'Cloud' Computing Offers Data Breakthrough

6 March 2014

Costain is collaborating on a project aimed at harnessing the power of cloud computing that will make coordinated Building Information Modelling (BIM) data easily accessible to the supply chain, allowing for greater access to critical information.

Clouds4Coordination, or C4C, is funded by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, and aims to demonstrate how a cloud computing system can help run the construction lifecycle of a project using BIM data and make it accessible to multiple users in any location, either from a laptop computer or tablet device.

Backed by the Technology Strategy Board, which was set up to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation, the other partners on the C4C project are RIBA Enterprises, IBM, Cardiff University, AEC3 UK and Lee Wakemans, who will work under lead partner, BRE.

The project’s partners hope the C4C initiative will form part of the digital revolution in the construction industry which was brought about by the UK Government’s 2010 Construction Strategy, which states that all publicly procured projects are now required to implement Level 2 BIM by 2016. The strategy called for a standardised data creation process of the built asset, through 3D Modelling, which in turn delivers drawings, specifications and data.

Costain’s David Owens, the Design and BIM Manager working on the A556 Knutsford to Bowdon Improvement Scheme, is a consultant on the C4C project.

“We are compiling an IFC (Industry Foundation Class) model of our infrastructure project which in turn will be the basis of site trials including system hosting, managing and viewing data through a web browser when we go to site in 2015,” said David.

Costain has been a long-time advocate of BIM, deploying it on a number of high profile projects, including Bond Street and London Bridge. BIM enables collaboration and coordination between all parties and sharing managed asset information between stakeholders, including the customer and the supply chain.

Cloud computing refers to remote computer systems that have the capacity to run complex data analysis programs but can also be accessed using web services rather than through an in-house company server, which often have restrictions on access.

“Using cloud computing is now more relevant than ever as it gives BIM users access to the data from any location, as long as they have an internet connection. It could also mean that data sharing, coordination and data verification will be a lot easier, thus improving BIM’s implementation.  The system will have the ability to integrate the partner’s design and construction applications NBS Create and AEC3 IFC Tool-kit,” David said.

The potential benefits of the project are significant for both Costain and its customers. As an experienced user of BIM, Costain has the potential to use the results of the C4C project to reduce costs and risk contingencies on construction projects, facilitate better access to critical information and improve Health and Safety standards.

“BIM and 3D modelling is a vital part of the design, construction, maintenance and operation process, both in the planning and execution of projects and this exciting project means teams can collaborate in a single environment and share the information allowing advanced level of BIM delivery for our customers. The cloud will provide the ability to securely manage and interrogate large data sets and combine information from different systems to allow cross system exploitation of data,” said Tim Embley, Group Innovation & Knowledge Manager, at Costain.