How can a 3D model save lives on the construction site?
By allowing people to visualise risks more easily and communicate these earlier, says Paul Duggan, General Manager of the Canterbury Safety Charter and Project Lead for BIMSafe NZ.
BIMSafe NZ is a three-year $1.7 million joint venture between the Canterbury Safety Charter and the University of Canterbury (UC) Building Innovation Partnership.
Funded by ACC and MBIE, BIMSafe NZ aims to change the way risks are identified, managed and communicated on construction sites – using the visualisation and communication powers of 3D computer models.
What is BIM?
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is used by architecture, engineering and construction firms to document, visualise and develop the designs behind infrastructure.
“A BIM model is a digital 3D representation of a project, which then becomes the single source of truth for all of the project’s information, throughout its entire lifecycle,” says Paul.
“Architects and engineers – civil, structural and service – work collaboratively on a single model in the design stage, rather than in their traditional silos.
“It has the potential to be a game changer in the way risks are identified, managed and communicated on construction sites.”
Tackling health and safety by design
When it comes to health and safety, the more you can do earlier in the piece, the greater effect you will have – for the least cost, says Paul.
“Using BIM models really simplifies the health and safety by design process. Everybody can get together, look at a model, identify risks and then solve them by improving the design.
“It’s also much easier to visualise potential risks in a 3D environment, than on paper.
If you can see it, it’s real.”
Thanks to their visual medium, BIM models can also help break down language and geographical barriers, says Paul.
“People can be sharing and looking at these models from anywhere in the world, and the information is presented much more clearly than the traditional risk assessments that can get lost in screeds of other documents.”
There’s also a democratic element to BIM, says Paul.
“It allows end users to have input into the design of the building, in terms of health and safety.
“For example, a designer may want to put an electrical switchboard in a hard-to-reach place. But they’re not aware until a maintenance person points out that they can’t access it safely.”
Riding the BIM wave
BIM models and processes are more common in design and construction projects than they were just a couple of years ago, says Paul. Especially now all government contracts worth more than $5m need to have a BIM model associated with them.
“Large firms understand BIM as government clients require it, and it’s slowly trickling down to horizontal contracts between medium and smaller firms too.
“It’s eventually going to change from the architects and the engineers pushing BIM, to the clients requesting it.
“We want to ride this wave and help people understand how health and safety can be wrapped into the process.”
BIMSafe NZ will produce best practice guidelines for incorporating health and safety information into BIM models, says Paul.
“Any process that benefits from prior planning benefits from BIM. Once people can see how – the why becomes apparent.”
BIMSafe NZ in three stages
The BIMSafe NZ project has three main stages.
The first is developing best practice guidelines for integrating health and safety information into BIM models. These are set to be published in mid-2024.
The second is trialling these guidelines in a case study. This will be the construction of the Ōtepoti building, home to ACC’s new offices in Dunedin.
It’s been designed by Warren and Mahoney, with Ngāi Tahu Property and the ACC Investment Fund as the client.
The final stage will be to promote the project outcomes and encourage organisations to adopt the guidelines as a way to reduce accidents and injuries on construction sites.
This will be done by a series of video resources and a nationwide roadshow in late 2024.
“The success of the BIMSafe NZ project relies on industry input and uptake,” says Paul.
“Designers, architects, contractors and sub-contractors collaborating using this common platform have an exciting opportunity to bring about meaningful industry change, and literally save lives.”