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Building Information Modelling: Canaletto London Project Essay

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Updated: Oct 7th, 2020


The technological progress of the modern world significantly contributes to virtually every professional sphere. Apart from the growing capabilities of present-day technologies, the general approach to working processes is changing. The project approach demonstrates a shift toward more cooperative and more integrated solutions. One of the examples is the transformation in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry.

Companies more and more willingly adopt Building Information Modelling (BIM) systems to work on building projects on each of its stages, including planning, designing, construction, operation, and facility management. BIM systems offer integrated approaches to all of these processes and combine analysis, calculations, 2D and 3D modeling, documentation management, planning, scheduling, monitoring, and other functions that coordinate the efforts of everyone involved in a building project.

The evaluation of BIM systems’ advantages allows recommending a certain system to the Canaletto London building project. Canaletto is planned to be a 31-storey residential building on City Road in London. It is positioned as a luxury urban residence with a number of hotel-like amenities like a restaurant, a swimming pool, and a spa. The building features an unusual design with metal structures on the facade. A 31-storey residential tower in London is a difficult project in terms of engineering, design, and construction. The project can significantly benefit from the use of a BIM system.

Background of the Canaletto London Project

Canaletto is a residential tower whose project had been developed by Ben van Berkel, a Dutch architect of UNStudio, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Among the main advantages of the residence, the project description lists being situated by the water in a prestigious part of London as well as the quality of apartments proposed and the service provided. The location of the building is stated to be “the crossroads of the capital’s most exciting and diverse districts such as Islington, City, Shoreditch, and Clerkenwell” (Canaletto London 2016, para. 2).

Another advantage featured in the project description is the concierge team that works to meet the various needs of residents. Also, the building will have a range of facilities such as a restaurant, a swimming pool, a leisure lounge, spa treatment rooms, a cinema, a gym, and a private club with a terrace situated on the 24th floor. Overall, the building is planned to have 31 storeys. The most luxurious apartments occupy floors 24 to 28 as they have a better view.

The architecture of the tower is described as an innovative urban approach to the construction of high-end urban residences. The designing company, UNStudio, had been operating internationally in the area of design and architecture in Europe, China, the United States, and Singapore. One of its main principles is international collaboration in planning, constructing, and operating buildings.

One of the major design features of Canaletto is grouping together clusters of adjacent floors by employing contracting structures and materials on the curving façade of metal and glass. The clusters of floors create separate zones with balcony terraces that offer the view of the City Road Basin and the Wenlock Basin to the north and the City of London to the south (Frearson 2013). This solution helped create a more residential appearance, which is important because shaping such appearance is rather challenging in the case of a metallic skyscraper.

Another challenge is balancing the amount of daylight that enters every apartment with the view. The solution was a special surface modeling, which maintains this balance and also reduces the amount of heat that the building absorbs in hot sunny weather. The construction started in 2012. Currently, some of the 190 apartments are still available for purchasing and renting.

The mission of the BIM system for the building project

The essential function of a BIM system for a building project is to supply integrated digital solutions to all stages of the project, including planning, designing, construction, operation, and facility management. The solutions are based on the data that are coordinated, reliable, and shareable (BIM case studies for asset and facility management 2015). A BIM approach is adopted to make the entire process more efficient, more convenient, and more beneficial to all stakeholders.

The adoption of BIM systems is a challenging task for the AEC industry in the UK, but it is encouraged by the government because the advantages of BIM are recognized (Bañuelos Blanco & Chen 2014). An important perspective for understanding the BIM systems’ mission is the experiences and attitudes of the industry professionals.

The sixth annual survey of the construction industry professionals in the UK revealed that 54 percent of respondents are aware of and using BIM systems in their work, which is more than four times more than in 2010, during the first such survey (National BIM report 2016). Only 4 percent of professionals reported that they were not using such systems or aware of them. The advantages of BIM are widely acknowledged, as 86 percent of respondents expect to use BIM systems for at least one of their projects in the upcoming year. However, the majority, namely 65 percent, think that the sphere of BIM systems lacks standardization.

