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AECbytes Feature (October 15, 2009)

BIM Technology Adoption and Implementation at MAAP

Rahul Shah
BIM/CAD Manager, MAAP Architects


Editor’s Note:
To date, AECbytes has studied technology implementation in various AEC firms including Gehry Partners, Ghafari Associates, HOK, LMN Architects, and others. The Viewpoint series has also provided insights into the technology implementation at various firms including SOM, WATG, Perkins+Will, Webcor Builders, DPR Construction, and others, authored by their technology leaders. Almost of all these have been firms that are either wholly based or headquartered in the US. In this feature article, we get a perspective from outside the US by learning about the technology implementation at a London-based firm, MAAP Architects, that specializes in healthcare design. While the work of leading and highly technologically advanced UK firms such as Foster and Partners, ArupSport, BDP, etc., has been occasionally profiled in AECbytes (see, for example, the report on the SmartGeometry Conference published earlier this year), this feature article, authored by the BIM/CAD Manager of MAAP, provides an insight into BIM as seen and implemented by an average, middle-size firm in the UK and can thus be seen as better reflective of the state of the art of BIM in that country.

Overview of MAAP

MAAP (Medical Architecture + Art Projects) is a medium-size multi-disciplinary company, committed to well-considered planning and design of healthcare buildings. Its approach is centred on people and the belief that research and excellence in design can create better medical and therapeutic environments for patients, staff and the public to experience and enjoy. Along with architectural design, it also provides landscape design and interior design services. While healthcare design is the primary project type of the firm, it also specializes in art projects.

Established in 1991, the company’s founding directors are former members of the Design Projects Group at the Medical Architecture Research Unit (MARU), in London. Today, MAAP designs buildings, undertakes research and consultancy, and provides advice to professional bodies in the healthcare sector, collaborating with some of the leading construction and clinical teams to benchmark and promote good practice. It shares the latest thinking in healthcare design with a worldwide network of specialists and is regularly invited to speak at international conferences. The company has also prepared numerous health design standards documents for both UK and European health services.

MAAP’s work includes projects in the UK and more recently in Canada, Europe and Australasia. Some of its projects are illustrated in Figure 1. It has offices based in London, Newcastle and Liverpool as well a subsidiary company in Sydney, Australia and Toronto, Canada. The practice has teams comprising of very experienced healthcare architects and younger dedicated designers, specialising in acute, primary care, mental health, master planning and health and social care facilities.


Figure 1. A snapshot of some of MAAP’s work. From top left: Stoke Mandeville Outpatient Unit; Wandsworth Acute Unit; Hillingdon Pilot Ward; Bamburgh Clinic; and Kidderminster Treatment Centre.

Technology at MAAP

Technology has always been an integral part of MAAP’s vision to deliver projects with increased efficiency, quality, and client satisfaction. It has kept abreast of the latest AEC technology, and has already been a forerunner in healthcare projects delivery in the UK using CAD technology and specialized software applications for healthcare design such as ADB (Activity Database) and Codebook. It is now pioneering the use of BIM technology in the healthcare sector.

The technology implementation at MAAP is managed centrally by three main divisions—IT, CAD/BIM, and Knowledge Management—with dedicated personnel for each. These three divisions oversee the technology implementation across all the offices of MAAP. They evaluate all current and emerging technologies to precisely understand the benefits and challenges of each. If the technology is beneficial to MAAP, then a clear technology roll-out plan is defined to manage change effectively and avoid any operational difficulties. The use of software imaging ensures consistency and a standard desktop for all users. For example, MAAP has recently rolled out 64 bit operating system across all offices in order to gain maximum benefit from BIM technology such as Revit Architecture 64-bit. Having software standardization across all offices is critical as projects are often worked on by teams from multiple offices. Having a common set of tools and standards also improves training and support.

