MPS) that details exactly how the model will be built, who is responsible, level of detail required, output required (only 3D - 4D - 5D etc.) DW

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code