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Every building project, regardless of its complexity and the anticipated functions of the final construction, needs to be carefully planned and thoughtfully evaluated prior to being built. Moreover, in such projects, as have a high level of importance and complexity, the stage of projection and testing is extremely critical because in the cases where such structures are poorly planned or ineffectively built, they may potentially become life-threatening to their users.
In the contemporary world, where all technologies are developing rapidly, there are methods to pseudo-create or replicate future projects and evaluate their features, qualities, and potential challenges using versatile models, plans, and schemes. One such technological offering, Building Information Modelling (BIM), is recognized as a “game-changer” in the field of construction and requires special attention as a powerful resource and a source of endless opportunities for creativity, learning, and improvement of projects (HM Government 2012).
This paper will review one of the building projects that is currently taking place in the territory of the United Kingdom. In particular, the building project under review is the Flood Alleviation Project, which is designed to protect the city of Leeds from floodwaters. First of all, this proposal will provide an overview of the project, its objectives, and plans. Second, the mission of a BIM system for this particular project will be presented. Third, the available types of BIM software will be reviewed and discussed in relation to the project. In addition, similar BIM cases will be described. Finally, a feasible BIM system for the building project will be proposed, and its advantages will be discussed.
Flood Alleviation Project for Leeds: Overview
Due to its location and the island nation’s inner geography, the territory of the United Kingdom is potentially exposed to the threat of flooding. The whole area is surrounded by water and also has multiple rivers running across the landscape. As a result, the risk of flooding has been one of the growing concerns of construction agencies, city planners, and political agents all around the United Kingdom. In particular, the growing risk of floods has produced effects on the region of Leeds.
At the very beginning of the 2000s, the city of Leeds had been safe from flooding. However, over the last fifteen years, the situation has changed significantly. Throughout the last decade, Leeds has been close to becoming flooded several times (Heritage Masonry 2016). The city authorities have noticed that the risk of flooding has become higher, and the River Aire that is the main source of floods in the area is not surrounded by any type of formal protection.
In particular, it is worth noticing that the threat of an emerging flood in the city area was at its most significant in 2000 when the level of water rose up to four inches (10 cm) from the level where the city center of Leeds would be flooded; moreover, floods of a similar capacity occurred multiple times; within the last 15 years, Leeds was at risk in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 (BBC News 2014).
With all that taken into consideration, a scheme was designed for the purpose of flood alleviation in Leeds. This project includes the establishment of moveable weirs that work based on innovative technologies that would be installed at Crown Point and Knostrop (Heritage Masonry 2016). The moveable weirs are intended to be lowered under the circumstances of increased flood risk in the area in order to reduce the level of water in the river (Heritage Masonry 2016).
In fact, it is important to take note that this project can be recognized as a pioneering technology, as these moveable weirs have never been used in the flood protection schemes within the territory of the United Kingdom.
According to the plan, the construction phase of this building project began at the very beginning of 2015; the end date of this construction project initially was set for completion at the end of 2016 but eventually, it was moved to March of 2017 (Heritage Masonry 2016). It is anticipated that the final result of the project will involve the defenses being able to protect the center of Leeds from floods coming from the River Aire and the Hol Beck.
To be more precise, anti-flood protection will be provided to as many as three thousand homes, five hundred offices and businesses, and three hundred acres of land kept for development and regeneration in the South Bank area (Heritage Masonry 2016). One more important advantage of the building project is that it will not only preserve over twenty thousand of the existing jobs over the upcoming decade but also will help create one hundred and fifty new vacancies while the project is going on (Heritage Masonry 2016).
According to the current forecasts, the floods coming from the River Aire are going to increase in their severity; in particular, some of the most powerful floods are yet to occur. In fact, one of them had already taken place back in 2014 (Heritage Masonry 2016).
The Mission of BIM for the Project
Some of the major objectives of the Flood Alleviation Scheme for Leeds include the removal of the island located at Knostrop Cut and the construction flood defenses of low-level, low-lying areas. To be more precise, the island will be removed in order to enable the merging of the canal and the River Aire; this merger will make more space available for the storage of any excess of floodwater and, in that way, the likelihood of the city center flooding will be minimized (BBC News 2014). As for the concept of low-level flood protection, the approach will include floodwalls, a storage pond placed at Woodlesford, and an embankment (BBC News 2014).
Being one of the United Kingdom’s hubs of business and manufacturing, Leeds needs to be thoroughly protected from the disruption of its everyday operations. As the fastest growing city in the United Kingdom, it is also home to hundreds of thousands of people and households that require protection from natural disasters. In that way, the mission of BIM is, first of all, to provide an enduring and effective construction project protecting the area of Leeds from flood events.
Secondly, one of the core goals of this building project is to ensure that the final structures are sustainable and cost-effective, and can be efficiently managed and maintained over the course of future years. A project as responsible and important as the Flood Alleviation Scheme is intended to protect buildings, land, and people from the adverse impacts of natural disasters. With that understood, the model of the communications and structures created by means of the BIM needs to be available for digital testing and review as to the safety of the constructions, as well as their potential weaknesses and limitations.
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It is critical to emphasize that a building project of this type is primarily to be fully-functional, resourceful, sustainable, manageable, and safe; such qualities as its aesthetics come second.
In particular, Mott MacDonald, a participant of the BMM (the joint venture between Mott MacDonald and BAM Nuttall) and one of the major stakeholders involved in the construction of the Flood Alleviation Scheme for Leeds, pointed out that it is traditionally believed BIM is only applicable to buildings; however, it can be used for coastal projects just as successfully (Mott MacDonald 2014). An important aspect of the BIM mission in such projects is the fact that the construction workers are provided with models that enable them to see how the future structures are going to interact with the surrounding environment and its different factors.
