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3D models benefit public approvals, safety, construction, operations and maintenance

September 3, 2019

By Arnold Fry, P.E.

The third of three articles regarding use of Building Information Modeling to more efficiently plan, design and construct utility facilities and infrastructure.

View other articles from this series:
Article 1 – Building Information Modeling has potential to improve every aspect of the asset lifecycle
Article 2 – Automating design drastically reduces the chances of errors

 The 3D model is a component of the Building Information Modeling lifecycle that can be used by visualization software to create an augmented reality or virtual reality representation of the project. These lifelike representations can be used for obtaining public approvals for a project, providing viewers fully rendered visualization of a project with its natural surroundings. They also can be used to train new construction teams by creating a complete virtual walk-through of the project in a safe environment.

The project management teams creating the project schedules for field construction also benefit from the creation of a visual construction validation. The 3D model is used along with the project schedule to play back the construction sequencing and staging to help identify any logistical problems virtually, before they happen. This workflow can tremendously improve the field construction sequencing, reduce costly change orders and help eliminate construction schedule delays.

Advances in cloud and hybrid cloud software have made it extremely easy to download construction documents onto a mobile device. The software allows users to view and mark up documents to reflect as-built conditions, call on them for reference and take many other actions with the conveniences that cell phones and tablets offer.

Field construction software used on mobile devices make it easy to capture field issues and send them to the office for resolution. The field worker simply captures a picture or video of the issue and attaches the images to a request for information, which is automatically routed to the appropriate person for resolution. The software tracks the progress of the issue until the appropriate fix is made. If new revisions of the construction documents are necessary, they can instantly be transmitted to the field. This automated workflow helps ensure the latest versions of construction documents are available.

Construction status and percentage-complete updates also can be entered in the applications. Construction project managers and leadership can track status of overall projects or any particular subcontractor working on the project. This provides a much higher visibility earlier in the project lifecycle such that managers can make changes or adjust or add resources to keep the project on track.

BIM not only saves time, but essentially eliminates errors that can cause construction delays and costly change ordersIntelligent field software also makes locating the appropriate procedures, instruction manuals, asset information, etc., simple and easy. A field team member can load the 3D model onto the mobile device for viewing and accessing the information.

For example, a field staffer can tap the 3D model of a circuit breaker, revealing all the information available for that device. The staffer can access and view the most recent field installation manuals at the jobsite. The staffer also can load and view installation videos from the application.

Field operations teams can use the BIM models and visualization software to conduct pre-job briefings and operational walk-throughs to ensure field crews are prepared to safely enter hazardous locations. The software allows us to create a virtual reality training simulation, complete with operation of major equipment such as switches or circuit breakers. Operators also can be alerted to hazardous conditions within the simulation. Even the most experienced construction, operations and maintenance teams can benefit from virtual pre-job briefings to safely go over any hazardous conditions.

Using the application, field teams can record and share assessments of existing conditions and equipment with maintenance, asset management or design engineering teams. These field notes can be used for planning future modifications to the facility. Pictures and field measurements can be captured and shared with any organization which has been granted access to the system.

When field operational crews need information, assistance, manuals, operation guides, procedures, etc., the BIM team can load them into the system for immediate download. These efficiencies enable the field operations team to improve reliability of the grid and help increase customer satisfaction.

The maintenance organization also benefits from the availability of BIM data. Field maintenance crews can access historical maintenance and tolerance data prior to performing routine or emergency maintenance on equipment.

Instruction manual and troubleshooting guides can be accessed from the field device. The teams can customize checklists and procedures and load them into the application to ensure all steps are followed and verified if necessary. The test results can be captured in the application and sent to the office for review prior to leaving the site. Maintenance issues needing resolution can be captured with a simple picture or video within the application.

Series Summary
Using a BIM workflow provides valuable information that will be repeatedly leveraged and updated throughout the entire project lifecycle, without resorting to duplication. BIM provides a convenient way to design, construct, operate and maintain utility facilities and assets. This single source of truth allows the information to be effectively documented and used through the project lifecycle, important to delivering a successful project. BIM not only saves time, but essentially eliminates errors that can cause construction delays and costly change orders.

Arnold Fry of POWER EngineersAbout the Author

Arnold Fry is a senior project engineer in POWER’s BIM Substation Department. He spent 18 years with Duke Energy where he was manager of the Transmission System Standards Department, which focused on substation, protection and control, transmission line and design tool standards. He was responsible for the initial creation and development of what became the Substation Design Suite software in conjunction with Autodesk and Automation Force.