It is our philosophy that drawings aren’t a standalone output. Instead, it is our firmly held belief that they are a facilitation tool that ensures that constructability of a project is the primary consideration from the earliest stage.
Drawings should be viewed as a method of communication, and our CAD and BIM specialists work alongside our engineers to use the available tools to facilitate discussion, investigation, and collaboration, all with the intention of preventing issues that could disrupt the programme during the construction phase.
With senior management staff that have a strong construction background within Tier 1 contractors, we know that our contribution to the overall project extends far beyond when drawings have been completed and accepted. The point at which construction is scheduled to begin is not the point at which the construction manager should be pointing out that no-one has considered how the project can be built within the project constraints.
It is this belief that has driven the development of our BIM/CAD department into one that has a quality of output that is beyond the expectations of a design consultancy of our size.
Historically, civil engineers within SME design firms would undertake the fundamentals of CAD design and stop there. They’d be producing drawings that showed the intention of the design, but possibly not all the detail nor the integration with other design teams or 3D models.
That is not the standard that our clients, and their projects, demand and so we have built a team with a variety of backgrounds – engineering, visualisation, animation – and a range of qualifications from engineering BTECs to Masters degrees, to ensure that we can match the compliance requirements and expectations of our Tier 1 clients.
We produce intelligent, layered drawings that, whenever required, give all parties involved access to one model, a Common Data Environment (CDE). Here all the data from, for example, surveys of buried cables or 3rd party structures, is included and is accessible for all involved in the project so potential issues can be identified early. This means that the design of foundations for a substation, for example, aren’t being created in isolation from factors that could impact the construction of that substation.
As we are familiar with the CAD and BIM standards of clients including Network Rail, National Grid and HS2, we can tailor the BIM environment to their specific requirements. We can work within the CDE provided by the client, the Principal Contractor or indeed our own, and can also utilise shared folder systems. With these shared systems, different suppliers and design consultancies can be working on the same model, with them and clients communicating directly with our BIM and CAD designers.
On many projects, we have found that this approach brings significant value in terms of reduction of risk and protection of an ongoing client relationship. No-one wants to get to site to discover that the design hasn’t taken into consideration the details of construction. Giving construction managers and project managers both the forum and the visualisation ensures that there is time to smooth out any wrinkles and even work through potential solutions collaboratively.
During design reviews with J.Murphy & Sons on the CP6 bridge strengthening projects, where we were leading the design at GRIP 3, GRIP 4 and GRIP 5, our team was able to show 3D models that can be rotated and viewed from every angle. This allowed the construction team to really interrogate how materials would be put in place, what alternatives there were, and whether a MEWP or scaffolding would be more appropriate to install new elements of steelwork. And, when you have a small window of opportunity, perhaps only 2 weekends of railway possession on some Network Rail projects, every second counts and delays can not only cause tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds, but also a loss of confidence and the resultant negative impact on client relationship.
It is always our intention to assist the contractor to get the project built, whilst protecting their ongoing likelihood of future work, and we use every tool available to us to achieve that goal.
As a result, our BIM and CAD technicians have a great appetite for innovation and are constantly investigating new digital platforms like Synchro 4D and Oculus virtual reality (VR) to not only bring fresh thinking, but also to improve in areas like visualisation, integrations of bills of quantities and other metadata and facilitation of project scheduling.
This adaptive mindset is married to the absolute adherence to standards that is required from their role, irrespective of whether they came from a traditional CAD background or moved across from engineering to develop their skills. The team has broad experience and will offer up solutions and alternatives, working alongside our engineers to ensure that every possibility has been considered, and unworkable ones discounted, to reach the end goal of a constructable design.
If you have a rail civils or electrification project, or a power and energy project, or are looking for preliminary drawings to support a tender submission, we would be happy to show you how we use our skills. Please contact us.