It can be generally observed that most construction professionals are positive toward BIM practices. Over 75 percent believe that BIM systems are the future of the construction projects’ information management. The amount of people who are resistant to the systems and deny their advantages is estimated as “relatively small” (National BIM report 2016, p. 36). There is a minority of respondents (although described as a significant minority) who think that BIM systems are for large projects only.

The general understanding of the BIM digital approach has also improved within six years. In 2016, 76 percent of AEC professionals disagree that BIM and 3D computer-aided design are the same thing. More than 90 percent of respondents (including those who use BIM in their work and those who do not) admit that implementing BIM systems requires significant changes in the way an organization operates, including policies, practices, procedures, and workflow operation.

However, the benefits are recognized, as most of the respondents list project visualization and improving the coordination as the main advantages of BIM. Among those who have employed BIM systems, 69 percent note that their clients increasingly insist on the use of the systems year to year, and 64 percent believe that employing the systems has made them more competitive in the industry.

BIM software available to the building project

There is a variety of types of BIM software applicable to different areas and stages of a building project. As it was mentioned above, one of the disadvantages of BIM systems acknowledged by the professionals in the UK is the lack of standardization, which includes insufficient sorting of available software by efficiency and areas of application. However, the advantages of particular software packages can be reviewed to define which of them can be applied to certain aspects of the Canaletto London Project. Three prominent software packages are Tekla Structures, ArchiCAD, and Bentley Systems.

One of the main characteristics of Tekla Structures is the incorporated function of the analysis of materials used in a building project. The material analysis has been the emphasis of this BIM software since the beginning of the producing company’s operation (Eastman et al. 2011). The use of Tekla Structures allows creating 3D models and 2D drawings of buildings and sharing the data among everyone involved in the project for more efficient coordination.

ArchiCAD is one of the first BIM tools that became available at the market (Eastman et al. 2011). The software focuses on such aspects of building projects like design, aesthetics, and engineering. A significant part of working with ArchiCAD is planning how a building will look and how it will fit into the surroundings. Particularly, ArchiCAD is used to plan, develop, and build structures in an urban environment. Sometimes credited as the CAD software that was the first one to implement building information modeling concepts and technologies, ArchiCAD is one of the most reputable software packages in the industry.

Bentley Systems software is capable of creating building information models for a wide range of structures on various stages of their creation and management. Apart from buildings, the software is also used to plan, develop, construct, and operate infrastructure assets such as bridges, railways, roads, and complexes of structures, e.g. plants and utility networks. The advantage of the company is wide expertise, integrated approach, and ongoing development through re-investing its revenues in further research (Eastman et al. 2011). It allows for constant improvement in the quickly changing AEC industry.

A review of different BIM software packages’ advantages suggests that different packages should be applied to a given project to ensure the most efficient optimization of the construction and related processes. However, one of the main characteristics of a BIM system is that it creates an integrated environment for cooperation and offers integrated solutions to various design, construction, and operation issues.

Therefore, the use of a single BIM system is preferable to the use of several ones, even if a combination of systems promises additional benefits. These benefits will be outweighed by the inconvenience of having to refer to several models created with different software. Therefore, there is a necessity to propose a single software package. The review suggests that the software that suits the Canaletto London Project the most in terms of its expertise and characteristics is ArchiCAD. ArchiCAD provides extensive opportunities for managing the construction and operation of a high-class urban residential building with multiple facilities and amenities inside.

Similar BIM cases

An example of the use of BIM systems for a high-rise building project in London is the Leadenhall Building (Use of BIM in the design of London skyscraper 2012). The 48-storey building was designed by Richard Rogers. It is 225 meters high and costs approximately 300 million GBP. The wedge-shaped tower was nicknamed “Cheese Grater” by Londoners.

