The Bentley Crossrail Academy is developing and promoting BIM best practice in the £15.9 billion London project’s supply chain that will be shared by other UK mega-projects.
Recently, Iain MisKimmin (senior industry consultant at Bentley Systems UK, manager of its City of London-based Information Management Academy, and also one of the leading lights of COMIT), invited me to attend a half-day briefing at the Academy for contractors involved in the cross-London Crossrail project (Wikipedia article*). The session was aimed at staff with information management and document control roles on the various Crossrail contracts, briefing them about the Crossrail BIM vision and what they need to do to achieve it.
The Academy was announced in February 2012. Crossrail has an Enterprise License Subscription (ELS) for Bentley’s application software portfolio covering the extended “Crossrail enterprise”, and the Academy was created to encourage and support use of Bentley’s BIM tools and related technologies to achieve Crossrail’s goals of efficiency, cost savings, and increased safety.
Accordingly, the briefing was jointly presented by personnel from Bentley and Crossrail, who stressed the whole project life-cycle needs of the scheme (a cause dear to the heart of Crossrail CEO Andrew Wolstenholme – as readers of his 2009 Constructing Excellence report Never Waste a Good Crisis [PDF] will know; we were even treated to a showing of the 1:5:200 model), the need to capture information about virtual assets as well as physical ones, supporting collaboration and ensuring a “single source of the truth”
Supporting a mega-project’s information needs
The briefing was structured to cover:
- document and information management
- management and control of design information
- asset information provision
- BIM in delivery
At the core of Crossrail’s document management strategy is an electronic document management system (EDMS), eB Web (Bentley’s enterprise Bridge; essentially, an intranet), which is accessible across the project’s supply chain and which provides a structured and systematic approach to ensure compliance with standards. We saw the depth of metadata captured about each item, the levels of control applied to allow different levels of access (view, modify, delete, etc), red-amber-green-grey colour coding for approval status, and the search capabilities within the system.
Design information is managed through a customised version of Bentley’s ProjectWise private cloud-based collaboration platform (adapted to include more support for utilities and geospatial requirements; essentially, the project’s extranet), currently enabling sharing of CAD data in a common format among some 1500 users. In 2009, the centralised system had 92,000 items stored; by June 2013 this was expected to reach 970,000, on the way to a an expected 1.5 million CAD files – shared by 2500 users – by August 2014. Similar naming/numbering conventions and metadata structures to those specified for eB Web have been created for the ProjectWise platform, alongside standardised common folder structures.
QR codes were discussed in relation to asset management – the training room had some white, yellow and stainless steel examples fastened to the wall – but the Crossrail project involves much more. A nuclear industry standard asset information management system, AIMS, has been deployed as part of the eB system to capture data (descriptions, serial numbers, etc) and to tag assets and equipments by location, classification and function. A Bentley ‘Asset Painter’ tool is being used to link asset tag information stored in eB Web and associate them with the relevant building information model files (I’d heard Crossrail’s Ross Dentten talk about this at an Ecobuild BIM seminar in March). Ultimately some 400 classes of data will be stored in the Uniclass-based system.
BIM in Delivery looked at three broad areas, each the subject of Crossrail task groups: modelling and clash detection; mobile tools; and annotating as-built data. I was most interested in the mobile area – this month (May 2013) Bentley and Crossrail are planning to roll-out QR codes for drawing authentication via mobile devices (similar to Unit4 Collaboration, post), to enable mobile access to downloaded and synchronised portfolios of electronic files via iPads (and other devices in due course), and to implement Formotus mobile electronic forms. We were also shown how special video-pens could be used to record digital mark-ups of drawings (printed on special paper), with automatic notifications sent to the drawings’ originators upon upload.
I was involved with some PR activity relating to Crossrail when I worked at civil engineering consultancy Halcrow over 20 years ago, and it is gratifying to finally see it under construction (I visited the Woolwich station box, right, during an open day earlier this year). For a project so long in gestation, Crossrail has inevitably had to bridge the analogue-to-digital divide, and some of its systems were not in place on Day One, but the Academy is helping project participants join the client on this journey, with Bentley as the technology partner and facilitator of a common data environment.
Through the Academy, the project is also keen to share its learning with other client organisations (one of my fellow attendees was an engineer from the HS2 rail project, for example), and to help its supply chain and others make the transition towards integrated BIM accessible across multiple hardware platforms, and to support the full project life cycle (the London Tube network has been celebrating its 150th anniversary and the Bentley/Crossrail team stressed that its legacy of both physical and virtual assets would need to be around for at least as long).