MAAP use the following design software:

  • Revit Architecture
  • AutoCAD
  • ADB
  • Codebook
  • Navisworks
  • M-color
  • SketchUp
  • V-ray
  • NBS
  • Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign)

BIM Implementation Strategy

Looking for an effective way to handle larger projects, MAAP began using Revit Architecture three years ago. Like many other companies, MAAP recognized the growing need for 3D and BIM deliverables. Using AutoCAD for many years with success, the company saw an opportunity to move to the next level, from vector-centric design data to object-oriented design data in the form of BIM technology. It explored a number of options including Revit Architecture, AutoCAD Architecture and ArchiCAD. Researching and testing these products extensively, it finally decided on Revit Architecture as the best fit for the company.

The Revit implementation began in mid-2006. As is true for any technology, MAAP recognized that there were three main ingredients involved for successful implementation: People, Processes, and Technology (see Figure 2).


Figure 2. Revit implementation diagram at MAAP.

People

MAAP had been using AutoCAD for all projects so all its staff were AutoCAD literate. It was the migration from AutoCAD to Revit Architecture that was critical to the successful implementation of BIM. The firm didn’t have any BIM protocols, company specific BIM content, or any knowledge on the technology. Initially, it decided to start with a structured 3 day in-house training course, covering the fundamentals of Revit. With the first BIM test pilot project in mind, MAAP identified the architects to undergo the first round of Revit training. The directors took a bold decision to select Roseberry Park as the first BIM project, which had already been started with AutoCAD. It was a large scale project with fast-track project delivery, so implementing BIM technology on it was a challenging task for the whole BIM team. There was little room for trial and error. The project team set up a Revit forum for regular discussions on current Revit workflow issues and how to overcome them. This project is described in more detail in a later section.

Processes

The Roseberry Park project had already begun establishing data production and exchange workflows around AutoCAD. So when the decision was made to implement Revit after the planning stage, the project team had to carefully evaluate the CAD production workflow and establish the BIM workflow to produce the same output. The project CAD protocol was amended to accommodate Revit processes.  It was very challenging and a very steep learning curve for the team to try and match the output coming from Revit to the earlier project protocol that had been established with AutoCAD. But with time, they became better and more efficient at producing output that would match the established protocol.

Technology

It wasn’t hard for the MAAP team to decide on Revit Architecture as their BIM solution since they were already using AutoCAD. They saw moving to Revit Architecture as a natural shift. The hardware that they had at that time was not able to cope with the Revit Architecture requirements and the project needs. Therefore, the hardware had to be upgraded. The hardware upgrade cost was not part of the budget plan for that year. But MAAP realized that the hardware upgrade was necessary to implement Revit successfully and to future-proof themselves for the technology. Their objective was to become one of the front-runners in the UK in healthcare project delivery using BIM technology. It was a significant investment for a company of this size, but they went ahead with it.

MAAP has a clear Revit rollout plan and aims to become 100% BIM competent by 2010-11 (see Figure 3), with BIM fully integrated in all that they do. By this time, MAAP should have made enough savings to pay for the implementation and more. The firm has undertaken ROI studies for Revit implementation that indicate an ROI of over 260% over four years; it is estimated to be even higher once more BIM projects have been completed. The BIM management group is actively working on this and conducting Revit training at project kick-off to achieve this goal.


Figure 3. The BIM implementation plan at MAAP.

MAAP pursues the use of BIM where it makes good business sense for a particular project's delivery. As MAAP projects vary in scope and the services that MAAP is offering, each project is carefully assessed. The level of development of BIM model also depends upon the project size and type along with the agreed design team CAD/BIM protocols.

BIM Pilot Project

As mentioned earlier, the first Revit pilot project was Roseberry Park, a large mental health re-provision project delivered under PFI (Private Finance Initiative) with MAAP as medical planner and architect. It is a redevelopment of the former St. Luke’s Hospital site in Middlesbrough, providing a new 312 bed inpatient facility that covers an area of 26,506 sq. m. on a new campus adjacent to the existing hospital (see Figure 4). The design focuses on the individual patient experience, breaking down the accommodation into a number of houses arranged around large activity gardens and courtyards to create an architecture of enclosure without fences, radically improving the environment and facilities at the disposal of the patients and staff.  MAAP was responsible for the site master plan and the design of all of the new buildings on the site, including the interior design and specification of the fixtures and fittings. MAAP also managed the landscape design as a central part of its design strategy. The scheme also provides new offices and Facilities Management accommodation to help the Trust provide its services more efficiently. Construction on this project began in 2008 and it is expected to be completed soon.