According to Project Director Andy Butler, the primary benefit of using BIM in the tower construction and operation was discipline. BIM systems allow monitoring and supervising all the processes related to the building project within the visualized digital model. As a result, cooperation and strategic distribution of roles, functions, and terms of delivery are improved. It is stressed by Butler that projects normally fail through either incomplete design or inaccurate design, and BIM helps avoid such failure by bringing the discipline and providing opportunities to work in a real-time environment.

Another benefit that the Project Director emphasized is communication. A building project, especially as large as the Leadenhall tower project, involved many people and groups of people. If the communication between them is coordinated within a single visualized digital model, it makes the entire process more efficient. A BIM system brings all the parties to an environment where they can coordinate their efforts. Particularly, a special role of BIM systems in communicating with prospective tenants was noted by the Project Director.

A technical challenge that the construction team faced was the limited floor space. Designing a building that is 225 meters high on a rather small area of ground required extraordinary architectural and engineering solutions, which BIM systems helped achieve. Overall, it was concluded by Butler that applying BIM solutions to technical tasks made the building process more cost-efficient, time-efficient, and significantly facilitated the subsequent phases of the building project, namely building operation and facility management.

BIM system for the Canaletto Building Project and its advantages

The proposed BIM system, ArchiCAD, is a software package with a wide range of modeling functions including visualization in 2D and 3D. The key aspects are 2D CAD, 3D modeling, architectural rendering, document management, and integrating tools (Eastman et al. 2011). 2D CAD and 3D modeling allow creating detailed and accurate visual representations of various technical aspects of a building project.

Architecture rendering is used to transform these technical representations into photo-realistic images needed for promotion and design considerations. Document management tools are referred to by professionals as particularly useful because normally a building project software package does not have this function incorporated. ArchiCAD facilitates the formal communication between the participants of a project by integrating all the necessary documentation into the same environment where a building is planned and designed. The integrating tools are what make ArchiCAD a BIM software package instead of 3D CAD software, i.e. they take the construction processes to a new level of effort coordination and data integration.

The use of the ArchiCAD BIM system can bring significant benefits to the Canaletto London Project. Apart from the discussed benefits of bringing more discipline and coordination to the building project, BIM systems also produce tangible results described by professionals in the AEC industry of the UK (National BIM report 2016).

The majority of them (63 percent) believe that applying a BIM system reduces the construction cost by one third. Also, 57 percent of respondents believe that such a system helps cut the time needed for a project (for either new or existing buildings) in half. Another consideration is the reduction of emissions in the process of construction, carbon dioxide emissions in particular. Almost 40 percent of UK AEC professionals believe that BIM systems can help bring such a reduction.


Canaletto London is an ambitious project that requires extensive cooperation with many professional teams. The research proves that the optimal solution for such a building project is employing a BIM system. BIM systems create an integrated digital environment where all the participants of a project collaborate in a more efficient way. The majority of the AEC industry professionals agree that BIM systems make building projects significantly more cost-efficient and time-efficient.

They improve communication and bring discipline. BIM allows not only visualizing the construction processes but also addressing various issues within a model that considers every aspect of the project.

Based on the review of the Canaletto London Project and the characteristics of particular BIM systems, ArchiCAD was proposed as the optimal BIM system for the project. It is one of the first construction software packages that adopted information modeling. The system possesses a wide range of advantages relevant to the Canaletto London project, including expertise in the area or urban construction and design in high-class urban areas. Not only will ArchiCAD allow sooner completion and lower cost of the building project, but also the building operation and facility management can be performed through the same information model afterward.

Reference List

Bañuelos Blanco, F G & Chen, H 2014, ‘The implementation of Building Information Modelling in the United Kingdom by the transport industry’, Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. 138, no. 1, pp. 510-520.

BIM case studies for asset and facility management. 2015. Web.

Canaletto. 2011. Web.

Canaletto London. 2016. Web.

Eastman, C, Eastman, C M, Teicholz, P, Sacks, R & Liston, K 2011, BIM handbook: A guide to building information modeling for owners, managers, designers, engineers and contractors, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken.

Frearson, A 2013, . Web.

2016. Web.

Use of BIM in the design of London skyscraper. 2012. Web.

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