The BIM Differentiator

EllisDon’s Wissam Hijazi on developing a coherent BIM framework and delivering “cradle-to-grave” services for the Middle East

The concept of services provided by companies is rapidly changing with the introduction of new and improved technologies. The most vital shift seen in the last few years in the construction sector is the evolution of building information modelling (BIM). Sure, it has been around since the 1990s, but the recent past has seen it incorporated in the built environment as consultants, contractors and operators understand its ability to design, develop and operate a building with maximum efficiency.

This is an element that EllisDon is capitalising on by providing project management, facilities management (FM) and BIM, among other services. With over 65 years of experience in Canada and an international track record in Colombia and the Middle East, EllisDon says it provides a “cradle-to-grave” offering that considers the financial aspect, feasibility study, value engineering, design, build, maintenance and operation of a building for a client.

The company started its own BIM department in the mid-2000s ahead of the AGO Museum project in Toronto, where it had to rely on 3D laser technology and use BIM for design and coordination. Now, it uses its BIM experience to implement it in project management consulting (PMC) to handle client risk and project challenges.

“We have hands-on design/build experience. We develop a coherent BIM framework for clients for their project lifecycle, which includes BIM protocols, policies, procedures, guidelines and specifications. In this way, there is a specific BIM booklet customised to match a particular client’s requirements and ensure a lean transition of information from one stage or stakeholder to another,” says Wissam Hijazi, senior consulting manager at EllisDon.

With a standardised BIM framework, Hijazi says it’s easier to consider a client’s overall needs, and the goal for most developers is ensuring that their asset is properly maintained through a sustainable long-term vision. However, maintaining and operating an asset is expensive.

“But keeping BIM as the backbone, EllisDon can provide services such as asset management, energy optimisation and intelligent building solutions,” notes Hijazi. “We have started seeing equipment suppliers providing fully detailed BIM components for their products with all the required specification, which helps us build asset specs and calculate the lifecycle cost. The idea is that BIM is helping to monitor the level of information available in the design throughout different stages and is ensuring that there is enough data to perform a thorough cost assessment. Moreover, BIM facilitates FM design revisions to be performed from an early stage as well.”

Hijazi, who moved to the Middle East from Canada a few years ago, clarifies that every time there is a new design revision, an assessment and correction is ensured. “This helps us to calculate if we are within budget before cost consultants manually spend two to three weeks and come back with the report. This is part of 3D BIM.”

In line with this thinking, Hijazi states, “With BIM, we created an as-built asset model called asset information model (AIM), which can synchronise all the solutions from day one into BIM-enabled CAFM (computer-aided facility management) solutions, which unlike traditional methods do not need asset information to be manually input. We also provide FM digital manuals, which is a digital interface platform that incorporates as-built BIM and AIM model with corresponding FM documents (warranties, commission reports, purchase orders, etc), for a fully digital coordinated asset information model integrated with 3D models.”

Discussing BIM from a sustainability point of view, Hijazi says sustainability and smart building solutions go hand in hand. “Smart systems can optimise energy usage, which is usually based on data coming from specific assets which are again fed back into BIM. With our intelligent building solutions department, we provide the asset and the information, and they provide us with optimisation, tools and solutions. We work in parallel.”

Discussing his firm’s approach, Hijazi points out that it has a service called the converge network system, where data is taken from different systems like lighting, camera/CCTV, occupancy sensors and then optimised together.

“By uniting all these building elements, the system can make predictions and can also provide recommendations. But if you go back to square one, these are all based on data and data comes from BIM, so it has to be organised in a way where it feeds not only designers but every single stakeholder throughout the project lifecycle, and that’s where we have taken the lead.”

Driven by change

Hijazi points out that the main challenge his firm faces has to do with how different stakeholders within the same project understand BIM. “This gets more challenging when you see different BIM standards being implemented on the same project, which defies the whole purpose of having a single BIM model. For example, with the right BIM set-up, the designer’s model can be associated with the cost consultant’s project-specific cost codes and the contractor can develop this design model more effectively. The planning and control team can utilise the contractor’s 4D models to calculate the earned value and monitor construction progress. The operation team can then integrate the contractors’ as-built BIM into their own CAFM solutions.”

Discussing BIM on the whole, Hijazi reckons it is elevating the industry to a different level. “BIM, being a 3D-oriented project database, is the right tool for the job. BIM tools are a no-brainer to design pre-fabricated panels or modular sections of a building, and is being utilised successfully for years. Obviously, it’s more efficient when a project is designed to be constructed in a modular fashion or at least have pre-fabricated components. I think pre-fabrication and modular design is going to have high momentum.”

He concludes: “With the construction industry in the Middle East moving at an extremely quick rate, BIM being involved in the overall lifecycle of the project will soon become the standard. The big push needs to come from clients, especially clients that own and operate their own assets, and when the construction supply chain understands how BIM reduces risk and increases productivity, we will see a positive trend in the industry.”

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