Figure 4. Artist’s rendering of the Roseberry Park project.

The project CAD deliverables were produced using AutoCAD until the planning stage. The project team received three days of “Revit Fundamentals” training before embarking on the Revit journey. Each building was created as a separate Revit project file and they were all linked together in the master model (see Figure 5). AutoCAD plans were taken into Revit and the model was built off of them. One of the early challenges was project specific family creation. The team started with out-of-the-box Revit families and slowly started developing project specific families to 1:50 detail level. 


Figure 5. The Revit master model of the Roseberry Park project.

The biggest selling point of Revit was the bidirectional associativity of plans, elevations, sections and schedules. Whenever a designer made any changes to any part of the building, the changes were propagated to all levels correcting relevant drawings and schedules automatically, saving a huge amount of time. For a typical 2D CAD workflow, this would have taken days to coordinate manually with the possibility of human errors. The architects were happy knowing they didn’t need to manually coordinate plans, elevations, sections, and schedules, and used that time saving to enhance the design. The overall productivity gain and enhanced design pleased the management as well. They felt that the investment was “worth every penny” and decided to commit to the BIM route to deliver all future projects and buy more Revit licenses.

Since this was MAAP’s first Revit project, and because of the fast track delivery programme, the decision was made to keep all the detail packages in AutoCAD rather than create them in Revit. However, Revit was used to produce G.A.s (“general arrangements,” which is the equivalent of “construction documents” in the US), elevations and sections, setting out plans, finishes plans, and door/window schedules (see Figure 6). CAD detailing beyond a 1:20 scale of detail was produced in AutoCAD based on Revit extracted information. Extended the use of the model further, it was also used for design review along with the building services model in NavisWorks, as shown in Figure 7.


Figure 6. Revit plans and sections of the Roseberry Park project.


Figure 7. Review of the architecture and building services models in Navisworks.

Other BIM Projects

MAAP now uses Revit from very early sketch design stage to the construction documentation stage. The latest project to use Revit is CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), a 40 bed inpatient facility for the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust. To be built on a brownfield site on the existing hospital estate at Prudhoe, the scheme is composed of two buildings: a two storey shared activity centre and a single storey residential block accommodating four wards (see Figure 8). The environmental design approach is to maximize the use of natural daylight and ventilation and improve the immediate micro-climate of the scheme to minimize the mechanical services traditionally associated with hospital buildings.


Figure 8. The physical massing model of the CAMHS project shown on the left, along with the Revit model of the project shown on the right.

In this project, BIM was used by all the major disciplines. The Architecture and Structural & Civil Engineering were done in Revit; the Timber frame manufacturer used 3D AutoCAD; and the M&E was done in 3D CADDUCT. All the different disciplinary models are interrogated through Navisworks during design review meetings on a fortnightly basis, with a particular focus on co-ordination of disciplines and clash detection. This process will be continued at all stages of the project. The MAAP team imports the consultants’ models straight into Revit to enable them to review their design in a 3D environment in the context of the other disciplines, as shown in Figure 9. The contractor uses Navisworks Manage to combine all the models and review the design at their end. On this project, MAAP has also developed a site-wide landscape 3D model in Revit to coordinate with the underground services and drainage models. This has proved to be very useful for the whole design team. 


Figure 9. The different disciplinary models of the CAMHS project all brought into Revit for design review by MAAP.