In that way, BIM modeling is of paramount importance for any building projects such as the Flood Alleviation Scheme for the city of Leeds because they can be digitally reviewed and tested prior to being built. This option is very important in terms of such aspects like the safety and functionality of the projects, as well as their effectiveness. In addition, it allows changing designs according to any discovered flaws and weaknesses, thus saving costs and time.
Available BIM Software
The contemporary developers of building projects have a large variety of BIM software to choose from. In fact, there are different BIM software options available for various phases and aspects of the projects. Some of the major providers of BIM software packages are the following companies: Autodesk, Tekla Structures, Bentley Systems, and ArchiCAD; these developers offer a wide range of different packages that are specialized in diverse disciplines.
However, there are other companies that provide software specifically designed for particular specialties and fields, such as Vico Office Suite, Innovaya, Glue and Vela Field BIM for construction; Eco Domus, Onuma System for facility management, DesignBuilder, Graphisoft EcoDesigner and IES Solutions Virtual Environment VE-Pro for sustainability and Rhino BIM, Nemetschek Vectorworks Architect and Softtech Spirit for architecture (CAD Addict 2010).
To review some of the products of the most trusted and well-known providers, one may select those that are focused on the creation of software for diverse applications. One such provider is Bentley Systems.
This company has already issued a multitude of products for such disciplines as construction, sustainability, structures, architecture, MEP and facility management; moreover, software created by Bentley Systems can be used at the stages of planning, development, construction, and operation of the facilities meant for different purposes (roads, railroads, bridges, architectural designs and landscapes). In fact, the diversity of their products is the primary advantage of Bentley Systems; in addition, the company is focused on further development and research to be carried out in order to improve their current software and create new projects (Eastman et al. 2011). Due to this aspect, the company is one of the leading competitors in the industry.
When it comes to Tekla Structures, their BIM software includes a significant point of difference in the form of the analysis of materials employed in the building projects (Eastman et al. 2011). The software produced by Tekla Structures enables the users to build their own 3D models of buildings and their component parts in order to achieve better visibility and also learn about the capacities and compatibilities of various materials, in the future and under different impacts. In addition, Tekla Structures software allows creating 2D models as well and acquiring schematic views and plans of the structures.
Another leading software provider, ArchiCAD is known for the launch of the first tools that could be used for BIM purposes. Today, ArchiCAD specializes in the creation of versatile software packages that can be employed in design, engineering, planning, sustainability, architecture, and aesthetics (Eastman et al. 2011). The latter could be named as one of the major focuses of this provider that is particularly engaged in the improvement of the aesthetic aspect of building projects, along with sustainability, functionality, and cost-effectiveness of their structures.
Similar BIM Cases
The Flood Alleviation project for Leeds is not the only one of this type that has been pursued in the territory of the United Kingdom. One more project of a similar kind is Clacton and Holland-on-Sea Sea Defenses – a coastal structure designed for the purpose of replacing existing old groins and prevent the erosion of properties located close to the sea from the erosion caused by waves (Mott MacDonald 2016).
One more flood protection scheme similar to the one currently created for Leeds will be built in Stonehaven (BIM to be utilized on the latest Mott MacDonald flood protection project 2015). In fact, Mott MacDonald is involved in the design, planning, and implementation of all three constructions.
All of the building projects mentioned above are planned and will create structures with the reliance on different BIM software packages that allow the visualization of the flood protection systems, as well as a fly-through option for the evaluation of the aesthetic properties of the projects, due to the fact the systems are to be installed throughout populated areas, thus requiring certain architectural considerations.
Proposed BIM System for the Project and its Advantages
Among the reviewed software packages, those created by Tekla Systems seem to be the most suitable for the Flood Alleviation Scheme to be built in Leeds. This conclusion is based on the fact that the products released by this developer are focused on the qualities of the materials used in the structures and their parts, and this factor is critical when it comes to the flood protection structures that are going to be under the heavy impact of natural forces such as wind, water, and temperature.
The use of the BIM software by Tekla Systems would allow for the project model to be tested in digitally imitated conditions similar to those that occur during a flood event. Due to this procedure, the project managers would be able to see exactly how enduring the structures they plan to build are going to be in such high-risk environments, and whether the structures are going to be able to withstand the pressure and carry out their major functions successfully.
In other words, the primary advantages of the software by Tekla Systems for Leeds’ flood protection are the consideration of the materials used in the structures and the ability to create highly precise 2D and 3D models that allow visual evaluation of the structures.
Flood protection systems are very important in terms of their purposes because they are designed to protect people, lands, and properties from the damage caused by the forces of nature. That is why the careful and thorough planning of these types of structures is crucial.
Fortunately, modern technologies offer a wide range of BIM modeling software options to support these building projects at different stages and also provide digital tools and programs for the professionals working in the different disciplines included in the project. The Flood Alleviation Scheme for Leeds requires the type of software that takes into consideration the materials used in its structures and their endurance and also allows creating 3D and 2D models of the construction at different phases of development. That is why this product is the most suitable.
BBC News 2014, Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme work starts. Web.
CAD Addict 2010, List of BIM Software & Providers. 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.
Heritage Masonry 2016, Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. Web.
HM Government 2012, Building Information Modelling. Web.
Mott MacDonald 2014, A coastal defence project has pioneered the use of BIM in a new field Peter Phipps. Web.