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Costain utilises Building Information Modelling at Port Talbot

16 August 2011

Costain is helping Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council save time and money in the design and construction of the Harbour Way Port Talbot project, the largest transport project in Wales since the construction of the M4, by utilising Building Information Modelling (BIM) systems and technology.

With customers under pressure to deliver large, successful projects while at the same time working to tighter budgets and accelerated schedules, the advantage of having a three-dimensional computer programme that allows project teams to go through the whole design and construction process to eliminate as many risks and uncertainties as possible, hopefully before construction begins, carries potentially huge cost benefits. 

Due to open in the autumn of 2013, Harbour Way will provide a 4.8 km link to the M4 near Junction 38 (Margam) into Port Talbot and the docks. The £107million scheme will serve as a vital link to West Wales, the UK motorway network, the trunk road network and mainland Europe.  Around £56.2million of the funding has come from the Convergence European Regional Development Fund and a £50.7million Transport Grant from Welsh Government.

Working with Arup, the designers, Costain is using BIM to generate and manage the data during the project’s construction. The programme analyses geometry, spatial relationships and geographic information, as well as quantities and the properties of construction components. Dynamic information on the construction process, such as sensor measurements and control signals from the numerous structures’ systems can also be incorporated to support analysis of its operation and maintenance. The drawings can also be viewed virtually on-screen to allow the user to pan around the project and look at it from any viewpoint whilst also being able to add or remove layers from the drawing to analyse specific details. More crucially, it allows for improved communication and understanding of the project right across the team and also allows the supply chain to contribute their views.

“The starting point for this initiative is to build up the design model in three dimensions. This has the immediate benefit of being able to view drawings in 3D, which allows for a quicker and better understanding of what we are building,” said Charlie Sleep, Project Chief Engineer.

“Whilst this adds significant value compared to using two dimensional drawings, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential applications of BIM. By attaching other information to elements of the design model, it can be used in a whole variety of ways that brings value to the construction process and ultimately our clients,” said Charlie.

While it’s been widely used in the construction of buildings for a number of years, BIM is still relatively new to highways infrastructure. However, that’s about to change due to tighter Government legislation around funding, and companies that can successfully utilise the technology and demonstrate its effectiveness should be in a better position to win more work.

“By 2016 all publicly funded projects will have to be BIM compliant and it will feature heavily in procurement marking. Therefore, if we can demonstrate, through a live project, how it works then it should score well in future tendering,” said Dan Griffith, a Project Manager at Arup.

At a time when companies like Costain, through Costain Cares, are assessing ways of reducing the environmental impact of what they do, there are also other real benefits to using BIM. The amount of waste generated can also be minimised on-site because products and materials can be delivered as and when they’re required, which reduces the need to stock pile on-site. As a consequence, the construction site is often made safer as more items are pre-assembled off-site.

Commenting on the project, Costan’s Project Manager, John Skentelbery, said: “The project is in the early stages but we are excited by the potential of BIM, and it will be interesting to see how much of this potential we can realise for the benefit of the project."