Benefits with BIM

MAAP sees BIM as the main way forward for the AEC industry and is keen to stress that the process has benefits for everyone involved. The practice has realized manifold advantages with BIM: more accurate, better co-ordinated design data; earlier visualisation and collaboration with different project disciplines; automatic propagation of changes at all levels; plus the facility to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. The BIM process helps project teams create a more accurate initial design concept and then preserve that vision throughout the entire project. The software also helps to provide vital feedback for making aesthetic design decisions and understanding clash detection (see Figure 10). The availability of reliable data at every stage of the design process gives them greater agility, helps them make better-informed decisions, create more coherent and precise design models and documentation, and deliver enhanced quality designs on time (see Figure 11). MAAP has also participated in the effective use of a single project model across design disciplines once protocols had been agreed, as in the example of the CAMHS project discussed in the previous section.


Figure 10. Project design review at MAAP using BIM.


Figure 11. Improved visualization capability allows more design options to be explored.

The contractors and clients that MAAP is working with are also realizing huge benefits. The use of BIM is leading to fewer RFIs, with errors and omissions being detected well before construction. Also the building model is enabling them to better synchronize design and construction planning using 4D and 5D techniques. Benefits along the supply chain are being realized as well, with the BIM model being used to ensure “fit first time” for off-site fabrication. Clients are having a quality building delivered to cost and time, with health and safety and facilities management information up to date and in a user-friendly single database. BIM can also potentially reduce their building and maintenance costs going forward, leading to greater profit.

Future Direction

MAAP believes that BIM offers clear advantages for all project stakeholders and is therefore working towards offering a 100% BIM solution to its clients. To achieve this goal, MAAP is also exploring some additional BIM compatible tools, ADB (Activity Database) and Ecotect, to fit into its BIM jigsaw. ADB is the healthcare briefing and design system preferred by the NHS (National Health Services) and the Department of Health in the UK. Spaces designed using ADB comply with Department of Health guidelines. MAAP has been using Codebook and ADB successfully within 2D for many years to generate room loaded drawings and room data sheets. These tools link project program and equipment requirements to a CAD drawing.

MAAP recognizes that in order to offer a full BIM solution to its clients, this process needs to be translated to a BIM environment as well. The current state of the technology, however, does pose some challenges in this endeavor, as full interoperability between ADB and Revit is not available yet. An ADB-Revit plug-in is in the early stages of development, which loads the Revit model with the required furniture, fixtures and equipment from ADB to enable generation of room loaded plans and elevations within Revit (see Figure 12). MAAP is currently pioneering the use of this tool so that once the technology is fully matured, it will be ready to use on its live projects. The firm sees this as a natural extension of its BIM strategy and foresees that it will boost its room loading process productivity for its healthcare projects considerably, as well as help eliminate data co-ordination errors on this crucial task.


Figure 12. Example of an ADB-Revit generated Room Loaded Drawing.

As concern about rising energy costs, sustainability, and global warming continues to rise, MAAP is seeking practical, cost-effective ways to design buildings to limit energy usage, reduce utility costs, and keep greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum. It believes that it can accomplish these objectives by conducting comprehensive energy analysis studies with analysis tools such as Ecotect in conjunction with Revit Architecture.

MAAP’s early adoption of BIM technology and its ambition to go 100% BIM puts it in the category of the more advanced firms in the UK that are doing BIM. Its CAMHS project, in particular, was a very successful multi-disciplinary BIM project and MAAP was proud to be part of the project team. MAAP recognizes the competitive advantage that BIM provides in securing work and feels that the company is well-positioned for the future, given its expertise in BIM and its forward-looking exploration of the integration of applications such as ADB with Revit for application in healthcare projects.

About the Author

Rahul Shah is BIM/CAD Manager for MAAP Architects. He has been using and implementing CAD technology in the A/E/C industry for more than 11 years and is skilled in AutoCAD, Revit Architecture, SketchUp, and 3D Studio Max.  He has performed consulting and teaching for private clients throughout UK and India.  Since the last few years, his focus has been on the implementation and management of BIM technology, particularly in the healthcare sector, which includes content development and management, standards development, and training for Revit Architecture. He gives presentations before professional audiences on BIM technology implementation.

 


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