Scratching the surface of BIM

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A cloud-based database of UK geological and geotechnical data and 3D ground models could soon become a reality, thanks to new research led by geotechnical data company Keynetix and the British Geological Survey (BGS).

The two year, £540,000 BIM for the subsurface project is funded by Innovate UK under its Digitising the Construction Industry initiative.

As well as Keynetix and BGS, the project team includes consultant Atkins and Building Information Modelling (BIM) pioneer Autodesk.

“This project will lead to a step-change in how the BGS delivers its data and models to the geotechnical engineering and construction sectors,” said BGS director of environmental modelling Kate Royse. “It builds on an increasingly open and accessible wealth of information in the BGS National Geoscience Data Centre.”

Keynetix technical director Gary Morin, who is leading the research team, added: “Unforeseen ground conditions continue to be a major cause of project delays and construction programme overruns.

“A big problem is the limited availability of high quality geotechnical data, which is stored mainly in project archives. If this was publically-available, construction teams could access better data, site investigations would be more focused and ground risk reduced, saving time and money.

“Including 3D interpretative models in the cloud will also make it possible to plan investigations in 3D. An added benefit is that the use of geotechnical data in Building Information Modelling should also grow.”

BGS team leader Holger Kessler said: “BGS has been at the forefront of geological data management, visualisation and delivery for some time. What makes this project special is that it will provide us with direct links to geologists and engineers on the ground. We are very excited about the potential positive impact on the construction process.”

According to Morin, one of the biggest sticking points of incorporating geotechnical data in BIM is that many geotechnical teams are reluctant to share interpreted data with the wider project team, because they are worried it will be misused.

“We hope this research will help alleviate those concerns, improving collaboration and data sharing,” he said. “This will lead to a more complete understanding of the ground, resulting in more informed decision-making throughout the lifetime of a project.”

Results of the research are scheduled to be published in 2017 but the research team expects to release regular updates as the work progresses.

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